Although a cave in the vicinity – the Beldibi cave -shows signs of pre-historic dwelling, we can trace the city of Phaselis no further back than the 7th century B.C. It was founded as a colony of Rhodes, possessed three natural harbors, and was close to a richly forested region. However, as in other areas of the coast of Anatolia, there were settlements here before the arrival of the Rhodias colonists and therefore it was probably founded first by force, or perhaps by gradual integration with the local peoples after their initial acceptance of the colonists.
Phaselis fell into Persian hands after they took Anatolia and later into the hands of Alexander the Great after he defeated the Persians. Phaselis opened its doors to Alexander, admitting him as a guest. It was here that Alexander accepted many of the envoys from the cities of Pamphylia. Then taking each of the coastal cities in turn, he advanced to Gordion. After the death of Alexander, the city remained in Egyptian hands from 309 B.C. to 197 B.C. under the of Ptokmaios. With the conclusion of the Apameia treaty it was handed over to the kingdom of Rhodes, together with the other cities of Lycia. From 190 B.C. to 160 B.C. it remained under Rhodian hegemony, but after 160 B.C. it was absorbed into the Lycian confederacy under Roman rule. Phaselis like Olympos was under the constant threat of pirates in the 1st century B.C., and the city was even taken over by the pirate Zenekites for a period, but was freed from the threat when he was defeated by the Romans. In 42 B.C. Brutus had the city linked to Rome. During the Byzantine period, the city became a bishopric.
In the 3rd century AD., its convenient harbor had fallen under the threat of pirates once again and it began to lose importance, suffering further losses at the hands of Arab vessels until totally impoverished in the 11th century AD. When the Seljuks began to concentrate on Alanya and Antalya their ports, Phaselis lost its importance.
Phaselis is a city of natural harbors, of which it has no less than three, as we have said. Near the car park is the northern harbor, next to this the naval base, and to the south the southern harbor.
When the two small islets in the northern harbor were joined to the mainland by a causeway, the harbor was enlarged and shaped to accomodate a large number of ships. The military harbour to the south of this was protected by a mole which extended from the walls around the promontory. It is still possible to see the remains of this mole and the walls.
Let us look at the other remains to be found in this once-favored port of ancient times, situated at a magnificent point between sea and forest that made it one of the gems of the ancient world.
As we begin to look over the city of Phaselis, founded over a peninsula that narrowed into bays to the north and south, we first see the remains of the aqueduct
Beyond these we see the naval harbor road, which is linked to the northern harbor. On the road facing the southern harbor is a portal leading to the harbor, built during the reign of Hadrian. On the sides of the road are to be found the remains of a large number of shops. Across the tree-covered site to the south of this road can be seen the commercial agora, the Domitian agora, and a later agora. Returning along the same route we pass through the gate of Hadrian, along the main road and come to the theater of Phaselis on our right.
The acropolis was surrounded with walls and the theater was situated on the north-western slopes. The auditorium and skene of the theater are still identifiable and date from the Roman period. After looking at the theater, we continue to the small harbor area. After seeing the inner harbor we can return to the car park. The necropolis was situated at the end of the road, stretching beyond the aqueduct over the steep slopes behind the harbor. There are still many graves to be seen here.
On approaching the ruins, one passes the remains of one of the temples of Phaselis on the left just before reaching the northern harbor. It is a building of fine dressed stone, massive in appearance.