Located 1,650 meters above sea level, Termessos is rather difficult to reach but the effort is well worth it as the route takes one through country marked by wild mountainous beauty. The ruins of Termessos are situated on plateau between two peaks south of Gulluk Mountain. Termessos is now part of a national park that can be reached by a good asphalt road thirty kilometers from Antalya. A steep track from the park leadas up to the ruins.
The city of Termessos was founded in a remote spot at the foot of Mt Solymos (Gulluk). Despite its closeness (”as the crow flies”) to Antalya, it was not part of ancient Pamphylia, lying instead within the boundaries of Pisidia. The inhabitants of ancient Termessos referred to themselves as “Solymians” and they were a war-like and extremely brave people. The harsh Alpine conditions of their home probably had much to do with this. Termessos is referred to in the Iliad but the Termessians do not appear in history until 334 B.C., when they refused to surrender to Alexander on his way through Asia Minor. Though Alexander tried to subdue them, the remoteness and inaccessability of the Termessian stronghold made the effort futile. He was forced to raise the siege and continued on his way via Sagalasos. All he could do in retaliation was to burn down the Termessians olive groves surrounding their town.
We do not know when Termessos was founded, but from the name of the town and from the inhabitants descriptions of themselves we surmise that they were an indigenous Anatolian folk who migrated here from Lycia. The city enjoyed two periods of prosperity: the first being during Hellenistic times and the second during the 2nd and 3rd centuries when, under very nominal Roman rule, the Termessians were acknowledged by the Roman senate as “friends and allies” of the Roman people and were granted the right to “fonnulate their own laws”. Most of the ruins that we see today are from the Roman period.
Towards the end of the 3rd century the population of Termessos began to wane for some reason and so too did the fortunes of the city .By the 5th century , the site was abandoned entirely.
The ancient city was very well located to take maximum advantage of the defensive possibilities the site afforded. It was protected by natural outcrops to its east and west while the entrances to the valley were protected by upper and lower walls. The site is entered through a gate in the walls. Roads leading from the main gate proceed first to the southwest and then to the south. Running towards the necropolis they rejoin near the gymnasium. Other streets connect the gymnasium to the theater, lead to the odeion, and link these buildngs to the stoa. The “Royal Road” is today difficult to make out because of the underbrush and indeed many of the ruins are concealed in the dense foliage.
The monumental gate is an attractive structure that was dedicated to Hadrian. It is a propylon that leads to a ruined Ionic peripteros with a cella 8 meters wide. The Termessian gymnasium is completely covered except for the northeastern section and so it is impossible to say how big it originally was. On the way to the gymnasium is a cistern and the remains of a house. The theater at Termessos is approached by an overgrown path passing the gymnasium to the left. This well-preserved structure with its beautiful ashlar masonry is probably the most attractive building on the site. Compared with the theaters of Pamphylia however it is small and could accommodate an audience of only 4,200 indicating that the population of Termessos probably numbered less then 20.000 The theater was originally built in Hellenistic times while the skene building is a Roman period addition. Five doors -the largest being the one in the center-lead off the skene into the actors’ dressing rooms.
There is also another small temple, this one being of the in antis type and measuring 5.78 by 6 meters. It was in the Corinthian order and stood on a high podium. It was probably built in late Roman times but it is not known which deity was worshipped here.
The temple of Zeus Solymeus is a beautifully-constructed building with a cella measuring 6.10 by 7.36 meters. The remains still stand to a height of four meters. This temple was dedicated to a peculiarly Tennessian veriion of the Zeus cult. Fragments of reliefs depicting scenes of the gods combatting monsters have been found lying around.
The Termessos agora was probably surrounded with stoas originally. The stoa on the west was a two-story Doric-order structure built during the reign of Attalos II (159-138 B.C.). According to an inscription that has been found, the northern stoa was built by someone named Osbaras as a gift to the people of Termessos some time during the 1st century. The agora is today in a very ruined state. To its southwest are the remains of a monumental tomb consisting of a semicircular bench preceded by broad flight of steps.
The Corinthian-order temple nearby is a pro style with a cella measuring 9.50 by 10.85 meters. There is another Corinthian prostyle temple that is smaller and measures 6,70 by 7.20 meters. It too is preceded by a flight of steps and is from the Late Roman period.
The”Founder’s House” is a well-preserved typical Roman house with rooms arranged around a central atrium containing an impluvium (a pool for catching rain water). The front door was of the Doric order and still stands to a height of 6 meters on the west side of the house. The name of the building comes from an inscription on the left jamb of the door, which refers to the owner of the house as the “founder of the city”. The colonnaded street to the north was a broad promenade bordered on either side by colonnades” and shops.