Although Knidos was originally founded as a Spartan colony on the site of the present town of Datca in the 7th century B.C., its inhabitants relocated it at a later date to its present site at the tip of the Resadiye promontory, some 75 km from Marmaris over a very good highway that winds through pine forests. The inhabitants of ancient Knidos were excellent mariners with reputations that rivaled those of the Phoenicians in their seamanship. Threatened by a Persian invasion in 546 B.C., the Knidians sought to defend themselves by cutting a channel through the neck of the peninsula their city was located on, thus turning it into an island. Their plan was thwarted, it is said, by an oracle declaring that if the gods wanted Knidos to be an island they would make it one. (Or if they had so wanted they would have done.) The Knidians interpreted this as meaning the gods opposed their project and so they abandoned it, preferring to submit to Persian rule instead. Ancient Knidos was a city known for its artists, philosophers, and engineers and it grew wealthy through the wine trade. Praxiteles, one of the greatest Greek sculptors carved a statue of Aphrodite that was nude. (She was the first of a long line of naked marble ladies; until then, only males were carved in the buff.) The Knidians consented to allow the statue to be erected in their city after it had been rejected by a number of, other sites and it proved to be a good investment as visitors flocked from all over the ancient world to look at it. The statue has disappeared though Roman copies do exist. Eudoxos, one of the most famous ancient mathematicians and astronomers, was from Knidos as was Sostratos, the architect who designed the lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Never ones to pick a fight, the Knidians also surrendered to Alexander without a battle and later we see them part of the Kingdom of Pergamon and then, after 129 B.C., of Rome. During Byzantine times Knidos was an insignificant settlement and it was abandoned entirely some time during the 7th century A.D.
The city had two harbors: the commercial port was located on the northern side of a promontory while the military port was located on the southern. Knidos was a planned city, built on the Hippodamos grid system. There are four wide streets running parallel to one another east and west that are intersected by a steep street of steps that divides the city into two. West of the first street at the northwestern end of the city was the military port and north of it was the Knidian agora. There are two large churches located one on each side of the agora that were built during Byzantine times. Proceeding north from the eastern church (which has architectural features of the Doric order), one comes to the site of the Doric order temple of Apollo Karneiosa, of which only a few fragments now remain. Before the terrace wall north of the temple was the rectangular “Altar of the Dancing Girls”, so called because of its relief of dancing girls. East of the altar is the cave of the Nymphs. The retaining wall of the terrace above the altar shows evidence of Hellenistic period stone masonry. Located on the terrace was a round temple with steps that was dedicated to Aphrodite. On the eastern side of the street running north and south we can see the pier of a bridge that provided connection to the land.
Proceeding northward we come to a church that was built on the site of a temple to Dionysos. North of the stoa is a Corinthian order temple set atop a podium of seven steps. From the remains found here it appears that this temple was built during the reign of Hadrian. West of this temple is one of the three theaters that ancient Knidos boasted of. This one is from the Hellenistic period. At its northeastern corner is a large structure whose function is presently unknown. Near the seaside is another Knidian theater, this one with a seating capacity of 4,500. The skene was built during the Hellenistic period. The auditorium has two diazomas. Leaving the theater and following the shore we see the remains of Hellenistic and Roman period houses. East of this is a Roman period bouleuterion. If we follow the Hellenistic city walls after the bouleuterion we come to a precinct that was sacred to Demeter.
The statue of Demeter carved by Praxiteles in 330 B.C. that is now in the British Museum was discovered here. West of this sacred precinct is Knidos’ third theater. On the island lying opposite one can see traces of Roman tombs, terraces, and a lighthouse. Excavations being conducted in Knidos by the Archaeologists are aimed at discovering the Aphrodite statue carved by Praxiteles.