According to ancient accounts, Pinara was founded by colonists from Xanthos. While it is necessary to mention Pinara along with the historical region, it surrendered to Alexander by opening its gates to him. Pinara’s history goes back much further than Alexander, all the way back to Troy. Homer tells of the Lycian archer Pandarus who fought in the Trojan army. Strabo and later Stephanos Byzantions both mention that Pinara was Lycia’s most important city.
Pinara, which was one of the six main cities of the Lycian League that possessed three votes, was annexed to the crown of Pergamon after the death of Alexander the Great, and subsequently went on to become a Roman town. It became remarkably prosperous and a number of important monuments were built during this period. Although it was inhabited as late as the 9th century, much of the settlement was destroyed by two earthquakes, in 141 and 240 A.D. respectively. Rocks that were knocked loose in the 1957 earthquake slid down the side of the mountain.
The acropolis is set on the top of the rock, and approached via a steep flight of steps from the south, carved into the rock. It is understood by examining the fortified Byzantine structures to the east of the settlement that it was in use until the end of the Byzantine period.
The ancient settlement of Pinara is situated in the eastern part of the acropolis. A number of fine structures indicating the prosperity of the town during ancient times were set on a series of terraces which are approached from the south-east by a flight of rock-cut steps, leading rust to the remains of a Roman temple which contained six columns to the front and rear, and eight on the lateral facades.
This temple is thought to belong to Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. In fact, the columns were heart-shaped, whereas a male penis was made into a relief.
West of this lies a structure thought to be a temple measuring 13 X 8 meters, on a podium, surrounded by a temenos, or a mausoleum, with a Lycian portal to the south, with typical pediment and lentil structure, opposite which stand the odeion of the settlement, entered through a portal to the east, and now in considerable ruin.
Heading towards the south and we come to a gate from the Lycian period with its door frame and lentil. The odeion, with its three entry portals from the east, is barely recognizable. The agora was reached via a gate from the orchestra of the odeion, and is set on a small plateau between two outcrops of rock, reinforced with terrace walls. The western face of the outcrop below the agora was carved out, presumably for the marking of tombs which were never completed. The remains of a palace, several Byzantine structures and cisterns are also found here.
Descending into the valley from the terrace walls in the southern flank of the agora, one encounters water channels cut into the rock, a spring, and the royal tombs all on the eastern side of the valley.
Pilinius, who had visited Pinara, qualified the Pinarians as being bird-men after seeing the tombs cut out of the stone. Among the reliefs to be found on rock tombs below the acropolis are those containing human figures on the facade, and representations of the Lycian cities before the crypt, which give us valuable information about the appearance of these ancient settlements. A similar relief was found among the reliefs of the Izrara monument at Tlos.
A nearby tomb bears reliefs containing a bovine, horned figure on the arched, saddle-like cover of the sarcophagus, which is similar to others in Kas and Limyra. Situated to the east of the city lies a Greek-style theater, which has 27 seating rows divided by stairs into nine sections.
To the west and directly opposite the theater, is a Lycian sarcophagus in good condition. It is understood from the three lines of inscription on this 4th century B.C. sarcophagus that it belonged to someone by the name of Arttumpara. One also notices the ruins of a bath between the theater and the other ruins.
In the extreme south of the site, in the hillside beyond the stream, are more rock-tombs, handsome and well deserving of a visit, though requiring something of an effort to reach.