Stratonicea was an inland city built on a plain near the sources of the river Marsyas. Today, the ruins of the ancient city are located in the abandoned village of Eskihisar, 28 km east of Milas. They lie among crumbling houses and deserted cottages which give travellers a feeling of mystery and enchantment. Stratonicea has been inhabited uninterruptedly for over 3,500 years and is considered one of the world’s largest marble cities. It is listed on Unesco’s tentative World Heritage Site list since 2015. Excavations are still ongoing around the site, exposing more and more of the forgotten city.
Coordinates: 37° 18′ 53″ N, 28° 3′ 57″ E
Stratonicea was founded on the site of an old Carian town in the 3rd century BC by the Seleucid king Antiochos I. It was named in honour of his former stepmother and later wife Stratonice, a Syrian princess. Stratonicea was a thriving city during the period of the Seleucids, who, according to Strabo, adorned it with luxurious buildings. Later, the city was ceded to the Rhodians, and in 200 BC it came under the control of the Macedon’s King Philip V for a short period. It was recovered by the Rhodians in 197 BC, keeping it until 167 BC when with the whole of Caria was declared free by the Roman Senate.
The key monuments visible to the modern visitor include a large theatre fitting 10,000 spectators, a temple of Augustus, a colonnaded street lined by mosaics, a bouleuterion (council chamber) with multiple Roman inscriptions (including a copy of Diocletian’s Price Edict of 301 AD), and an enormous Hellenistic gymnasium. The gymnasium was built in the second quarter of the 2nd century BC to the west end of the city and was richly decorated in the Corinthian order. The total length of the building is estimated at 180 meters, making it the largest known gymnasium in antiquity.
In the territory of Stratonicea there were three important sanctuaries: Zeus Chrysaoreus, Hecate at Lagina, to the north of the city and Zeus Panamareus. A Sacred Way led to the sanctuary of Hecate, beginning from the northern gate of Stratonicea’s walls through the necropolis.
The first scientific excavations at the site began in 1977 under the direction of Prof. Dr Yusuf Boysal. Since 2008, excavations and restoration works have been carried out by Prof. Dr Bilal Söğüt from the Pamukkale University. The excavations of 2015 unearthed many Byzantine-era tombs.