Iassos was an ancient city in Caria which occupied a small peninsula joined by an isthmus to the mainland. According to Strabo, Iassos was a celebrated fishing place and its harbour made it an important commercial centre. Today, it is an extensive multi-period site located on the shores of the Gulf of Güllük halfway between Didyma to the north and Halicarnassus to the south.
According to tradition, Iassos was colonised in the 9th or 8th century BC by Greeks from Argos (the Dorians). Archaeological evidence, however, shows that the site had been inhabited since the Neolithic period and that it flourished as one of the great Minoan and Mycenaean settlements in Asia Minor. Prosperity continued throughout the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods and many of the remains visible today date from the later periods.
Twentieth-century excavations have revealed the Agora which remains date to the time of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius (AD 117 – 161), the bouleuterion (one of the best-preserved buildings in Iassos), temples, including a sanctuary dedicated to Artemis Astias (the patron-goddess of the city) and numerous other buildings. A funerary monument in the form of a Corinthian temple is a very impressive construction dating from the Roman period. It is located inside the courtyard of the “Old Fish Market” which was restored to be used as an open air museum in 1995.
Nysa on the Maeander is a true gem of Caria hidden in the deep valleys of the Aegean. An important Carian centre, the ancient city was located in the north of the region, 50 kilometres east of the Ionian city of Ephesus. Today, it is a well-preserved archaeological site.
The city rose to prominence under the Romans and was home for a while to the historian Strabo (63 BC – 25 AD). Strabo described the city as three towns rolled into one. He mentioned that it was originally called Athymbra but by the 2nd century BC the settlement appears to have been renamed Nysa, possibly in honor of the wife of King Antiochus I Soter. Nysa was planned as a city composing of two separate sections, situated on both sides of a mountain cliff.
There are important ruins scattered on the mountain slope from the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. The well-preserved theatre, rebuilt during the Roman Imperial period, is famous for its friezes depicting the life of Dionysus and the sacred marriage (theogamia) between Persephone (daughter of the goddess Demeter) and the god of the Underworld, Pluto. With its 57 rows of marble seats, it had a capacity of 12,000 people.
The library, dating from the 2nd century AD, is considered to be Turkey’s second-best preserved ancient library structure after the Celsus Library of Ephesus. The stadium of Nysa, which was partially damaged by floods, had a capacity of 30,000 people. The Hellenistic gerontikon (Council House of the Elders), adapted in the 2nd century AD as an odeon, offered room for up to 700 people.
Other significant structures include the Agora (market place), the Gymnasium and the Roman baths. The 100 m long Nysa Bridge was the second largest of its kind in antiquity.