Olba, later Diocaesarea, is an ancient Seleucid city in Rough Cilicia on Turkey’s rugged Eastern Mediterranean coastline. In the Hellenistic period, the city was the centre of worship of Zeus Olbios, whose sanctuary was located about 4 km to the west. Erected during the reign of the Seleucids, the temple, Corinthian in style, is the oldest peripteral temple (6×12 columns) in Asia Minor. Other monuments from the Hellenistic period include a 22m-high tower and a mausoleum. The Roman city of Diocaesarea later developed in the 1st century AD around the temple devoted to Zeus Olbios. Its ruins today lie partly within the grounds of the village of Uzuncaburç (Turkish for high tower and referring to the Hellenistic tower) and its immediate surroundings.

The most important Roman buildings on the site date from the 1st to the 3rd century AD and include a theatre, a nymphaeum, an aqueduct, and many tombs dug in the rock. The city is entered through a monumental gate, of which five columns have survived. Then a colonnaded street runs alongside the temple of Zeus Olbios and leads to the temple of Tyche. To the northwest, a three-arched Roman gate leads out of town.

Coordinates: 36°35’12.1″N 33°58’06.7″E


  • Diocaesarea
The monumental entrance gate to the city of Diocaesarea was erected at the end of the 1st century AD. It originally had five entrances.
The Temple of Zeus Olbios was erected during the reign of the Seleucids. The monument is peripteral and Corinthian in style.
The Hellenistic Temple of Zeus Olbios.
The Temple of Zeus Olbios was converted into a basilica during the Byzantine era. The cella was removed, and an apse was added at the eastern end.
When the temple was converted into a church, the columns were shaved at the sides and walls were built between them.
An architectural block with a boar and a lion decorated the Temple of Zeus Olbios.
Architectural block from the Temple of Zeus Olbios.
The two-storied Hellenistic mausoleum with a pyramidal roof.

View of Diocaesarea from the Hellenistic mausoleum. The temple of Zeus Olbios is on the left, in the middle is the Roman theatre and on the right stands the 22m-high Hellenistic tower.
A limestone sarcophagus beautifully decorated with vine tendrils and flowers suspended from two ox heads in the middle and two-horned ram heads on each side; over the garlands are three sculpted heads of Medusa.
The Corinthian colonnade of the Temple of Tyche was built in the 1st century AD by Oppius and his wife, Kyria.
The cella (inner cult room) of the Temple of Tyche.
The inscription on the architrave states: “Oppius, the son of Obrimus, and Kyria, the daughter of Leonidus and the wife of Oppius, gave the Tychaeum to the city.”
A sarcophagus lid.
The Roman Nymphaeum was built in the 2nd or 3rd century AD. The structure, 17m long and about 11m wide stood along the colonnaded street. The water was brought from the Lamus River by using channels and tunnels.
The northern city gate was built in the 2nd century AD and completely restored during the reigns of Arcadius and Honorius (5th century AD).
An abandoned house built among the ruins of the ancient city.
The Roman theatre was constructed during the joint reign of the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus.
The theatre had a capacity of around 2000 spectators.
  • Olba
The acropolis hill of Olba with fortification towers.
The double-tier aqueduct of Olba, commissioned by Septimius Severus in AD 199, was built across the valley of Olba and linked the two hillsides. It is about 150 m long and 25 m high.
The aqueduct underwent repairs during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justin II in AD 566.
The nymphaeum standing at the western foot of the Acropolis. It was fed by the Lamus River, whose water was brought through tunnels, channels and the aqueduct.
The Roman theatre.
The stage building of the Roman theatre.

Source: Silifke (Seleucia on Calycadnus ) and Environs: Lost Cities of a Distant Past in Cilicia by Celal Taşkıran (Sim Matbaasi, 1993)


Qasr al-Abd

Qasr al-Abd is a rare example of Hellenistic architecture located in Iraq al-Amir in the Jordan Valley, 17 kilometres west of Amman. The building was erected in the 2nd century BC by Hyrcanus, son of the tax collector Joseph of Jerusalem from the influential Tobiads Jewish family. Qasr al-Abd (Castle of the Slave) is thought to have been the centre of a vast estate belonging to the Tobiads, as described by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the 1st century AD (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 12, Ch. 4):

Hyrcanus… seated himself beyond Jordan, and …erected a strong castle, and built it entirely of white stone to the very roof, and had animals of a prodigious magnitude engraved upon it. He also drew round it a great and deep canal of water. He also made caves of many furlongs in length, by hollowing a rock that was over against him; and then he made large rooms in it [the rock], some for feasting, and some for sleeping and living in. He introduced also a vast quantity of waters which ran along it, and which were very delightful and ornamental in the court. But still he made the entrances at the mouth of the caves so narrow, that no more than one person could enter by them at once…Moreover, he built courts of greater magnitude than ordinary, which he adorned with vastly large gardens. And when he had brought the place to this state, he named it Tyros.

Restitution of the Palace. F. Larché.

The Qasr al-Abd structure (measuring about 40 metres by 20 metres and 13 metres high) was built in the Hellenistic style of the late 2nd century BC, similar to the palaces at Alexandria. It had two floors with two portals and was adorned with life-size lion reliefs on the entablatures, eagles at the corners of the upper level, and wide-mouthed felines on each lateral wall.

Qasr al-Abd was severely damaged by several earthquakes that hit the region. A French team largely restored and reconstructed it between 1976 and 1986.

Archaeologist and architect Stephen Rosenberg recently proposed that Qasr al-Abd functioned as the family mausoleum of the Tobiads, modelled after the mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (read here).

Coordinates: 31°54’46.1″N 35°45’06.5″E


View of Qasr al-Abd from the southwest.
Upper corner with remains of a lions’ frieze and half-columns of the upper floor.
Northern entrance.
Relief of a Lioness with a cub.
Interior view.
View from the northwest.
Western Leopard fountain.
Eastern Leopard fountain.
The upper level of the southern façade with Corinthian columns.
View of Qasr al-Abd from the southwest.