Olba

Location: 

GPS coordinates: 36.584499, 33.964802

The ruins of the ancient city of Olba are located deep in the Taurus Mountains. Most likely, it was the capital of the local kingdom called Pirindu that existed in the area in the sixth century BCE. The traces of ancient buildings are located at the mouth of a long and deep ravine. Moreover, about 4 km to the west, there are the ruins of the old sanctuary of Diocaesarea. The relation of Olba and Diocaesarea can be likened to the connection between the Hecate sanctuary in Lagina and the city of Stratonicea or the Apollo Temple in Didyma and the city of Miletus.

The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba

Historical overview: 

The oldest structures discovered by archaeologists in the area of Olba date back to the Hellenistic period. At that time, the Acropolis hill towering above the city was with defensive walls and towers. Because of its convenient location, at an altitude of 1040 meters above sea level, the Acropolis was an excellent observation point that allowed spotting the enemy and preparing to repel the attack well in advance.

The city prospered in the Roman times, from the 1st century CE onward. Many public buildings were erected in this period, including a nymphaeum, an aqueduct and cisterns, collecting drinking water and used by farmers. The remains of a theatre, numerous workshops, and residential buildings reflect the course of everyday life in a typical city in the Roman province.

In the early Christian period, Olba was the seat of the bishop who represented the city during major councils and synods.

Sightseeing: 

The aqueduct is the most spectacular structure that can be seen in Olba. It brought water to the city from Lamos River, now known as Limonlu. Water was transported through tunnels and trenches to the aqueduct erected during the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus. The aqueduct is 150 meters long and 25 meters high. It runs across the gorge known as Şeytan Deresi that is the Devil's Valley. The towers that surround the aqueduct were, most probably, built to guard this important structure.

There are visible fragments of a theatre with the auditorium and the skene partly preserved, standing next to the nymphaeum. The necropolis of Olba is situated along the walls of the Şeytan Deresi gorge. There are numerous sarcophagi, rock-cut graves and monuments there. This necropolis resembles other ancient cemeteries of Cilicia Trachea, for example, the one in Elaiussa-Sebaste.

It is also possible to climb to the Acropolis to enjoy spectacular views of the Taurus Mountains and the valley below. Watch out as there are deep water cisterns in this area of Olba. Ruined churches and a monastery testify to the continuity of the settlement well into the Christian era.

Visitor tips: 

The entrance to Olba is free of charge, and the site is unguarded. The ruins are scattered over the vast area so be prepared for a lot of walking and climbing to the Acropolis. There are some information boards in Turkish and English, but some of the ruins have no descriptions at all.

Getting there: 

With public transport: several buses per day connect Silifke with Uzuncaburç village, 4 km away. There is no public transport do the village of Ura where Olba ruins are situated, so it is necessary to walk the distance. Alternatively, it is possible to take a taxi from Silifke and arrange a tour of Olba and Diocaesarea ruins.

By car: there is an excellent road from Silifke to Olba. The total distance is 32 km. It is recommended to visit the ruins of Diocaesarea and Cambazlı village during the same trip. It is possible to get useful suggestions and maps of the region from the Tourist Information Office in Silifke.

Hiking trip: it is possible to hike to Olba from the Mediterranean coast, starting from Kızkalesi and following the Şeytan Deresi gorge. The distance of the hiking route is 25 km, and the way is going steeply upwards, getting you to the altitude of over 1000 meters above sea level.

Bibliography: 

Image gallery: 

The nymphaeum in Olba
The nymphaeum in Olba
The theatre in Olba
The theatre in Olba
The theatre in Olba
The theatre in Olba
The path to the Acropolis of Olba
The path to the Acropolis of Olba
Panoramic view from the Acropolis of Olba
Panoramic view from the Acropolis of Olba
Fortification walls in Olba
Fortification walls in Olba
Fortification walls in Olba
Fortification walls in Olba
The Acropolis of Olba
The Acropolis of Olba
Water cisterns on the Acropolis of Olba
Water cisterns on the Acropolis of Olba
The aqueduct of Olba seen from the Acropolis
The aqueduct of Olba seen from the Acropolis
Şeytan Deresi gorge seen from the Acropolis of Olba
Şeytan Deresi gorge seen from the Acropolis of Olba
The nymphaeum in Olba
The nymphaeum in Olba
The hill of Olba Acropolis, with visible towers and fortification walls
The hill of Olba Acropolis, with visible towers and fortification walls
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The aqueduct in Olba
The necropolis in Olba
The necropolis in Olba
The necropolis in Olba
The necropolis in Olba
The necropolis in Olba
The necropolis in Olba
Şeytan Deresi gorge with rock-cut tombs visible in the distance
Şeytan Deresi gorge with rock-cut tombs visible in the distance
The necropolis in Olba
The necropolis in Olba
The necropolis in Olba
The necropolis in Olba
The ruins of Olba
The ruins of Olba
The view from Olba Acropolis, with the theatre visible below
The view from Olba Acropolis, with the theatre visible below