The ancient site of Aizanoi is in the Çavdarhisar town, 57 kilometers (35 miles) from Kütahya city center. The city experienced its golden age in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD and became the center of episcopacy in the Byzantine era. The city has a temple built for Zeus which is the best-preserved temple in all of Anatolia. There is also a large theater and a stadium adjacent to theater. There are two Turkish-style baths, one of them decorated with mosaics, plus a gymnasium, five bridges on Kocaçay river which are still used today, an old dam, a trading building, avenues with columns on both sides, necropolis (cemetary) areas and the sacred cave of Meter Steunene. The German Institute is still carrying out excavations in the city.
At the upper part of the Penkalas (Kocaçay) River, there were Phrygians who lived around the sacred cave of the goddess Meter Steunene, who was the born through the union of the water nymph Erato and the mythological hero Azan. The city Aizanoi might have taken its name from Azan. Aizanoi was the main settlement of the Aizanitisians, who lived under the rule of the ancient Phrygians.
Recent excavations done around the Temple of Zeus built on the high plateau of the city revealed several levels of settlements dating from as far back as 3000 BC. In the Hellenistic era, this region was ruled by, alternately, Pergamon and Bithynia, and in 133 BC it entered the dominion of the Roman Empire. Aizanoi printed its first coins in the second and first centuries. During the days of the Roman Empire, the town became rich from its production of grains, wine and wool. By the end of the first century, the town had started to turn into a city. It was the center of the episcopacy in the early Byzantine period but it lost its influence in the 7th century. During the time of the Seljuk Principality, Çavdar Tatars used this area as a military base in the 13th century. This is why this area was called Çavdarhisar ("hisar" means castle in Turkish).
Aizanoi was rediscovered by European travelers in 1824 and studied in the 1830's and 40's. In 1926, M. Schede and D. Krecker started excavations under the auspices of the German Archaeology Institute. In 1970, R. Naumann began these studies anew, and they have continued to the present day.
Most of the structural remains that have come down to our day from Aizanoi that are located on both sides of the Kocaçay River (ancient Penkalas) were built during the Roman era. On both banks of the river, there were protective walls made out of large cut stones to protect the city against the rising waters of the Kocaçay, waters which still rise today. Two out of the four bridges on the river are still in use today. The low wooden bridge on the north was used as a pedestrian crossing.
The stone bridge with five arches that follows this wooden one is still in good shape. There is another one with three arches which has fallen into ruins. This one is followed by the city's main bridge, which today supports all of the traffic with its five arches.
The inscriptions on the pedestal of the bridge's railing tells us that the opening ceremony of the bridge took place in September 157 AD. The inscription and two relief-decorated railings are today displayed in front of the fourth bridge. The relief shows the sea voyage of M. Apuleius Eurycles, who financed the bridge's construction. Eurycles represented Aizanoi in Athens from 153 to 157 AD. in the Hellenic Union called Panhellion which was established by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Eurycles returned to Aizanoi in the fall of 157 AD. In 1990, the bridge was fortified with new railings.
The Temple of Zeus
The Temple of Zeus was the first of the magnificent structures built in Aizanoi's new city center on the west bank of the Penkalas river (Kocaçay today). Recent excavations have shown that layers of remains from the early years of the area were displaced to build the Temple of Zeus. Ceramic pieces dated to the Early Bronze Age were found at the level of the temple courtyard. The rubble from the removed layers was used to the fill temple area. The construction of the temple began in the second quarter of the second century. The money needed for the temple's construction was met by renting out large temple fields. However, the people who rented these fields resisted paying any money for many years. The construction started only when the rents were paid under the instruction of Emperor Hadrian. The correspondence between the city and the emperor on this subject was so important for Aizanoi that it rests in the northern side of the pronaos (front gallery) of the temple. On the outside of the same wall, there are long inscriptions. This inscription talks about M. Apuleius Eurycles, whom we know from the bridge inscription. The inscription praises Eurycles' virtues and his contributions to the city.
On the cut stones of the temple, there are war scenes, horsemen and horses. These drawings depict scenes from the lives of Çavdars, who were looking for shelter in the city walls surrounding the temple in the 13th century. In the peristasis, there are eight Ionic columns on the short and 15 on the long sides. The distance between the interior structures of the temple (pronaos, cella and opisthodomos) is twice as large as the distance between the columns. Therefore this is a temple based on a pseudodipteros plan. The temple is built on a podium with the dimensions 53 meters by 35 meters and the base is covered with vaults, the combination of which makes for an unusual model in Roman architecture in Anatolia; no similar example has been found. It is believed that the underground chamber under this whole area covered with cella, opisthodomos and pronaos was the staging ground for ceremonies in the cult of the Anatolian goddess Cybele, who was worshipped under the name Meter Steunene in Aizanoai. On the northwest pediment of the temple, on the middle acroter, there is a portrait-sculpture of a woman. This demonstrates that the temple was also devoted to the Phrygian goddess Cybele. However, recent research shows that the temple cannot have been devoted to both Zeus and Cybele. This underground place is thought to be a prophecy center or the storage room of the temple. The acroter in the shape of a woman's head has now been placed near other discovered pieces.
Other ruins of Aizanoi
A heroon that was considered a small temple in that time and an agora surrounded by galleries were built in the middle of the second century AD. The area is surrounded by a gallery of Doric columns which were built before the gallery that circles the temple. Most of these magnificent structures came to be under village houses and schools, and very few of them are visible any longer. Right next to the road that passes from the southeastern side of the temple's flat area, there is a heart-shaped column of the agora. The courtyard with Doric columns is covered with horizontal columns of Middle Age city walls, and architectural pieces of other ancient structures. The northern corner of this courtyard was excavated in 1997. The eastern corner of the courtyard with Doric columns and the rest of the places in the courtyard were excavated in 1981-82. You can see the remains of a flight of stairs on the southwest wall of the heroon that stands on the marble-covered podium. This structure is believed to be the tomb of a leading figure of the city.
Between the stadium and the temple, there used to be a Turkish-style bath with rich decorations and a courtyard with columns in the front that was built in the second half of the second century A.D. The southeastern half of this symmetrical structure was excavated in 1978-81. The rich marble covering of the Turkish bath, water and water heating channels can still be seen today. The main bathing rooms like the frigidarium and calidarium are in the middle of this building. There are many side rooms opening to this room. In the largest room, there is a marble sculpture of the goddess Hygeia in an apse. In front of the northeast part of the Turkish-style bath, there used to be a large square courtyard (palaestra) for sports activities. The large stone blocks found in the fields north of the palaestra show that there could have been a splendid tomb here, round inside but polygonal on the outside.
The combination of the stadium-theater in Aizanoi is unique. Excavation and research carried out from 1982 to 1990 showed that the construction of the building started in 160 AD and continued until the middle of the third century AD. During repairs to the eastern side of the entrance to the stadium, a number of inscriptions were found and placed in their original places. These inscriptions tell us that M. Apuleius, who was mentioned in the inscriptions of the main bridge, also made substantial contributions to the building of this complex.
Since the sitting rows of the stadium are polygonal, the structure gets wider in the center. At its widest point, there is a door on the western side. A marble-covered wall is the only façade of the stadium that looks onto theater. This is at the same time the back side of theater stage. The marble pieces can today be seen in the north of the stadium. The low pedestal of this façade wall is in a Doric plan. There are two floors and on top, there is the high Attika floor with an arch. The stage of theater was covered with rich decorations made out of marble. These decorations fell on top of the sitting rows during several earthquakes throughout the ages. Researchers who examined the marble decorations on the stage arrived at the conclusion that the building was originally built as only one story. A second floor was added in later years when expanding the stadium. A very small portion of the marble parts stayed in their original places, which was the front part of the structure made out of cut limestone. Among these fallen marble pieces, there are parts of a frieze depicting a hunting scene.
In the second half of the third century, in the northeastern side of the city, a second Turkish-style bath was built inside a building formed by large limestone. In one part of this bath, there is a mosaic floor bearing the pictures of a satyr and maenad. In the fourth and fifth century AD, the main area of the Turkish-style bath was rearranged and it was used as the episcopacy center.
A little bit south of this place, there is a round building (Macellum) which was used as food market in the second part of the second century AD. This area was excavated in 1971 and on its partly repaired walls was hung a copy of the price lists of the Emperor Diocletian which he prepared so as to bring down inflation. For example, a physically strong slave would be the same price as two donkeys (30,000 dinar), and one horse was worth three slaves.
The back side of the village house which limits the round door from northeast was excavated between 1992 and 1995. Here, archaeologists found an avenue dated back to 400 AD surrounded by galleries with columns. Almost all the column and joist parts were recovered, and this allowed archaeologists to make it stand again. The architectural parts which were not used were placed on the back walls of the galleries. This was also the entrance of the shops where goods were sold.
Equipment was taken from other buildings to build a roof to protect people against sun and rain. Not only architectural pieces, but also sculptures in desolated buildings were also taken and brought here. In front of the northeast gallery columns, on a pedestal, there is an honor inscription about Ms. Markia Tateis from a noble family and a marble sculpture of a flute-playing naked satyr with a panther skin tied around his body. This sculpture today is displayed at the Kutahya Museum.
The relation between the honor inscription and the satyr sculpture shows that the artists of the late ancient period were not so concerned about the content of the art but instead they wanted to decorate this avenue with different artistic elements. The most important building, which was removed to make room for the avenue with columns, was the Temple of Artemis. Splendid Ionic column capitals of the northeast gallery decorated with perpendicular leaves belong to this temple. There is a long inscription that mentions the goddess Artemis along with Asclepius on a piece belonging to the temple. The inscription says that the temple was built during the reign of the Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD.) Two plates that were found on the ground of the northeast gallery were originally from the triangular pediment of the temple. One of these plates has a picture of a deer which is the symbol of Artemis. The front façade of the temple which has eight columns can be reconstructed using the parts of the Temple of Artemis that were employed in the building of the avenue with columns. This avenue, for whose construction a temple was demolished, existed until the sixth century when most likely it was destroyed by an earthquake.
The avenue with columns was the main axis of Aizanoi's city road system. This 450-meter-long road was discovered in a series of drillings in 1991. This avenue with columns was excavated in 1979, and remains of the door building which form the southwest end of the road are visible. This avenue was a part of the ceremonial road leading to the Meter Steunene sacred area outside the city after passing through the main bridge.
The large necropolises surrounding the city give us an idea about how big the city was. Various kinds of tombs existed in the necropolises including door-shaped tombstones which were typical for the Phrygia and Aizanoi region. These doors symbolize passage to the other world. Most of these tombs belong to the second century AD, and they bear the name of the person who is buried or who donated it. They also have signs on them showing the tomb's owner. On women's tombs, there are pictures of baskets full of wool and a mirror, and men's tombs are decorated with eagles, lions and bulls.
In 1990 and 1991, archaeologists found two remarkable tomb remains on the sacred road that leads to Meter Steunene two kilometers southwest of Aizanoi. In the tomb that resembles a cross, there are niches to put sarcophagi. A sarcophagus depicting the war of the Hellenes (Greeks) and Amazons is today displayed at the Kutahya Museum.
The structure with four arches (tetrapylon) was turned into a small Byzantine chapel in the Middle Ages (11th and 12th centuries). Here is found the lower part of a marble sarcophagus bearing a picture of Eros. This piece is displayed in the garden of the Kutahya Museum. These sarcophagi and other tomb remains date back to 155 and 165 AD.
The cult place of the goddess Meter Steunene, the oldest sacred side of the city, was a deep burrow in a cave which today has collapsed. Here, archaeologists found clay cult figurines in excavations in 1928, and these pieces date back to between the 1st century BC and 2nd century AD. On the upper part of the cave, there is a rock throne with steps. Such sacred sites are encountered in Phrygia's rural areas, and this shows that the Meter Steunene sacred site was used long before the first century BC. There are two round pits (bothroi) to sacrifice animals, and these could belong to earlier ages of the sacred site. In these pits, people used to kill offerings for Anatolia's goddess whom they believed to be living in rock formations and the ruler of the mountains and nature.
There are two well-preserved dam walls, built in two stages, which were constructed on the Penkalas River to protect the city from floods. These two stages are separated with marble pieces which are mostly seats. On the rocks on the upper parts of the dam wall, there are marks showing that this place was used as a stone quarry in ancient times.