Founded about three thousand years ago, the chief trade city of the ancient Pamphylia, Perge, was built inland, 12km from the Mediterranean, to prevent the pirate raids that constantly plundered the coasts.
About 18 km northeast of Antalya, in the vicinity of the Murtuna village and on an abrupt hill that edges the northwestern alluvial plain of the Aksu Cayi, there lie the ancient and imposing vestiges of Perge, ancient city that boasts great days of richness throughout the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras.
The legend has it that three Trojan heroes raised the ancient city of Perge on the wide alluvium plain of the Aksu (Kestros) river, flanked by two hills that the ruins reach out to: on one, there is the impressive amphitheater which is presumed to have covered as many as 12,000 places and the stage which has marble frescoes with images of Dionysos life, while on top of the other, a northern 50m high hill, there is the acropolis that used to be bounded by some of the city s oldest buildings.
The historic site of Perge unfolds over a rather swampy area entered through an opening in the walls, in front of which there are the remains of two round towers siding a Hellenistic gateway. Right of these towers there stands the relic of a small agora, enclosed by haughty Corinthian columns, and the round temple of Tyche in the middle. Crossways there runs a 20m wide lane up to the foot of the acropolis wherefrom it branches off eastwards and westwards alike.
The tale goes that some remnants of the famous Temple of Artemis are to be found southeast of the highland, but since there are no actual historical documents to assert this, its remains yet another myth.
During the early beginnings of Christianity, the Temple which, supposedly, had been raised in the name of Artemis and Apollonius, later became the first church built in Perge and so, Artemis was hence identified with Virgin Mary while Apollonius, her brother, with Jesus Christ.
This seems to be only one of the two explanations why the city of Perge turned out to be a key metropolis in the spreading of Christianity during the Byzantine period. The second one would be that St. Paul preached his first sermon in Perge just when he was starting his Christian expeditions.
Just a stone's throw away there is one more entirely intact 'U' shaped stadium as well as the delightfully tiled floors of the Roman baths that have been unearthed alongside the well-preserved colonnaded street by the side of which the ruins of old shops can still be noticed.