Ancient city of Rhodiapolis (village of Saricasu, Kumluca, Antalya, Turkey)

Rhodiapolis, situated on a hill near the village of Sarıcasu, Kumluca district of Antalya province, is considered to be founded  by Rhodes because of its name. Its name almost certainly means ‘city of Rhodes’, implying that it was founded by colonists from the island of Rhodes, though a legendary tradition recorded by the Greek writer Theopompus ascribes its foundation to Rhode, daughter of the legendary Greek seer and city-founder Mopsus.

It is one of the few Rhodian colonies in the region like Gagai, Phaselis, Korydalla and Olympos, all of which are located within the borders of Kumluca. Rhodiapolis is thus another ancient city recently reclaimed for tourism and well worth a visit.

The city was discovered following a forest fire that broke out here in 2001. Four kilometers from Kumluca, the city is one of the last to represent Lycian culture. With its theater, Opramoas monument, temple, bath, cisterns and marketplace, all dating to the Hellenistic period, Rhodiapolis is thought to have been a settlement of five thousand people. The monumental grave of Opramoas, one of the city’s prominent men, is surely the most important of the finds brought to light in the excavation.

As Prof. Dr. Çevik points out, Opramoas, who lived during the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161 A.D.), was Lycia’s richest and most philanthropic resident. A large number of structures that were toppled in the earthquake of 141 A.D. were repaired with funds he made available, and there is literally no Lycian city he did not help. (Source: Skylife / Turkish Airlines)

All cities in the region are members of the Lycian Union. They are said to be “Lycians” on the Rhodiapolis ve Gagai coins.

Opramoas of Rhodiapolis
The most famous figure of the city was Opramoas. He has lived during the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161) and he is the richest and the most famous benefactor of Lycia. This wealthy man has made many benefactions in his lifetime as recorded on the walls of the monument built in his honor at the heart of this city.  His best known work is his monumental tomb on the foot of the theatre.

Opramoas is the son of Apollonios II. Aglais, whose mother is also known as Aristokila is a Korydallian. He has two brothers named as Hermaios and Apollonios III.

Opramoas’s first mission in the Lycian Union was arkhiphylakia. He was honored 4 times after his services in the early period.

Having proven his generosity Opramoas has been presented bronze statues, gold plated icons and gold wreaths in those accolades which has taken place between AD 114-131.

It seems that there has been no city left in all Lycia that Opramoas has not helped. Another feature of Opramoas is hidden in the memoirs of Hadrianus.

Hadrianus describes that “the secret reports of the Lycian merchant Opramoas, who knows the details of the events of Asia has been made fun of by Palma”.

Honorary Member
According to the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, in 2015, Opramoas has become a “honorary member” of the Antalya Industrialists and Businessmen Association (ANSİAD) upon the application of Professor Nevzat Çevik. (Click here to read the full news)

Akdeniz University Archaeology Department academic Çevik said that there had been many benefactors in the past, but Opramoas was the most important one among them.

He said Opramoas, born in the first half of the 2nd century A.D. and known to have died in 152 or 153, was a very rich man and a Lycian, the pontiff in the temple and the clerk of the Lycian Union.

He said the “ancient businessman” earned money in the Roman Empire era by working in the banking, agriculture and trade sectors and gave most of his earnings to charity.

Çevik said that according to the writings on the walls of the temple-like grave made for Opramoas after his death, the amount of money he had given to charity was 3 million dinars, which was astronomic.

Çevik said Opramoas also provided dowry for newly married couples and food for the poor. Çevik likened his acts to the ones in the month of Ramadan, adding, “But he was helping people throughout the year. He met everyone’s needs. He even paid the wages of the workers of the Lycian Union.”

ANSİAD membership
Çevik said he made a membership application last year to ANSİAD, thinking Opramoas should be a model for today’s businessmen. He said the management accepted the application, marking a first in the world.

“The membership certificate was given to Kumluca Mayor Hüsamettin Çetinkaya because Opramoas was from Kumluca. As a reference, I gave the name of Roman Empire Antonius Pius in the letter. I am very excited about it. We brought together the past and the preset. We told the businessmen ‘let the most precious businessman be a model for you; let him be your honorary member.’ Almost 2,000 businessmen are members of this association. This is a first in the world. Opramoas deserved it and ANSİAD got this chance. No association in the world has a 2,000 year-old ancestor,” the professor said.

Besides Pius, the application letter also included doctor Heracleitos, Kumluca Mayor Çetinkaya and Akdeniz University academics Çevik and İsa Kızgut.

Rhodiapolis has not any remains to reflect the pre-7th century BC except for the rock tomb that has the Lycian script.

The earliest known remains in the city are the Classical Age rock tombs. It appears to be a Roman city connected to traditions other than the Lycian inscribed rock tomb and the Hellenistic tower to the north of the theater. However, a large part of the ruins that have been destroyed are of the Byzantine era.

Important remnants; theater, hamam, agora / stoa, sebasteion, temples, churches, cisterns, cenotaphs, necropolises and houses.

The most striking feature of the city is the numerous structures that are still standing, built with or without mortar from small stones. These are of varying sizes, many of which belong to private persons.

There is a small Greek theater in the city center.

The cave of the theater, which is believed to be about 1500 people in capacity, is leaning mostly on the patio and the cavea has 6 kuneus / kerkes among 7 stairs.

The diameter of the orchestra is 10.52 m. The upper section of the stage building, which stretches on the east-west axis, has been completely demolished, only the ground floor has been preserved. 5 doors are opened from the Proskene ceiling.

The monument-tomb, which is full of books and consists of 64 documents with Opramoas’ all official relations, is behind the stage building on the southwest of the theater.

In the city center, the agora and the stoa are integral and the stoa forms the covered part of the agora in the west.

At the top of the theater, only a church with an apside preserved hits the west. The last public building on the eastern border of the settlement is a Roman bath.

The bath is in the Anatolian hamam-gymnasion character with its general plan. The necropolis of Rhodiapolis is concentrated in the east, southeast and north of the city.

The most interesting remnant of the necropolis areas which are in vast majority formed by the sarcophagi belonging to the Roman Period is the rock tombs in Lycian language.

  1. Sources:
    “Rhodiapolis”, Dünden Bugüne Antalya [II. Cilt], Antalya İl Kültür ve Turizm Müdürlüğü, 2012, Antalya, s. 208-209.
  2. The Routledge Handbook of the Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia