The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Arycanda (modern Arif, Turkey)


Modern Arif, Turkey

Theatre Type

Greek / Roman Theatre

Earliest Date

50 BCE (F.S)

Renovations / Excavations

Roman scene building altered in Imperial Period, 14-180 CE

GPS Coordinates

Seating Capacity

2,750 - 3,404


Cavea Width: 56 meters
Orchestra Width: 17 meters


Arycanda Roman Theatre (modern Arif, Turkey). South facing cavea width: 56 m, orchestra width: 17.18 m; scene building 27.29 X 7.5 m; trapezoidal stage; capacity: 2,750/3,400; c. 50 cent. BCE.; Roman alterations in Imperial Period. (F.S.)


Arycanda (Arykanda) is a unique Lycian city, built upon five large terraces ascending a mountain slope, and was known for having the most pleasure and entertainment-loving (and debt-ridden) citizens.  The city overlooks a magnificent valley and its view makes it one of the most spectacular sites in Lycia.

Located near the small village of Aykiriçay, on the Elmali-Finike road.

Arycanda is known to be one of the oldest Lycian sites – its name ends with -anda, indicitive of its Anatolian origin dating back as far as the second millennium BC.  Some of the oldest coins of Lycia (5th c. BC were also found here during a recent digging; the site is under continuous excavation.

Gods and goddesses known to have been worshipped here are: Apollo, Ares, Artemis (in the forms of Kombike, Lagbene, Tharsenike and Eleuthera), Athena, Kakasbos (an Anatolian horseman-deity), Hera, Helios, Mithras, Tyche, Asklepios, Hygeia, Hercules, Hermes, Aphrodite, Somondeus (a mountain god), and Nemesis.

Arycanda survived through Byzantine times, until the 9th century when the settlement moved to a new site south of the modern road.

Excavations and restoration work in recent years have succeeded in unearthing a beautiful city, well-organized with the look of an architectural model. Since 1971, a Turkish team of archaeologists, headed by Professor Dr. Cevdet Bayburtluoolu, has been excavating the city.

Luckily for us, whether due to landslides, earthquakes or the difficulty for robbers in getting material down to the sea (there were sites nearer to the sea for that), Arycanda has not lost much of its large-scale materials except for the columns of the agora.  Also, with no large settlement nearby in later years, many things have been spared the lime kilns, at least none have been found on site yet.  Since much of the site has been protected by landslips, the limestone of Arycanda’s buildings looks quite fresh.

Some features of this magnificent city include:

  • Largest bath complex in Lycia, on the lowest terrace, still virtually intact in its sequence of arches, next to the gymnasium.
  • Agora, some of the shops in its eastern part can still be seen.  It is wide and flat, located to the south of the odeon and was enclosed on three sides by a portico.
  • Amphitheatre, in excellent condition, built during the 2nd century AD.  20 rows of seats, divided into 7 sections.  At the edge of every row are holes that were used to support protective awnings.
  • Odeon – 2nd century AD. The main entrance is to the south, though a triple portal. This was once a very ornate building, the interior was lined with orthostats and the walls, orchestra and seats were once covered with coloured marble. A frieze over the portal bears a portrait of the Emperor Hadrian flanked by cartouches bearing masks and heads of deities in relief.
  • Stadium, from the Hellenistic period, above the theatre, in the form of a running track.  It is smaller than a usual stadium, measuring 106 m. long and 17 m. wide.  A few step-like seats on its north side are all that remain of the stadium.
  • Necropolises, there are two of them, and the one on the entrance to the site is very interesting with its series of richly decorated funerary monuments.  The eastern necropolis has barrel-vaulted monumental tombs, temple-tombs and sarcophagi and the western necropolis has rock-cut tombs and barrel-valuted tombs.
  • Bouleuterion, where the council met, located on the northwest slope of the city at the end of a 137 metre long stoa.  The building is set into a mountain slope, with rows of seats cut into living rock. Accessed 6/3/2022 (T.H.)

Last Update: 12-09-2022