The ancient city of Perge lies at 30-50'
latitude, 30-57 longitude (with respect to Greenwhich), in the vicinity of the
village of Murtuna, about 2 kms. inland from the subdistrict of Aksu on the Antalya
- Alanya main rood,
18 kms. to the east of Antalya and 4 kms. to the west of the Aksu river between the rivers
Düden and Aksu. The site on which the city was founded, together with the plain of
Antalya (Pamphylia), dates from the Post - Miocene period, the plain being formed from
alluvia carried down by important rivers such as the Düden (Catarrhactes), the Aksu
(Cestrus), and the Köprüçay (Eurymedon) , all of which date from the same
period. The mound (acropolis) on which the first city of Perge was probably built
lies in this plain. This area is composed of hard limestone formed over sand and soft marl
of the Miocene period. The lower skirts of the mound join the plain in a gentle incline,
but the upper sections rise up in the form of very steep slopes.
The top of the hill forms a terrace about 6o metres above the plain and accessible only on
the south side by two roads. The terrace measures 750 metres from east to west and 320-
340 metres from north to south, forming an area of approximately 2500 square metres. Two
other mounds rise up from the plain nearby: Iyilik Belen to the south - east of the Perge
acropolis, and Koca Belen to the south - west. As far as ancient sources are concerned the
earliest writer to mention Perge is Scylax, who is generally thought to have lived at the
beginning of the 4th century B. C., and who informs us that Perge lies in
Other sources stating that Perge lay in
Pamphylia are the following:
The Acts of the Apostleso, (New Testament: 1st century A. D.) " Leaving
Paphos, Paul and his companions went by sea to Perge in Pamphylia ."
G. Plinius Secundus (1st century A.
D.) "Pamphylia antea Mopsopia appellata est mare pamphylium
Cilicio iungitur. Oppida Side et in monte Aspendum, Plantanistutn, Perga. ...
"Pamphylia was previously known as
Mopsopia. The Pamphylian Sea joins on to the sea of Cilicia. Pamphylia included the towns
of Side and, on the mountain, Aspendus, Plantanistum and Perge....
C. Ptolemaeus (2nd century A.
"Perge, Sillyum and Aspendus are in the inland parts of Pamphylia."
Of the scholars of the 2nd century A. D.
the Sophist Polemon, whose work exists only in an Arabic translation, makes the following
mention of Perge:
"Imagine that I am in a Pamphylian city known as Perge. . Dionysius
Periegetesl (3rd century A. D.).
"Corycus, Perge and Phaselis, the windiest of them all, are all listed as cities of
Stephanus Byzantinus (6th century A. D.)
"The Pamphylian city of Perge....
The 1st century geographer Strabo describes the situation of Perge as
"Then one comes to the Cestrus River; and, sailing sixty stadia up this river,
one comes to Perge
From what Strabo says it would appear that in the xst century A. D. Perge lay 12
kms. inland from the coast (At the present day the aluvia brought down by the Aksu has
advanced a further 4 kms.)
From Pomponius Mela (1st century A. D) we learn that the river Cestrus was
Cestros navigari facilis...
"The river Cestrus is easily navigable
From the reference in the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament:
(Leaving Paphos, Paul and his companions went by sea to Perge in Pamphylia~ it is
quite obvious that they came to Perge by ship, and that this could only be by means of the
The Cestrus is one of the two main rivers watering the Paniphyhan plain. It rises
in the Pisidian (Isparta) Mountains 16, and is known in the Taurus as the Kocaçay and in
the Pamphylian plain as the Aksu . Thus in ancient times this now unnavingable river,
apart from its affect on the fertility of the soil played a very important role in
At the present day the alluvia brought down by the Aksu has advanced a
further 4 kms. see Blumenthal, op. cit. p.
Making it possible for the city to engage in maritime
trade. While able to reap this benefit from the sea, Perge's situation 12 kms. inland
protected it from sudden attacks by pirates · The importance accorded to the river
Cestrus by the city of Perge in ancient times is demonstrated by the representation of the
river god on the coins of the city, and the monumental statue of the river god (Cestrus)
in the nymphaeum on the skirts of the acropolis, to the north of the colonnaded street
which intersects the city at right angles 20·
In an atlas known as the Tabula Pcutingeriana, which was copied
by a monk in 1265 from a map of the 3rd or 4th century and duplicated in the
i6th century by a scholar of the name of Peutinger (whence the name of the Atlas), Perge
is shown on the main road leading from Pergamum to the coast at Side through Tyatira,
Philadelphia, Hierapolis, Laodiceia, Cormassa, Sillyum and Aspendus .
THE FOUNDATION OF PERGE
Nothing is yet known of the prehistory of
Perge. The excavations made in 1946, 1953 - 1957, and 1967 - 1971 yielded no finds
that could shed any light on this subject. The investigations carried out in the province
of Pamphylia by K. Kokten and J. Mellaart also failed to reach any
positive conclusions. As these consisted, however, of purely surface investigations the
last word has not yet been spoken on this subject.
A. Gotze is of the opinion that a Troy - Yortan culture existed in Cyprus and
that this could only have reached the island through Pamphylia. He thus suggests that in
spite of the absence of finds Pamphylia must have formed part of the Troy - Yortan
cultural group that existed in Anatolia in the 3rd millennium Inscriptions containing the
proper name which is generally agreed to have derived from the Luvian Tarku (storm
god) are very frequently encountered in the province of Pamphylia, and as Luvian is one of
the pre - Hittite languages spoken in Anatolia in the 3rd millennium this would appear to
prove that Pampylia had been inhabited from as early as the 3rd millennium.
Apart from this philological conjecture it is
interesting to note that although the inscriptions in the local language that are to be
found on Perge coins belonging to the period from about 190 B. C. to the Early
Empire are very similar, they are written in a number of different forms.
The meaning of these coin inscriptions in the local
language can be explained by comparison with the Greek and Latin coin inscriptions of the
form and DIANA PERG (aea) surrounding the various representations of Artemis .
COLONISATION OF PERGE AND THE INSCRIPTIONS
OF THE CITY FOUNDERS
It used to be generally
agreed that Pamphylia formed part of the region referred to as Arzawa in Hittite sources
of the 2nd millenniuml8, but the latest researches suggest that the region known to the
Hittites as Arzawa did not include Pamphylia and lay to the northwest of this province.
Philological research has shown that the Achaeans invaded Pamphylia
towards the end of the 2nd millennium. Pamphylia had a language of its own, produced by a
mixture of Cypriot, Arcadian and Anatolian languages together with Dorian and Aeolian
elements. Pamphylia could only have been influenced by the Arcadian language at a period
when the Arcadians held the coasts of the Peloponnesus and were spreading out from there,
which must have been prior to the Dorian migrations, i. e. before 1200 B. C. The Dorian
elements in the language of Pamphylia, on the other hand, attest to the presence of the
Dorians after 1200.
Apart from these philological researches the inscriptions of the city -
founders unearthed in the excavations carried out in the courtyard of the Hellenistic city
gate of Perge in 1953 corroborate the arrival of the Achaeans in Pamphylia. These
inscriptions date from 120/12 i A. D. and rest on a very old tradition. They are
seven in number, all connected with the colonisation of Perge, and are to be found
inscribed on the pedestals of the statues of the city founders, which were probably placed
in the upper of the two rows of niches surrounding the oval courtyard . Although the
statues themselves have not survived, the pedestals are in a fairly good state of
preservation. The heroes whose names are given as the legendary founders of the city are
as follows: Riksos, Labos, Calchas, Machaon, Leonteus, Minyas and Mopsus. By investigating
the origins of the city founders mentioned in these inscriptions and keeping in mind the
philological researches mentioned above one is drawn to the conclusion that an Achaean
colonisation took place in. Perge in the 2nd half of the 12th century B. C.
Some of the Greek heroes are known to have chosen to return to their
homelands after the conclusion of the Trojan wars by means of the southern route along the
western coasts of Anatolia. Amongst these were Calchas, Leonteus, Amphilochus, Polypoites
and Podaeirius Podalirius was accompanied on this journey by his brother Machaon .
The inscriptions mentioned above inform us that Minyas was also to be found among these
heroes, while according to Strabo Mopsus joined the group at Colophon. Thus five of the
seven heroic founders of Perge were among the heroes who founded cities in southern
Anatolia after the Trojan wars. Riksos and Labos, whose names occur in these inscriptions,
which we shall examine below, are not mentioned in Greek mythology. "The founder
Riksos of Athens, son of Lycos, son of Pandc-ion. Riksos' foot derives its name from this.
The above inscription shows that Lycos was the son of an Athenian hero
Pa.ndeion, and, according to the legend, gave his name to the province of Lycia The
inscription also informs us that Lycos had a son named Riksos. This hero, who was
completely unknown before, would appear to have taken part in the colonisation of southern
Anatolia after the Trojan War.
Labos is also a name completely unknown to Greek mythology.