Turkey, ruins of an ancient Colosseum in Anatolia

Archaeologists in Turkey discover a structure similar to Rome’s Colosseum

The amazing discovery is the only Roman amphitheatre of this size that has been preserved in Anatolia.

A structure similar to that of the ancient Colosseum in Rome, considered to be the best example of Roman architecture in the world, has been discovered in the more than 2,000-year-old ruins of the ancient city of Mastaura, located in the Nazilli district of the Aydın province, on the west coast of Turkey.

Until now the structure had remained mostly covered underground and hidden among olive and fig trees, and it has aroused enormous interest among archaeologists due to its size and age; it has been discovered thanks to the examination of notes written by European travellers who explored this region about two centuries ago.

It is believed in fact that in ancient times there were in Asia Minor (Anatolia) up to 8 structures similar to the Colosseum, but it was thought that none of them had managed to survive… until now. The team of archaeologists who examined the remains believe that it is an ancient Roman amphitheatre with a diameter of 100 meters and walls that could reach 15 meters in height, equivalent to a 6-story building.

During preliminary inspections, archaeologists have been able to make important findings, despite the fact that there is evidence that treasure hunters have been excavating at the site causing significant damage. Now efforts will focus on fully excavating the area and unearthing this ancient Roman coliseum, a work that is expected to begin in late 2020.

An English explorer discovered the ruins in the 18th century

The head of the excavation team and member of the department of archaeology at Adnan Menderes University in Aydın, Sedat Akkurnaz, explained that the ancient city of Mastaura is located about 4 km from the town of Nazilli; the Greek geographer Strabo placed it in the valley of the current Menderes River. In October 1836 the English geologist William John Hamilton visited the area and discovered the upper ruins of the cavea of ​​the amphitheatre half buried and covered with trees.

“People lived here about 2,500 years ago. They moved to Nazilli 200 to 300 years ago. Mastaura is an important ancient settlement that has been known for about 200 years. When European travellers visited Anatolia in the 18th century, they also visited Mastaura and wrote about it,” Akkurnaz explained.

“When we examined the notes of those travellers, we saw that they offered very interesting facts about Mastaura. This interesting information that attracted our intention was that there was an amphitheatre in Mastaura. So we intensified our search for the amphitheatre, and discovered its location about a week ago,” revealed the Turkish archaeologist.

Since the ruins are currently on private property, the necessary arrangements are now being made with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to protect this place. “There are 7 other known examples in Anatolia (of amphitheatres like this one); but these examples are not as well preserved as this one in Mastaura. While most of them were destroyed, or their stones moved elsewhere, this amphitheatre is important, with stands and an orchestra,” he said.

Ruins with 5,000 years of history

Although the history of the amphitheatre or of the Mastaura itself dates back more than two millennia in time, Akkurnaz stressed that from the artefacts found and documented by Turkish archaeologists in the place it has been possible to establish that several civilisations occupied this place, and that the remains date back at least 5,000 years.

“We have been conducting research around Nazilli, and we have found historical artefacts in many different places from 5,000 years ago to the present day. Pottery pieces are also found here. We have examined and established the periods to which they belonged with help of our students,” commented the archaeologist.

For his part, the provincial director for culture and tourism in Aydın, Umut Tuncer, said that this structure found similar to the Colosseum in Rome is a magnificent example of one of the few Roman amphitheatres that are preserved in Anatolia. “We have some theatres in Turkey that we have identified, but they were shaped like a crescent; this is a complete structure of a Colosseum. There is no similar structure of this size in Anatolia,” Tuncer concluded.