Ancient Olympos is located 80 km to the south of Antalya. This region is part of the Taurus Mountains containing steep peaks and deep valleys.
The Olympos stream divides the city, with Ulupinar stream located in the north of the city. The road from west passes through Kavusuk canyon, which is the narrowest part of the Akcay valley, and it follows the sides of the valley until it reaches the sea. The steep heights, starting from the south of the city at the Sepet ridge, reach to a height of 568m at the top of Musa Mountain. The steep side at the north is the southern side of Onur Mountain. Gol Buku hill is in the west with the east side opening out into the Mediterranean sea. Because of the geography Olympos gets “lost” amongst these mountains.
In Olympos you’ll find places where there are ancient inscriptions, which scholars can’t explain. Some suggest they could come from ancient Anatolian languages which were to used to describe it as High Mountain or Grand Mountain. The Olympos city in Lycia must have been named after the Tahtali Mountain, which is 10 km from the city, at a height of 2375 m. However, in some publications, Olympos Mountain and Musa Mountain are described as if they were the same.
Olympus was first mentioned though coins from the Lycian Union between the years 168 – 78 B.C. Olympos was one of the six privileged cities in this union, possessing three votes and sometimes supplying the president.
The city was invaded by pirates from Phaselis and Cilica in 80 B.C. Xenychetes, one of the most famous Cilician pirates, lived in a castle near Olympos. Because of the chaos in the area, the Roman navy set sail from the ancient Roman city Tarentum under the leadership of the commander and senator Publis Servilius Vatia. In 78 B.C. he attacked the pirates in east Lycia, and then destroyed the famous castle of Xenychetes after winning three maritime battles at cape Gelidonia. After the death of Xenychetes, Olympos was bound to the Roman state Cilicia, and together with its neighbouring cities was excluded from the Lycian union. As a result they never entered the union again and stopped producing federal coins.
Emperor Hadrianus also visited the city, which achieved prominence in the Empire Ages of Rome, in his second Anatolia expedition of 129 – 131 B.C. In this period, the city was named Hadrianopolis to honour his visit. An inscription I the city also mentions a statute erected in the honor of emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Christianity reached the city in its early stages of development. The first known bishop was Methodios, who was killed at the time of Diochletianus. A bishop called Aristochrytos had attended to the consuls in Ephesus in 431 and in Istanbul in 451. Anatolius in 458 and Ionnus in 536 are the last known bishops in the area.
The city was invaded by Venetian, Genovese and Rhodian Knights during the crusades. A this time, two castles had been built in the Acropolis and on the slope to the south. There had also been settlements in some of the buildings inside the city. In the 15th century, when Mehmet II was the sultan, Olympos had been joined with the Ottoman land together with the whole Tekeli (Teke) peninsula. Olympos was also used as winter quarters by the Yuruks in 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Remains of the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine ages can be found in Olympos today. The most populated areas were along both sides of the Goksu stream, which still flows through the city. It is possible that the first settlement had been in the Acropolis, which is near the mouth of the stream and was also used for transport. Over time the settlement spread into the Goksu valley.
The most important remains are the necropolis, which consists of tombs used in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine ages, and Lycian sarcophagi. Other remains include the theatre, built in the Hellenistic age and used beyond with some additions, the columned street, remains of the baths and pier, the necropoline Ion temple and a house with intricate mosaics.