Excavation Sites in 5 Questions: Magnesia


5 Minute

The Ancient City of Magnesia is located only 2 km far from the İzmir - Aydın Highway, making it the perfect destination to explore during your next visit to the Aegean region. 

The stadium at Magnesia, among the best-preserved in Türkiye, is also worth exploring, according to Magnesia Excavations Director Prof. Dr. Orhan Bingöl. “The stadium is the only example known with reliefs of gods, goddesses, and presents for winners depicted on its podium” he explains.

Check out our interview with Prof. Dr. Bingöl to learn more about the impressive architecture of Magnesia!

Magnesia’s History 

Magnesia is one of the significant and remarkable ancient cities of Türkiye. According to ancient sources and legend, the city of Magnesia was founded by a tribe from Thessalia known as Magnets. The location of the first Magnesia established by magnets is not known exactly, but we learn from ancient sources that it was on the edge of the Menderes River. Magnets re-built the city in its current location, next to Gümüşçay, in 400 BC because of the epidemic diseases caused by the constant change and overflow of Menderes and the need to establish a more secured city against Persians.

In antiquity, Magnesia was a large city covering an area of ​​approximately 1300x1100 square meters, surrounded by fortification walls, with a grid-planned street system. The city had a strategically and commercially vital position due to its location between rich and powerful cities such as Priene, Ephesos and Tralleis. Magnesia first came under the rule of Seleucus and then the Pergamon Kingdom in the Hellenistic Period. The city, which preserved its importance in the Roman Period, became the episcopal center in the Byzantine Period. Magnesia later came under the sovereignty of the Aydınoğulları Principality.

Today, some of the important historical buildings you can explore while visiting archaeological site of Magnesia, which was home to various civilizations, are the Odeon, the Theater, the Stadium for 25,000 people, the Gymnasion, which was used as sports-oriented education center, the Artemis Sanctuary, the Artemis Leukophryene Temple, the Library, the Sacred Agora Propylon, the Byzantine fortification wall, and the Roman Basilica. The only Islamic structure of Magnesia is the Circassian Musa Mosque, which belongs to the 15th century. You can visit the artifacts unearthed from the excavations of Magnesia, which carries traces of many civilizations, in Aydın, İzmir and İstanbul Archeology Museums.

Magnesia, which has an undeniable archaeological importance, was mentioned in one of the earliest architecture books in the world written by the famous architect Vitruvius, the author of the Ancient World. Vitruvius mentions that the masterpiece of Hermogenes is the Temple of Artemis Leukophryene in Magnesia. The temple of Hermogenes was built in the Hellenistic Period on the ruins of the Artemis temple from the Archaic Period. It is the 4th largest temple of Anatolia in the Hellenistic period with its dimensions. This impressive temple has an Ionic order. There was an altar in front of the temple with a "U" shaped plan and it was decorated with reliefs and sculptures. You can visit the ruins of the temple today at the archaeological site.

Some of the other archaeological sites that you should definitely discover after visiting Magnesia are Priene Archaeological Site, Aphrodisias Archaeological Site, Milet Archaeological Site, Didim Apollon Temple, and Nysa Archaeological Site.

In addition to the archaeological sites, you can also experience the wonders of the nearby Aphrodisias, Milet, and Aydın Archeology Museums. 

Our Excavation Sites in 5 Questions series explores Türkiye's significant archaeological sites through insightful interviews with their excavation directors. Explore all here.