History of Medicine: Ancient City of Anavarza


5 Minute

For centuries, medicine has been one of the most vital professions. Doctors are an integral part of societies today, just as physicians were in the ancient world. How did the people of the past treat illness, injury, and disease? Our History of Medicine video series explores how the ancient cities of Anatolia approached human health. 

The Ancient City of Anavarza was established in Türkiye's fertile Çukurova region. It’s no surprise that famous physician and pharmacologist Dioscorides was born in this area which has a rich flora and natural resources, perfect for pharmacology! 

One of the oldest medical books in history was written here in Anavarza, used by doctors in Europe until the 18th century. Let’s explore this history together:


A Brief History of Anavarza 

Anavarza is a very valuable ancient settlement located within the provincial borders of Adana. This archaeological site, which is on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Tentative List, is very interesting with its history, structures, and legends.

Although when Anavarza first settled is not known exactly, information about the city appears for the first time in the Hellenistic Period. At that time, Anavarza was an important trade center due to its strategic location, connecting Central Anatolia with Syria. However, the city began to experience its richness in the 2nd century AD after Roman Emperor Septimius Severus rewarded it. In time Anavarza became a more important city and gained the title of "Capital of Cilicia" in 408. During its time as the capital city of Anavarza, it hosted many festivals and sports competitions. It is not difficult to imagine the artistic and sporting events that once took place in the stadium and the theater which you can see while visiting this area today! Continuing its splendid life in the Roman Period as well in the Byzantine Period, the city further grew and developed. In the following years, Anavarza also hosted the Armenian, Abbasid, Seljuk, Ramazano─čullar─▒, and Ottoman civilizations. You will have the chance to see the traces of all these different cultures together in Anavarza.

Now let us take a look at the structures you shall see when you visit Anavarza. You can observe all the phases of the city's development over time through the structures that you will encounter in the archaeological site today. We can divide the city of Anavarza into two parts as a settlement. While the first settlement is the castle built on the rocks and the upper city, the second settlement is the lower city, which is built on a plain and surrounded by walls. Anavarza Castle, located in the upper city and overlooking the whole plain, has a breathtaking effect with its magnificent view. Built in the Middle Ages, most of the castle walls can be seen intact today. The castle includes churches, cisterns, warehouses, and tombs. You should visit this structure, which is one of the most important castles in Anatolia. The columnated street and mosaic pools in the ancient city are also monuments that attract visitors. Other must-see monuments of Anavarza are; a magnificent triumphal gate with three arches, churches, theatre, amphitheater, stadium, temples, parliament building, necropolis, and a bath.

Anavarza carries the traces of many important civilizations of human history such as Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Armenian, and Ottoman. It is a place worth seeing. To better understand the history of the region after the visit of Anavarza, do not forget to add the Adana Archaeology Museum to your list, which contains very valuable archaeological artifacts.