The Roman Seleuceia-in-Pieria

cev1Buses from Samandağ, near Antakya, travel through the Hatay to the seaside resort at Çevlik, a place so desolate that it’s almost impossible to believe that it was once the site of Seleuceia in Pieria, the busy port of Antioch (Antakya) whence goods were shipped to all parts of the Roman Empire. It is believed to the burial place of Seleucus I Nicator (c.358-281 BC) who founded not just this city but also Zeugma. 

Its decline seems to have started in the Byzantine period and then accelerated when the Arabs overran what is now Syria in the 7th century. In 1268 the Mameluks of Egypt sacked Antioch, after which nothing more is heard of Seleuceia in Pieria.

The main reason to come here is to see the Titus and Vespasian Tunnel which was cut through the solid rock of the hillside, an extraordinary feat of engineering begun in the 1st century under Emperors Vespasian and Titus, and completed in the 2nd century during the reigns of the Antonines.

The tunnel was intended to prevent silt carried by a stream flowing down into the harbour and blocking it, the fate that befell the harbour at Ephesus. Today you can walk through part of the tunnel (in winter you need waders), and also peer down into a canyon carved through the rocks from above.

A cute little Roman bridge with grooves worn into the marble marks the entrance to the tunnel. In spring the hills above it are covered in wild flowers, including banks of tiny pink cyclamens.

Not far from the bridge a path to the right follows the irrigation channels and eventually winds up at another extraordinary sight, the Beşikli Mağarası (Cradle Cave), where steps lead down to the triple-arched entrance of a vast rock-cut necropolis with Roman tombs set around a natural courtyard, some of them decorated with crosses, suggesting that their occupants had been Christian. The ceilings are carved with unique scallop decorations.cev2

Not much more remains of Seleuceia in Pieria, although if you turn left at the ticket office on your way out you can walk back over the hill and look down on a stretch of unexcavated city wall now off-limits inside the grounds of the gendarmerie.

On the outskirts of Çevlik a sign points to another necropolis and the slight remains of a Doric Temple of Zeus. The tombs are of minor interest. I found no obvious traces of the temple.

In front of the military base there are slight remains of the old port running out into the sea. More remains can be glimped inside the military base although of course they're completely off-limits.

The beach is a greyish strip of sand that runs all the way south to Deniz. A battered sign lists precautions visitors should take to avoid disturbing the nests of the loggerhead turtles, but they would have to be feeling pretty desperate to nest here in preference to Dalyan!


Although there are very simple places to stay in Çevlik most people will probably want to visit on a day trip from Antakya.

Transport info

You can get here by frequent dolmuş from Antakya via Samandağ. The dolmuşes leave from the main road more or less in front of the Antakya local bus terminal. 


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