Busy Antalya, 50 km east of Phaselis, was one of the major cities of ancient Pamphylia, settled more than a thousand years before the Christian era by Greek refugees fleeing from the sack of Troy. Antalya and its now-ruined, neighboring Pamphylian cities of Perge, Aspendos, and Side then passed through the hands of the Persians and Alexander the Great before becoming a sleepy backwater of the Roman Empire.
What will strike you first about Antalya is not its past but its heady involvement with the here and now. Turkey’s fastest growing city is spreading in pell mell fashion over a plateau beneath the Taurus mountain range. However, it’s Kaleici, the old town surrounding the harbor, that will be of most interest to visitors.
The Antalya Museum is at the western edge of the central city center and houses an outstanding collection of archeological artifacts. Many of the holdings are from the ruins at nearby Perge and range from a game board to statuary to a pantheon, reassembled here in its entirety. Other curiosities of local origin include Lycian coins from the seventh century B.C., some of the first coinage to ever be minted, and bones said to be those of Saint Nicholas, (Santa Claus). More skeletal remains (of a prehistoric man), recline poetically in a broken funeral urn.