Excavation works started to be carried out in Ancient City of Anazarbus in 2012 with the permit of T.R. Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate for Cultural Heritage and Museums, under presidency of Adana Museum of Archaeology and under scientific consultancy of Çukurova University. The city is located within the borders of Dilekkaya Village situated 28 km south of Kozan District and 70 km north-east of Adana.
According to epigraphic researches, the name of the city, founded on an area of 4 thousand decares, was derived from the word “NEZARBA” which means ‘invincible’ in Persian. The city, whose plan was renovated during the visit of Roman Emperor Augustus and which was dedicated to Augustus under the name of Caesarea in 19 BC, came into prominence as an economic, commercial and political centre of Tarkondimotos Kingdom.
Emperor Septimius Severus honoured Anazarbus with the title “neokoros” in 198 and 203 AD and with the title “metropolis” in 204 AD. The city, accepted as an ideal settlement for the Roman army during the battle of cities known as Cilicia Pedias (Cilicia of the Plain) against the Parthians, came to the fore as a logistic support unit of Roman armies. The city became the leading area of the region in 204 AD as the state assembly started to convene in Anazarbus. Many monumental structures were built during this period. Such structures include the glorious triple-arched triumphal arch, two-lane colonnaded street, theatre, amphitheatre, Circus Maximus (stadium), temples, assembly building, necropolises and bathhouses. In Anazarbus, the triple-arched triumphal arch, called as Ala Gate, opens to Decumanus Maximus (the colonnaded main street extending in north-south direction). The two-lane (double) main street, which is 34 m wide and 2700 m long, is considered as the largest street structure of the ancient world. Among three amphitheatres surviving until today in whole Anatolia, the soundest one is in Ancient City of Anazarbus. 25 km long aqueducts, built by Emperor Domitian in 92 AD, are shown among the longest and spectacular aqueducts of the world.
Declared as the capital of Cilicia Secunda in 408 AD during the period of Emperor Theodosius, the city was destroyed by two large earthquakes in 525 and 561 and re-built during the periods of Justin and Justinian I. Occupied by the Arabs in the 7th and 8th centuries AD, the city changed hands many times in the following centuries between the Arabs and the Byzantines. The city has a magnificent and splendid city wall system, which can be seen from all parts of the plain, with a length of 1500 m surrounding a steep castle and 20 bastions built in every 70 m. The city was occupied in the 11th century AD by Taurus I, who was escaping from Alparslan, and was made the capital of Armenian Kingdom. Losing its importance on the stage of history after the Mamluks in 1375, the city was abandoned completely due to natural factors such as plague epidemic.
Anazarbus, the centre of the Mountain God Zeus Olybris/Olybreus Cult, is the birthplace of Dioscorides, the famous pharmacologist and physician who lived in the period of Emperor Nero, served in Roman army and known in public as Luqman al-Hakim. Dioscorides is renowned as the father of pharmacology thanks to his 5-volume scientific work called “De Materia Medica”. Furthermore; the famous poet Oppian was born and led his life in this city. It is also understood from ancient sources that there were many linen weaving ateliers in the city.
Bearing the cultural traces of various civilisations of Anatolia such as Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Medieval, Arabian, Armenian and Ottoman civilisations, the city was home to many cultures and civilisations, and crowned such rich cultural traces by inscription on Tentative List of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage on April 15, 2014.