The Via Sebaste in Antalya
Updated: May 26
You can walk a well-preserved section of a Roman road, the Via Sebaste, located 30 km north of downtown Antalya and 3 kilometers NNE of the village Kovanlık. On Google Maps it is marked as Maximianupolis. The road is set between green mountains and overlooks the plain of Pamphylia, so it makes for a wonderful historical, outdoor experience. This post provides historical background and instructions for hiking the Roman road.
The Via Sebastia, or Augustan Road, originally ran from Side to Pisidian Antioch. A track had long existed on the route, but in 6 BC Caesar Augustus expanded, surfaced, and monumentalized the road. The road would have been used by soldiers going to battle, messengers carrying imperial messages, shepherds moving their sheep, and everyday people on the move. In Acts 13, when Paul traveled from Perge to Pisidian Antioch (and back), they most likely walked on this road.
The extant road section stands at the border of two regions—Pamphylia and Pisidia. Pamphylia was a coastal plain with decent agriculture and harbor cities. The inland region of Pisidia, on the other hand, is rugged and mountainous. The people of Pisidia were notoriously fierce, often defying outside rule. So to control Pisidia, Caesar Augustus established 11 Roman colonies in the region. These were military settlements in which Roman soldiers were given land to develop, in exchange for being available to quell a Pisidian revolt. The region of Pisidia had the highest concentration of Roman colonies in the empire. The Augustan road facilitated military communication and transport through the region. It connected Rome’s territories in Pisidia and Phrygia (central Anatolia) with Pamphylia along the Mediterranean coast.
The Roman road was repaired several times in the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. The road section still exists today because in the late-1800s the Ottoman government developed a new Antalya-Burdur road further to the west.
The Settlement Remains
The two kilometers of well-preserved Roman roadbed connect two settlements. The lower settlement has two prominent structures. The larger, simple building was most likely a corral. The tall walls provided shade for animals to rest under.
The other, more advanced structure alongside the road is a rare Roman mansio. This was a roadside inn for imperial officials, such as messengers or soldiers. Similar to a Seljuk han, it had a large central courtyard with surrounding rooms (9 rooms on the lower floor for animals and 6 above for humans). A small crew of soldiers, animal keepers, and domestic workers staffed the mansio. They provided for travelers who had official permission to stay there. Based on the uncut masonry, the mansio dates to the 4C. Between the corral and mansio are the ruins of Byzantine-era homes and chapels.
The upper settlement has large cisterns, baths, chapels, and fortifications. On the east side of the summit is an Augustan milestone in its original location (left side of the picture below). The text is faded, but you can see the mile marker at the bottom—CXXXIX, marking the 139th Roman mile from Pisidian Antioch. Some structure, perhaps a tax booth, was later built around the milestone.
To learn more about this section of the Via Sebaste, you can watch Stephen Mitchell’s presentation, “Travel and Transhumance in Southern Asia Minor Lessons from Landscape Archaeology,” or get his book co-authored with Robert Wagner, Roman Archaeology in a South Anatolian Landscape (2022).
Visiting and Hiking Information
To hike along the two kilometers of Roman road, you can easily drive close to either end. I recommend parking at the bottom and walking up to the pass. The hike from the lower settlement to the upper settlement is 2.2 km in length, with an elevation gain of 250 meters up through Döseme Bogazi. The hike takes 2 hours—one hour up, then another hour to enjoy the pass and return. The first 1/3 of the route feels steep compared to the rest. Click here for the hike info and route.
See the accompanying map to navigate the lower settlement and find parking. The locations are as follows:
Recommended parking spot.
Backup parking if the road to 1 is too muddy.
Though closer to the mansio, this parking location is not recommended because you must pass by the shepherd’s house with fierce guard dogs.
After a hard rain, the road from Kovanlık to the site can be too muddy to access. In that case, you can drive around through Dağbeli to the top of the pass. Park here in front of the pumping station, then walk one kilometer southeast along the dirt road to reach the upper settlement. About halfway to the upper settlement on your left, you can see part of the Roman road running parallel to the dirt road.