Located on Atatürk Boulevard and leading into the Kaleici, the historic city centre of Antalya, the stunning Hadrian’s Gate is a typical Roman triumphal arch, built in 130 AD, to commemorate the visit of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in Attaleia, as Antalya was known in those days. It was a part of the city’s wall and became one of the main entrances to Kaleici, the city’s beautiful historic quarter, after its completion. Today, it is the only remaining entrance gate in the walls that surround the city and harbour.
Considered as the most beautiful gate in the Pamphylia region of Asia Minor, Hadrian’s Gate consists of two colonnaded facades and three same-sized archways with an overall height of around 26.2 feet (8 m) from the historic pavement to the very top of the gate’s entablature, the upper part of the structure supported by columns. Apart from the pillars, which are made of granite, the structure is built entirely of white marble. The three passageways ways are richly ornamented with floral and rosette reliefs. The upper part of the arch has three openings in the shape of a cupola and an entablature on the top of the gate extends to both sides to a height of about 4.2 feet (1.28 m), which includes a frieze decorated with floral motifs and an ornate cornice with lion heads. It is believed that originally the gate was a two storeyed structure and the top storey held statues of the emperor and his family.
It is evident that, the two towers standing on either side are from different time periods. The Southern Tower, known as the Julia Sancta, built independently from the gate, is from the Roman era and its ancient origins are testified by a stone inscription. However, the Northern Town has a different story. Though its lower section is from Roman times, the upper part was rebuilt in the first half of the thirteenth century AD, during the reign of Alaeddin Keykubat I, the Seljuk sultan and is marked by an inscription in Arabic script.
The Western World came to know about the Hadrian's Gate in Antalya only when the Irish-British hydrographer Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort published his diary in 1817, recounting his trip along the southern coast of Asia Minor with information about a higher level of the gate. In all probability it must have been destroyed later in the 19th century, since the subsequent European visitors during 1830s, could not provide its exact appearance.
Strangely enough, even after the publishing of the accounts of Sir Francis Beaufort in 1817, the Hadrian's Gate in Antalya remained forgotten and unknown to the modern world, till 1950s for its actual exposure. It was only revealed to the world, when the wall of the city collapsed in the 1950s. It became evident that formerly the city was surrounded by an outer wall, which enclosed the outside of the gate. Hence, the gate has long been obscured by the wall that covered the façade of the gate. Naturally, it was not used for many years. That may be the main reason as to why it has not been harmed. The gate was fully restored in 1959. The pavement was removed to reveal the original walkway made during the Roman period, which can be seen through the newly laid perspex acrylic flooring, while walking through the main arch. Visitors to the Gate can look down and see the incredibly deep channel, which was once used by countless pedestrians and carts to get in and out of the city.
During excavation, a dozen bronze letters were discovered at the foot of the gate, which were part of an inscription honoring Emperor Hadrian. The letters were subsequently shared by different museums in Vienna, Berlin and England.
It is said that the Biblical Queen of Sheba once drove through those gates, on her way to meet King Solomon and rested in Aspendos. However, that is impossible. If there is any truth about Solomon and Sheba, they lived long before the construction of the gate. However, today the Hadrian’s Gate is one of the most important sights in Antalya, which leads to the historic houses, restaurants, and delightful shops in the older part of the city. A short walk of about ten minutes from the gate will take a visitor to a beautiful view of the city and the sleepy seaside with a number of cafés in the shade for having a wonderful experience in Antalya.