Kadıkalesi is one of the biggest archaeological surprises in the vicinity of Kuşadası. It is a Byzantine castle, standing at the site identified with the Greek colony known as Anaia. Moreover, the hill bears the traces of human activity dating back to prehistoric times.
The tumulus, where the ruins of Kadıkalesi Castle are situated, has been inhabited by humans at least since the early Bronze Age i.e. from the third millennium BC. A bronze statue, representing a deity or a warrior, found in Kadıkalesi in 2002, dates back to the time of the Hittites, or i.e to the second millennium BC. This object, as well as the legend relating that a settlement at this location had been established by a queen of the Amazons, both confirm the strategic importance of the city during the domination of the Hittites.
Numerous ceramic fragments discovered in Kadıkalesi are dated to the period of Greek colonization of the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. The oldest fragments of vessels (dating back to 1050 BC) were made in protogeometric style, characteristic of the so-called Dark Ages. It was the period in the history of ancient Greece from the fall of the Mycenaean culture to the Archaic period. Ceramics excavated from later periods indicate the continuity of settlement in this area.
The residents of the island of Samos described Anaia as their “peraia” which meant “the place lying opposite”, subordinated to them. A similar etymology explains the name of Piraeus (the port of Athens) and Pera (the district of Istanbul).
In the 5th century BC, Anaia appeared in the records of the Delian League as a city paying contributions to the organization. It also played a significant role in the Peloponnesian wars, fought between Athens and Sparta, with the involvement of almost all Greek cities, that was fought in the second half of the 5th century BC.
The city lost its importance in the Hellenistic period (the 3rd and the 2nd centuries BC). In Roman times, in the area of Anaia, stood a temple dedicated to the goddess Hera, as evidenced by the grave inscription found there. In the 4th century AD, Anaia again gained importance as the seat of a bishop.
In the Byzantine period, Anaia attracted the attention of many powers competing for domination over the Aegean Sea. In the documents of that period, Anaia is described as “emporion”, that is a trading station and “kommerkion” i.e. the customs office. It was also mentioned as a harbor used by the pilgrims visiting Ephesus.
During the reign of the Komnenoi Dynasty, the city was surrounded by walls. However, in 1261 Anaia was commissioned by the Byzantines to the Genoese. For the next 50 years, the city was occupied successively by the Venetians, the Catalans and the Turks. In this turbulent period, Anaia became a center of piracy. The Turks finally conquered Anaia around 1300 and have remained in this area for good.
In Ottoman times, Anaia changed its name to Anya, and later its inhabitants moved to another location, founding Soğucak village. The reason for this move was probably the silting of the harbor.
The existence of the ruins of Kadıkalesi Fortress on a hill in the vicinity of Kuşadası has never been a secret. However, for many years this fact was ignored, and numerous summer cottages grew in the immediate vicinity of the tumulus. Unfortunately, as the remains of Kadıkalesi were in plain view, they were repeatedly plundered in search of treasures.
It is surprising that archaeological research in Kadıkalesi began only in 2001, under an agreement between the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ege University from Izmir and Kuşadası municipality. Initially, the plan was only to renovate the Byzantine fortifications and turn them into a tourist attraction.
However, in the course of the work it turned out that there are much older layers of settlements apart from the ruins of the castle in the tumulus. Archaeological excavations took on a whole different dimension. They are currently conducted by Professor Zeynep Mercangöz.
Kadıkalesi is a surprising sight for tourists: this archaeological site on the hill practically grows out of the holiday mansions in Soğucak. This settlement has lost its character of a typical Turkish village, and has become a summer resort of Kuşadası district.
In the area of the hill, you can see the remnants of buildings from many periods of history. One of the most impressive structures, uncovered so far, are the ruins of a Byzantine church. The sacred complex consisted of a church, an adjoining chapel, and two water cisterns.
Within the walls of the fortress, there is a well-preserved entrance gate, and the fortifications have been partially excavated, revealing round towers. There is also a small mosque in the area of the fortress, and some workshops have been identified near the gate.
Several test trenches have been dug into the slopes of the tumulus. A fragment of the slope has been uncovered in the form of stepped trenches, revealing different layers of the settlement.
Kadıkalesi area is an active archaeological site where the work has been continued for many years. If you want to get inside it is necessary to ask for permission of the excavation workers. There are information boards placed on the hill, in Turkish and English.
Kadıkalesi is located in Soğucak village, which is the administrative district of Kuşadası. The center of Kusadasi is 10 km away. To get to Kadıkalesi from Kuşadası take the coastal road to the south, in the direction of the Dilek Peninsula. The location of Kadıkalesi is marked with signposts situated on the access road.