Explore The North Aegean
There are two clusters of ruins, both easily reached on foot from the main road, though the uphill one is a hot walk in summer. The first site, essentially the gymnasium and synagogue, lies just north of the road on the eastern edge of Sartmustafa. Entry is via a partially revealed, marble-paved Roman avenue, which passes various shops, though low walls with discernible doorways are all that remain.
A break in the shopping mall leads into the restored synagogue, its walls covered with copies of the original coloured stonework, now housed in the Manisa Museum; the extensive floor mosaics are, however, original. Adjacent to the synagogue is the third-century AD gymnasium and bath complex, once the city’s most prominent building. Its Marble Court, the entry from the palaestra to the baths, has been spectacularly restored approximately to its condition when first built in 211 AD. The walls behind the columns would have had marble revetments and the podia would have supported statues, forming a splendid multistoreyed facade implying association with some imperial cult. Behind the court are the remains of a plunge-pool and rest area.
From the Sartmustafa village teahouses, a paved lane – marked with a brown sign on the far side of the highway, west of the synagogue – leads 1200m south from the main road to the other site, the Temple of Artemis. The temple, once among the four largest in Asia Minor, was built by Croesus, destroyed by Greek raiders during the Ionian revolt and later rebuilt by Alexander the Great. Today fifteen massive Ionic columns remain standing, though only two are completely intact. However, enough of the foundations remain to suggest just how large the building, constructed to rival the temples of Ephesus, Samos and Didyma, used to be. By the two complete columns huddle the remains of a small Byzantine church. More than anything, it’s the beauty of the setting, enclosed by wooded and vined hills and accented by weird Cappadocia-like pinnacles, that leaves a lasting impression.