The twelfth century BC saw a large wave of Greek migration from northern Anatolia to the Mediterranean coast. Many of the incomers moved into the area immediately east of Antalya, which became known as Pamphylia, meaning “the land of the tribes”, reflecting the mixed origins of the new arrivals. Although Pamphylia was a remote area, cut off from the main Anatolian trade routes by mountains on all sides, three great cities grew up here – Perge, Aspendos and Side.
Most of Pamphylia fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. After his death the region became effectively independent, though nominally claimed by the various successor kingdoms that inherited Alexander’s realm. During the first century BC, the Romans, annoyed by the Cilician pirates operating from further along the Mediterranean, took control of the coast. Their rule ushered in three centuries of stability and prosperity, during which the Pamphylian cities flourished as never before. In later years, Mark Antony was sent to take charge of the region, treating it as his personal domain until defeated by Octavius at the battle of Actium in 31 BC, after which Pamphylia was formally absorbed into the Roman Empire.