This site which was known as Caesarea or Anazarbus during the times of the Roman Empire is 28 km to the south of the Kozan District of the Adana province. The small village built just outside the antique city walls is Dilekkaya.
We have practically no knowledge of the history of the city before the Roman Empire era. It was named Caesarea by Emperor Augustus who visited the city in 19 B.C. and it started to be known as "Caesarea near Anazarbus". Anavarza did not show any significant presence during the first two centuries of the Roman Empire period and was shadowed by Tarsus, the capital of the Cilicia state. Tarsus manages to survive to the present times but lost the majority of its historical monuments. The city Isos, which the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus entered with Pescennius Niger and sided with Severus during the power struggle, was rewarded when the Emperor won his battle in 192 A.D. and became the sole ruler of the empire, started to enjoy its days of glory. In the period 204-205 AD Cilicia became the metropolis of the Isaura and Licaonia states. In 206 AD Anavarza, like other Cilician cities was captured by the Sasani King Shapur. Anavarza which was destroyed by Balbinos of Isaura in the 4th century A.D became capital of Cilicia Secunda (Cilicia of the Plain) which was established during the reign of Theodosius II. The city was badly hit with an earthquake in 525 and was later restored by theEmperor Justinianus and renamed Justiniopolis. In 561 it experienced a second earthquake disaster and in the 6th century was hit with a major plague epidemic.
During the chaotic centuries which followed the rise of the Islam, Anazarbus remained as a buffer zone between the Arabs and the Byzantines and frequently changed hands between the two sides. In 796 Harun el Reşid re-built the city and the Caliph Mutacvakil (846-861) rebuilt the Sis castle and carried out active work at Anazarbus. His name is mentioned in an inscription piece in Kufi language found at the ruins of tower located outside the west gate. In the 10th century when Aynı Zarba was once more on the brink of ruin, Hamdanid al-Dawla turned it into a fortified settlement by spending the tremendous sum of three million dirham. The city then became the focus of interest of the Byzantines again and during the 964 campaign which ended in victory, Nicephorus Phocas took over Anazarbus along with several important fortifications including Tarsus and Mopsuhestia. In the 11th century, the Armenians whose capital was conquered by Alpaslan were driven towards southwest under the pressure of theSeljuk Turks and establish a kingdom in the Taurus region. Later on, they slowly progressed towards the Cilician plain and there chose Anazarbus as their capital until the year 1100. Except a gap of 7 years, when the Byzantines again gained control under the rule of John Commeneus between 1137-1144 the city remained as a capital for almost for a whole century. In 1184 Tarsus and later Sis became the capital. Despite the fact that Anazarbus remained as an important fortification, the city which was built lower down, on the flat plan eventually started to be destroyed. It was finally totally ruined when the Memlüks destroyed the Little Armenian Kingdom in 1375 and this antique settlement has never been used again since.
The ruins in Anavarza consist of a 1500 metre long city wall with 20 bastions, four entrances, a colonnaded street, and ruins of a bath house and a church. Important works also include the theatre and the stadium outside the city walls, aqueducts, rock tombs, the necropolises in the western side of the city, the antique road which was constructed by splitting the rock mass and the pooled mosaics which are conserved in situ (the mosaic of the sea goddess Thetas from the 3rd century AD), the victory arc with three entrances, which is the only example of its kind in the Adana region and the castle from the middle ages on the hill which rises like an island in the centre of the plain.
About fifty metres to the north-east of the stadium, the rock is separated with a man-made fissure. The Moslems of the region consider this as the crack cut by Hz. Ali and tell a legend about how the son in law of the Prophet pulled out his sword and made a crack in the rocks for himself and his horse when he was being pursued by the enemy. Leaving this legend aside, the fissure seems to be opened to allow for the road which went from Anazarbus to Flaviopolis (Kadirli) and Hieropolis - Kastabala during the Byzantine Period. The pass is 250 metres long and its width changes between 4-15 metres. On both sides of the road the rocks faces reach up to 50 metres. For a traveller emerging into sunshine towards the east from the deep shadows of the pass to see one of the inscriptions on the face of the high rocks would no doubt will be a rather sentimental experience.
"Hence, we shall not be afraid, Should the earth move and should the Mountains be moved to the middle of the sea. Should the waters rise and roar and should the mountains tremble with the rising waters"
The colonnaded street running North-South starts with this three-spanned arch. Anavarza has witnessed numerous earthquakes (including the severe earthquake of 1945) but the Victory Arch managed to remain standing at least partially up to our days. It is a three-arched passage with six Corinthian column capitals from black granite on its south façade. There are statue niches on both sides of the main arch on the northern façade.
The amphitheatre, which was also the scene of performances with wild animals was a structure built completely with stones. It was apparently systematically looted (as was the case for many buildings) during the antique age to provide material for other buildings. Today, we have a sufficient amount of architraves, friezes, cornish blocks, column bodies, inscriptions and even Corinthian column capitals which were used everywhere that give an idea about the splendour of the Anazarbus of the Antique ages.
The castle can be defined in three sections. The barracks section including the first wall and a church; a three storey tower built on the flat rock between the two walls; the second wall and an adjacent complex of rooms it, storage areas and water tanks it encloses.