City in Caria or Lydia, 30 km E of Aydin. A Seleucid foundation, apparently on the site of an earlier Athymbra, founded according to Strabo (650; cf. Steph. Byz. s.v. Athymbra) by a Spartan Athymbros, by a synoecism with two other cities, Athymbrada and Hydrela. The founder was Antiochos I (Steph. Byz. s.v. Antiocheia), who acted in response to a dream and named the city after his wife Nysa (otherwise unknown). A letter of Seleucus and Antiochos dated 281 B.C. is addressed to the Athymbrianoi, and this name survived to the latter part of the 3d c. (IG XI, 1235). It seems that the name was changed from Athymbra to Nysa at some time towards 200 B.C.; the earliest coins, of the late 2d c., have the latter name. At Acharaka, on the territory of Nysa, lay the celebrated Plutonion and the cave Charonion.
Strabo was educated at Nysa, and his description of the city (649) can be verified in the existing ruins. It is, he says, a sort of double city, divided by a stream which forms a ravine; part of this is spanned by a bridge connecting the two cities, and part is adorned with an amphitheater under which the stream flows concealed; below the theater is on one side the gymnasium of the young men, on the other the agora and the gerontikon. All these buildings are identifiable, though in some cases badly preserved.
The bridge was a huge platform nearly 100 m long, spanning the ravine below the theater, but very little is left of it. Parts of the substructure of the amphitheater and a few of the seats on either side of the ravine survive in the scrub. The theater, on the other hand, is well preserved: of Graeco-Roman type, its cavea is more than a semicircle; there are 23 rows of seats below the single diazoma and 26 above it. Nine stairways divide it into eight cunei; these are doubled above the diazoma. The front of the stage building is visible, with the usual five doors, but the back part has not been excavated. Low down on each side of the cavea is an arched vomitorium.
Not mentioned by Strabo is a fine tunnel, about 100 m long, through which the stream runs just below the theater. It makes an obtuse angle in the middle and at one point has a light-shaft in the roof. The builder's name is recorded in an inscription on the wall by the angle, but it is only partially legible.
The gymnasium lay on the W side of the ravine; its position is recognizable but virtually nothing survives. The baths, later covered by a church, were at the S end, but these were of late construction and did not exist in Strabo's day. Some 150 m N of the gymnasium are the ruins of a library, also later than Strabo's time. It apparently had three stories, but the lowest is now mostly buried and the highest almost entirely destroyed. The plan of the middle story is recognizable, and shows the usual separation of the bookshelves from the outer wall to protect them from damp.
In the agora on the E side of the ravine little remains but a few stumps of columns. Near its NW corner the gerontikon, or Council House of the Elders, is preserved virtually complete, though a good deal reconstructed. It forms a semicircle, with twelve rows of seats and five stairways, enclosed in a rectangle supported at the back by four large double half-columns. The floor is paved with regular limestone blocks. There is no indication that the building was ever roofed. On the S side, behind the speaker's platform, are three entrances between four large solid piers; behind these was a row of eight columns, the bases of which remain.
Another late building, between the agora and the amphitheater, has been dubiously recognized as a bath. Its spacious vaulted rooms contain many niches for statues, but it is in poor condition and the ground plan is not complete.
Nothing remains of the city wall which presumably existed in Hellenistic times. There are a few stretches of a Byzantine wall, but the circuit cannot be traced.
About 3 km W of Nysa lay the village of Acharaka; the road joining them crossed several gullies, and some traces of the bridges survive. The healing establishment of the Plutonion ccmprised a temple of Pluto and Kore and a remarkable cave called the Charonion; Strabo (649-50) gives a circumstantial account of the cure. Little remains of the temple, just E of the village of Salavatli. It has been conjecturally reconstructed with a very unusual plan, including two parallel walls running the length of the interior. The peristyle had twelve columns on the sides and six at the ends; the orientation is N-S, with the entrance apparently on the N. At present a row of six unfluted column drums and a few other blocks are visible. The Charonion, by Strabo's account, should be somewhere above the temple, but no cave exists in this position today. A little to the W is a deep ravine, in which rises the sulphur-bearing stream that gave the place its healing properties; this has been proposed as the Charonion, but here again no cave of any consequence is to be found. (G. E. BEAN)
Info: Princeton Encyclopedia
(Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, from Perseus Project)