A lofty isolated ridge formed its acropolis. Though some of the masonry in the ruins is certainly pre-Roman, Suidas's identification of it with Cyinda, famous as a treasure city in the wars of Eumenes of Cardia, cannot be accepted in the face of Strabo's express location of Cyinda in western Cilicia.
Under the early Roman empire the place was known as Caesarea, and was the metropolis of Cilicia Secunda. Rebuilt by the emperor Justin I after an earthquake, it became Justinopolis (A.D. 525); but the old native name persisted, and when Thoros I, king of Lesser Armenia, made it his capital early in the 12th century, it was known as Anazarva.
Its great natural strength and situation, not far from the mouth of the Sis pass, and near the great road which debouched from the Cilician Gates, made Anazarbus play a considerable part in the struggles between the Byzantine Empire and the early Moslem invaders. It had been rebuilt by Harun al-Rashid in 796 A.D., refortified at great expense by Saif addaula, the Hamdanid (10th century) and sacked, and ruined by the crusaders.
The present wall of the lower city is of late construction, probably Armenian. It encloses a mass of ruins conspicuous in which are a fine triumphal arch, the colonnades of two streets, a gymnasium, etc. A stadium and a theatre lie outside on the south. The remains of the acropolis fortifications are very interesting, including roads and ditches hewn in the rock; but beyond ruins of two churches and a fine tower built by Thoros I. There are no notable structures in the upper town. For picturesqueness the site is not equalled in Cilicia, and it is worthwhile to trace the three fine aqueducts to their sources.
A visit in December, 2002 showed that the three aqueducts mentioned above have been nearly completely destroyed. Only small, isolated sections are left standing with the largest portion lying in a pile of rubble that stretches the length of where the aqueducts once stood. A powerful earthquake that struck the area in 1945 is thought to be responsible for the destruction.