Evidence of human habitation dating back over 200 000 years has been discovered in the Carain caves 30 km to the north of Antalya city. Other finds dating back to Neolithic times and more recent periods show that the area has been populated by various ancient civilisations throughout the ages.
Records from the Hittite period refer to the area as part of the "Lukka Lands" (from which "Lycia" is derived) and document the lively interaction going on between provinces in the second millennium BC. Like their descendents, the Lukkans were known for their seamanship (especially their piracy) and demonstrated a fiery independent spirit. Neither the Hittites, nor the kingdom of Arzawa on the west coast, could ever keep them at peace for long.
Historical records document how cities developed independently, how the area as a whole came to be called Pamphylia and how in Classical times a federation of cities was set up in the province. There are also tales of the migration of the Akha clan to the area after the Trojan war.
Antalya had entered the sovereignty of Lydian Kingdom from 7th century BC. The reign of the kingdom of Lydia in west Anatolia came to an end in 560 BC after it was defeated by the Persians during the battle of Sardis in 546 BC. The Macedonian commander Alexander the Great stoped the Persian rule and in around 334 BC Alexander the Great conquered the cities of the area one by one - except for Termessos and Sillyon which managed to repulse his armies in 333 BC. Antalya itself was founded later. With the death of Alexander in 323 BC, a long battle erupted between his commanders that lasted until 188 BC.
With the defeat of the Seleucid army at Apamaea began the reign of the kingdon of Pergamom. In 150 BC Attalos II, king of Pergamom, founded the city of Attalia (Greek: ????????-present day Antalya) to base his powerful naval fleet. When Attalos III, the last king of Pergamom, died in 133 BC he left his kingdom to the Romans. After that an era starts in the region that the pirates and small cities belonging to pirates play a major role. Christianity started to be spread in the region after 2nd century. During the Byzantine sovereignty, it is known that Antalya had a big development era until 5th and 6th centuries. In these centuries, Antalya had reached beyond the city walls. Starting from 7th century, the Muslim Arabs had started to be dominant in the region. The army of Louis VII. sailed thence for Syria in 1148, and the fleet of Richard of England rallied there before the conquest of Cyprus. Between the years 1120-1206, Antalya had agained passed under the sovereignty of Byzantines. Antalya played a considerable part in the medieval history of the Levant. Kilij Arslan had a palace there.
Conquered by the Seljuk Turks of Konia in 1207 A.D. and then Alanya in 1220 A.D. ending the Byzantine rule for the last time, and made the capital of the province of Tekke, it passed after their fall through many hands, including those of the Venetians and Genoese, before its final occupation by the Ottoman Turks under Murad II. (1432).
The Arabic traveller Ibn Battuta who came to the city in between 1335-1340 noted: "The people of the city are living in separate neighborhoods according to their ethinicity and religion. The Christian merchants are living in a neighborhood called Mina. The neighborhood is surrounded by a wall and the gates of the walls are closed on Friday nights. The Greeks live in a different neighborhood and it is also surrounded by a wall. The Jews also have their own neighborhood surrounded by walls. The Muslims are living in the largest part. This part includes a small mosque and madrasah with a lot of hamams, rich, organized and large bazaars. The city is surrounded with a large wall that includes all of the neighborhoods that we mentioned above."
In the 18th century, in common with most of Anatolia, its actual lord was a Dere Bey. The family of Tekke Oglu, domiciled near Perga, though reduced to submission in 1812 by Mahmud II., continued to be a rival power to the Ottoman governor till within the present generation, surviving by many years the fall of the other great Beys of Anatolia. The records of the Levant (Turkey) Company, which maintained an important agency here till 1825, contain curious information as to the local Dere Beys. The population as of 1911 of Antalya, which included many Christians and Jews, then living, as in the middle ages, in separate quarters, the former round the walled mina or port, was about 25,000. The port was served by coasting steamers of the local companies only. Antalya(then Adalia) was an extremely picturesque, but ill-built and backward place. The chief thing to see was the city wall, outside which runs a good and clean promenade and which survives to this day. The government offices and the houses of the better class were all outside the walls.
The brief occupation of the area by the Italians came to an abrupt end after the First World War with the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The area is now registered as a province of the Republic of Turkey.
A notable historical figure who visited Antalya was Paul of Tarsus, as recorded in the biblical book, the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 14:25-26), wherein Antalya is referred to as Attalia. St. Paul and St. Barnabas went to Antalya and sailed from there to Antioch after preaching in the Pisidia and Pamphylia regions.