Exploring Sagalassos – images from the city in the clouds (part 1 – Upper Agora)

Panoramic view of Sagalassos and the mountainous landscape, Sagalassos, Turkey © Carole Raddato

Panoramic view of Sagalassos and the mountainous landscape, Sagalassos, Turkey
© Carole Raddato

The first visit of my recent trip to Turkey was the archaeological site of Sagalassos in Pisidia. We had the place almost to ourselves (I always travel with my partner) which was a real treat. Few people seem to have heard of Sagalassos and the site is a bit off the beaten track. However Sagalassos made the headlines in the international press in 2007 and 2008, due to some extraordinary finds such as the heads of the two Roman emperors, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius.

The ancient city is located in South-West Turkey, near the present town of Ağlasun (Burdur province), roughly 110 km or two hour drive north of Antalya (ancient Attalia). Sagalassos is dramatically set among the clouds some 1,450-1,750m above sea level in the western part of the Taurus mountain range, which makes the tour of the site visually breathtaking. Under the Roman Empire, Sagalassos became the important urban center, particularly favoured by Hadrian, who named it the “first city” of Pisidia.

According to ancient Hittite documents, Sagalassos was established around the 14th century referring it to the mountain site of Salawassa. Its territory was further expanded after the city’s conquest by Alexander the Great in 333 BC. At this time, Sagalassos had a population of a few thousand and like the other cities of Pisidia, the ancient city rapidly became Hellenised.

Late Hellenistic fountain house, built during the 1st century BC as a U-shaped portico © Carole Raddato

Late Hellenistic fountain house, built during the 1st century BC as a U-shaped portico
© Carole Raddato

Yet Sagalassos was destined to grow greater still. After its incorporation into the Roman Empire by Augustus, it tripled in size within a century. Most of the surviving ancient structures we see today are from the Roman period, in particular the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.

The restored Antonine Nymphaeum, erected ca. 160-180 AD © Carole Raddato

The restored Antonine Nymphaeum, erected ca. 160-180 AD
© Carole Raddato

A team of the University of Leuven has been excavating the whole area since 1990. Archaeologists have completed a wonderful restoration of the Nymphaeum, repleted with running water and statuary (replicas). Erected in the Middle Antonine period (ca. 160-180 AD), the nymphaeum consisted of a single-storied pi-shaped façade composed of a straight central section framed by two lateral projecting aediculae. The overall length of the façade was of ca. 27 m, for a maximal width of ca. 4 m. The height of the monument was estimated around 7.80 m.

The restored Antonine Nymphaeum, erected ca. 160-180 AD © Carole Raddato

The restored Antonine Nymphaeum, erected ca. 160-180 AD
© Carole Raddato

Marble statue of Nemesis, from the Antonine Nympheum, 160-180 AD, Burdur Museum

Marble statue of Nemesis, from the Antonine Nympheum, 160-180 AD, Burdur Museum
© Carole Raddato

Marble statue of Dionysus and Satyr, from the eastern tabernacle of the Antonine Nympheum, 160-180 AD, Burdur Museum

Marble statue of Dionysus and Satyr, from the eastern tabernacle of the Antonine Nympheum, 160-180 AD, Burdur Museum
© Carole Raddato

North West of the Nymphaeum stands the Heroon,  a mid- to late Augustan honorific monument, nearly 15 meters tall, dedicated to the memory of an unidentified prominent citizen of Sagalassos.

The NW Heroon (honorific monument), built ca 0-14 A.D., Sagalassos, Turkey

The NW Heroon (honorific monument), built ca 0-14 A.D.
© Carole Raddato

Other buildings on the Upper Agora include the Bouleterion, the Macellum and the honorific arch.

Honorific arch dedicated to the emperor Caligula, but after his death rededicated to the emperor Claudius © Carole Raddato

Honorific arch dedicated to the emperor Caligula, but after his death rededicated to the emperor Claudius
© Carole Raddato

The Bouleuterion (Council Hall), built ca 100 BC, Upper Agora, Sagalassos, Turkey

The Bouleuterion (Council Hall), built ca 100 BC, Upper Agora
© Carole Raddato

The Macellum (food market) built in AD 167 dedicated to the emperor Marcus Aurelius by P. Aelius Akulas © Carole Raddato

The Macellum (food market) built in AD 167 dedicated to the emperor Marcus Aurelius by P. Aelius Akulas
© Carole Raddato

One of the highlight of our visit to Sagalassos was the theatre, built into the rocky hillside above and northeast of the main ruins and one of the only theatre at this altitude. The stage building of this theatre, which could seat some 9000 spectators, was completed during the period 180- 210 AD.
The building is turned towards the flat conical hill in the background, which is the hill upon which in 333 BC Alexander the Great defeated the Sagalassians, a fact they were proud of later. Despite its construction date, the theatre clearly continues the Hellenstic building tradition (mostly built on a natural slope, horseshoe-shaped auditorium, stage building and auditorium not connected to each other).

The Roman Theatre, completed around 180-210 AD © Carole Raddato

The Roman Theatre, completed around 180-210 AD
© Carole Raddato

Map of the ancient city: http://www.sagalassos.be/files/maps/Site_Maps/large/City_Map_(Turkish_English_Dutch).pdf

Further photos from Sagalassos and the Lower Agora will be posted in another post (part 2).

Source: http://www.sagalassos.be/

About followinghadrian

I came, I saw, I photographed... follow me in the footsteps of Hadrian!
This entry was posted in Archaeology Travel, Asia Minor, Photography, Pisidia, Sagalassos, Turkey and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Exploring Sagalassos – images from the city in the clouds (part 1 – Upper Agora)

  1. Gorgeous photos!! Thanks for sharing. This is a magnificent ancient site. It seems as if enough of the ruins are still left behind so that you can really get a feel for what it looked like in ancient times. I found the same as you, that sites in Turkey can sometimes be very empty. Apart from Ephesus (which was packed) I walked through most other ancient sites in Turkey seeing only a handful of other people. I would highly recommend anyone interested in Roman sites to visit the country.

    Like

    • carolemadge says:

      Exactly! It was my second trip to Turkey and apart from Troy, Pergamon, Myra and Aspendos, we had all the other sites almost to ourselves… and I have visited many! As for Ephesus (which I visited in April 2010), we arrived at 8am and by chance we parked at the entry gate near the theatre, the parking was empty. Then I realised that there was another parking on the other side of the site where all the buses were parked. This meant we had half of the site to ourselves as we only encountered tourists passed Hadrian’s temple on Curates street. This also means no tourist in sight on most my pictures! I should definitely blog about it!

      Like

      • No tourists on your side of Ephesus! Now that is rare! I have photos of the library that looks like the road in front of it is a carpet of tourists. Guess I should have been an early bird! 🙂

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  2. Joe Geranio says:

    mirabilis, mirabilis, mirabile est Sagalassos!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mervyn carson says:

    Our group were the only persons there too. It was a marvellous site very atmospheric and our guide was very kowledgible and has left a very rewarding memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Roman Empire Archeology News Today 2013-08-15 - Roman Empire News and Archeology

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