Traveling through southwestern Turkey, I became aware of an archaeological site at an altitude of ca. 1.40 – 1.60 km in Sagalassos on Mount Akdag in the Taurus Mountains range. Though the ruins of an ancient city here had been occasionally mentioned throughout history for past five centuries, it was not until 1990 that a large-scale excavation was undertaken. So far a large number of buildings and monuments have been uncovered, documenting the monumental aspect of the Hellenistic, Roman and early Byzantine history of this ancient city.
The human settlement in the region dated back to 8000 BCE. It was already one of the wealthiest cities in the local region of Pisidia, when Greek hero Alexander the Great conquered it in 333 BCE on his way to Persia. Subsequently, the Romans appeared around 39 BCE, transforming the city into an important urban centre of the region. Historically, it was a favorite city of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and majority of the excavated structures so far, dated from Roman period.
Since the settlement was developed on mountainside, the site was laid out on various terraces. From current city, approaching the ruins, a panoramic view of the ruins of the ancient city appeared. In Upper Agora, the magnificent “Antonine Nymphaeum” stood. The monument had been restored, while making it fully functional original fountains of natural water plunging into its basins that sat between coloured marble columns and finely detailed statuary (some original and others recreations).
At one corner of the Upper Agora, a shrine known as a “Heroon” was excavated. Such a shrine was used to be dedicated to a hero, built on the person’s supposed tomb or cenotaph. However, the identity of the hero of this shrine remained unknown. A set of well-preserved frieze of dancing nymphs wrapped around the base of the monument. In Lower Agora section, the ruins of an impressive “Roman Bath” complex and the “Colonnaded Street”, probably the city’s main road were excavated.
Situated at one of the highest points in the site, is the “Roman Theater”, noted for being one of the finest surviving theaters in Turkey. It once sat 9,000 spectators, but earthquakes in sixth and seventh centuries devastated the site along with the town itself, thus hastening its later abandonment.
Many of the recovered archaeological finds from here have been currently housed in Turkey’s Burdur Museum.