Sagalassos – an amazing Greek-Roman site in Turkey

Thursday, 12 June 2014

My circuit of Turkish archaeological sites continued to Sagalassos, about 120km inland from the resort city of Antalya. It’s a remarkable site because extensive work on the site only commenced in the mid-1980s, led by a team from Belgium under Marc Waelkens. So its development is comparatively recent and because the site was never extensively plundered – it was effectively abandoned after a 7th century AD earthquake – there was a remarkable amount of material to rebuild with.

IMG_5759 - Arch of Claudius, Bouleuterion Columns & Ağlasun, Sagalassos 542▲ The Arch of Claudius, the columns of the Bouleuterion and down below the village of Ağlasun. The village would make a great base for intrepid visitors who want to explore more thoroughly, a winding road covers the last 7 uphill km from Ağlasun to the Sagalassos site.

The Greek-Roman city’s escape from looters may have been aided by its remote location and that helps to keep tourists at bay today. You won’t find the line of tourist buses which mark the sites around Antalya down on the coast. Certainly when I had a look around the ruins there were probably less than a dozen other tourists.

IMG_5770 - Theatre, Sagalassos 542▲ Sagalassos features a wonderful Roman theatre which could seat 9000 spectators, a number larger than the population of the city. Construction of the theatre was never completed, the city authorities had been overspending and probably ran out money!

IMG_5738 - Antonine Nymphaeum fountain, Sagalassos 542IMG_5747 - Dionysus & satyr, Antonine Nymphaeum fountain, Sagalassos 271▲ The highlight of the ruins is the wonderful Antonine Nymphaeum with its arches, columns, statues and fountain. The fountain was restored with its original water supply although the statues are reproductions, the originals are displayed in the museum at Burdur, about 40km from the site. Almost all the statues were torn down by Christians, unenthusiastic about the Roman gods. Dionysus, in traditional drunken pose, probably particularly appalled them,

◄ Statue of Dionysus, supported by a satyr, in the Antonine Nymphaeum