The last but not least of our visits to a roman city in Anatolia was to be Sagalassus.
I´d never heard of Sagalassus until I opened the pages of the in-flight magazine of Turkish airlines where a glossy article described some of its beauty. I was mesmerized by this´ city of the clouds` and made a mental note to find it.
From bronze age beginnings Sagalassus had grown into an important trading nexus for the Pisidian peoples,standing atop the route to Antalya and the south.The Pisdian tribes were of the same culture as the Termessians and when Alexander went north after avoiding Termessus it was obvious that he wouldn´t allow a hostile Sagalassus to remain behind him.There is a hill to the south of the city which bears his name and where he defeated the defending pisidian army.
It lies high up perched against the rocky cliff about 7km from the small town of Aglasun.Less than 4 km in a straight line but we paid the mini-bus driver 30 euros to take us up and bring us back two hours later-- our time was short. Aglasun itself is a pretty town that´s slowly reaping the benefits of archeological tourism. It´s a 30 km winding drive through pine trees and clear streams from Isparta,the rose growing capital of Turkey.
The first visual sign of habitation are the rock graves,the pre roman necropolis which lies above the city cut into the northern rock face but it is the lower city where we begin our walk.Sagalassus like other mountain towns was constructed on levels. The southern approach road rising to the Tiberian gate must have been a very impressive entrance to this marble and white stone city. This 300 metre colonnaded road with poticoes starts from what was once a Hadrianic cult temple built probably just after the emperor´s death for he is inscribed as a god.
|The old colonnaded road with Alexanders hill behind|
|The Hadrianic Nymphaeum|
It is one of 4 nymphaeums in Sagalassus for this place was blessed by its abundant water supply. The calcareous rock filters the water to clay beds and the channelled run-off brings clear,cool water from the surrounding hills.
|The Heroon and its friezes|
|The Antoninus Nymphaeum|
|Dionysus and satyr, replica|
Following the road up to the ampitheatre from the nymphaeum,we pass the plebian part of the town. Here were fabricated the characteristc red ceramics of Sagalassus, later found throughout the mediterranean. This road was widened in the 2nd century and leads directly to the library and the Old Hellenistic fountain. The library was built by the same benefactor as the Heroon and is a substantial building with carved niches in the back wall for statues of the Gods and local worthies.It also has a compelling mosaic floor. This building was rebuilt also in the 2nd cent and later suffered during the 5th cent earthquakes.Christian zealots destroyed part of the mosaic depicting Achilles at this time and filled in the building with rubble. It has now been restored and covered once more. On the other side of the road is the fountain. This is a tranquil space which like the Antonine Nymphaeum has been reconnected to the water supply.It is a peaceful three sided doric columned edifice which later distributed water to the lower city.
|The library above the Hellenistic fountain.|