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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
The Antonine Nymphaeum at the start of the 2006 season
Detail of the archivolt of the central concha with the red-painted outer and inner fascia, and the central white one with a red-painted inscription.
New capital carved by Sinan Ilhan during the winter and not yet put back into place.
New and old Corinthian capital from the second aedicula

Photos courtesy Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project. Click on images to enlarge.
by Marc Waelkens

Antonine Nymphaeum: Introduction

In 1977, the ABB Insurance Company sponsored the conservation of the Neon Library's mosaic floor and its central emblema, and financed its permanent cover. Since then it has been incorporated into KBC Bank and Insurances, which has decided to contribute to the anastylosis of one of Sagalasssos' most prominent buildings, the late Antonine Nymphaeum along the north side of the Upper Agora. We are extremely grateful to Mr. Jos Daniels, then CEO of ABB, who originally decided to sponsor the Library project, for passing on his enthusiasm to his successor, Mr. Willy Duron. Mr. Duron, now retiring as CEO of KBC Bank and Insurances, took on the sponsorship of the Nymphaeum. Over the years, the most support for this very large and complicated anastylosis project was provided by the L. Baert-Hofman Fund (1994-2003). After 2003, support was provided by Mr. Louis Baert himself, who unfortunately passed away a month ago, and his daughter, Mrs. G. Van der Steen-Baert. They have been, undoubtedly, our most loyal and enthusiastic supporters throughout the project, and we are pleased to have their continued support. As the anastylosis of the Nymphaeum proved to be much more time consuming than had been originally assumed (in this case almost no dowel or clamp holes were found to help to locate the thousands of fragment and building blocks), we were very fortunate to find additional new sponsors. Since 2004, François Renier (Renier Natuursteen, Aarschot, Belgium) has given support, and was joined in 2006 by Louis Lamberts-Van Assche and his children, the same family that sponsors the excavation of the Roman Baths and has become our main private sponsor. We are also especially proud and grateful to Mr. Ömer Koç, scion of the famous Koç family in Turkey. In 2005, through Aygaz, part of the Koç Holding, he became our first Turkish sponsor.

As already mentioned, in previous years (see Fieldnotes 2003, 2004, 2005, Anastylosis Projects), the Nymphaeum, built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180), was one of the most elaborate structures of the city. It was most likely built by Aelia Oulpiana Noè, the divorcee of P. Aelius Akulas, who built the Sagalassos Maceullum. At the time of the Nymphaeum's construction, Noè was a widow from her second marriage to T. Flavius Severianus Neon, the founder of the Neon Library and richest man of his generation. The nearly 30 meter-long monumental fountain consisted of a drawing basin in front of a tabernacle facade, which was composed of six projecting tabernacles or aediculae, composed of free-standing columns carrying individual roofs. Whereas the four central aediculae's roofs (the two outer ones with a pitched gable, the two inner ones with a curved gable) were carried by a pair of Corinthian columns and corresponding pilasters in the back wall, the two lateral aediculae projected more, as their gabled roofs, decorated with two opposed colossal volutes, were each supported by two pairs of columns. The center of the back wall was curved and crowned by a very large concha (shell), below which the water cascaded down over a large console. Traces of red paint were found on the central concha, consisting of three stepped bands called fasciae. Judging from the shape of characters, the paint likely dates to a restoration in the early sixth century A.D. During its final phase, the concha had an outer and an inner red painted fascia, alternating with a central white one, which had a red inscription that has not yet been deciphered. This monument is one of the most opulently decorated buildings at Sagalassos. It is adorned with beautiful tendril friezes, back wall pilasters decorated with thyrsos staffs, or vegetal staffs carried by Dionysos and his companions, and aedicula roof cassettes filled with theater masks, the heads of Kastor and Pollux; water gods, including Poseidon; and vegetal motifs. Together with the colossal Dionysos and satyr groups made of Aphrodisian marble that fill the lateral aediculae, the decorations clearly indicate that this nymphaeum was dedicated to Dionysos. The structure was also the most polychrome monument of Sagalassos. Its column bases, Corinthian capitals, back wall pilasters, the archivolts framing the four shallow niches in the back wall, and the entire entablature, were made of semi-crystalized white limestone. In the back wall, this hue contrasted with gray-green and brownish veined limestone and a very colorful breccia. On the columnar facade, light brown breccia columns alternated with green veined limestone columns. In the central aediculae, there were two black and white breccia columns on the outside, and on either side of the central niche stood blue and dark gray marble columns with white veins, made of Dokimeion marble and known as kaplan postu columns.

The presence of so many colors, together with the fact that almost no dowels and clamps were used, not only made the building an easy victim for earthquakes but also provided less clues for adjoining stones. Additionally, the fact that almost no stone is completely regular makes the anastylosis of this monument a work of repeated trial and error. During the past few years, thousands of fragments were reassembled again, three of the archivolts in the back-wall were restored or completed, two kaplan postu columns had to be produced anew in the quarry, and two new Corinthian capitals were carved manually by sculptor Sinan Ilhan. (see Fieldnotes, Anastylosis Projects 2004-2005)

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