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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
The Imperial city as seen from Alexander's Hill
Part of the old domestic area in the southwest section of the city with the remains of door and window posts
The late Antonine nymphaeum on the Upper Agora
View of the main north-south axis from the north
The theater
Wall of an early Imperial building below the portico of the Antoninus Pius Temple
The middle Augustan northeast honorific column on the Upper Agora
The Northwest Heroon
The east portico of the Lower Agora. The Constantine column in front is the point from which the miles along the road leading to Sagalassos were measured.

One of the Dionysos statue groups from the Antonine nymphaeum

The Trajanic street fountain in the northeast corner of the Lower Agora
The Trajanic (back) and Severan (front) nymphaea on the Lower Agora
The Roman Baths
One of the vaulted substructures of the Roman Baths
Remains of the second-century A.D. arcades in the Domestic Area's southeast corner
The Hadrianic nymphaeum above the Lower Agora

Statue of Poseidon from the Hadrianic nymphaeum

Two of the vaulted passages in the "Kaisersaal" of the Roman Baths
The sanctuary of Antoninus Pius

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

The Emergence, Growth and Decline of Sagalassos

Excavating at Sagalassos means being confronted with the remains of an early Byzantine city that appears to have been abandoned in the seventh century A.D. In situ remains found thus far only go back to the third century B.C. at the earliest (see Upper Agora). As a result, the oldest history--especially the indigenous Pisidian period--completely escapes us. The origin of the site and its potential early-to-middle Byzantine successor still remained very important research questions, and our 2003 campaign has given some rather unexpected answers.

We know from palynological evidence that farmers already inhabited the valley below the city around 4200 B.C., yet the oldest surface finds in the area were an Early Bronze Age ax and a pre-Hellenistic sherd in the fortress dominating the city. This fortress seems to have been the central point of a series of Late Bronze to Early Iron Age watchtowers across the Hellenistic territory of the city. We've sampled protohistoric sherds in the valley below over the past two years. Pollen evidence tells us that at least some parts of the territory witnessed a second deforestation phase between the eighth and fourth centuries B.C., and this is corroborated by the emergence of larger settlements during this period (see survey conclusions). Sagalassos must have become a major settlement at this time, as Alexander the Great's biographer calls it "not a small polis" in 333 B.C.

Our urban surveys over the last few years suggest no Hellenistic occupation beyond the late Roman city walls, an area covering about 12.8 hectares. The main necropolis, almost exclusively house-shaped ash urns, starts south of these walls and extends as far as the upper north slopes of the Alexander Hill (see field notes and map). The presumed Hellenistic fortifications include the Upper Agora, which must have been smaller than its Roman successor and probably had a different orientation as well. The Lower Agora was a second, smaller public square. The many standing wall sections to the west and southwest of the Upper Agora indicate that the street pattern of the Hellenistic city may have been rather chaotic following the natural contours of the terrain. In 2001, we identified this area as the city's oldest domestic quarter with occupation from Hellenistic times until the seventh century A.D. Despite its predominantly residential character, it also included areas with artisanal or industrial activities such as smithing and glass smelting, some monumental buildings, and two early Byzantine churches (see Urban Survey, July 27-August 2). This summer, we intensively surveyed the most southwestern part of this zone, which proved to be littered with the remains of ashlar-built peristyle houses, perhaps the most luxurious living area of the Hellenistic period. Its location away from the focus of political, commercial, and artisanal life may have played a role in this. We don't know if the "Lowest Agora" discovered in the same area this summer already existed then (see Urban Survey, July 27-August 2). This third public square was even larger than the Lower Agora. The market building that flanked its north side had a length of at least 21 meters and a width of nearly 11.5 meters. Internally it was divided into a southern gallery with a floor at the level of the square and a northern gallery on a higher terrace. An inner wall must have supported the roof spanning a single story on the north, and two on the south.

Sagalassos witnessed a considerable growth after its incorporation into the Roman Empire in 25 B.C., eventually more than doubling in size. The area within the necropolis was at least 31.5 hectares in Imperial times. Most was used for residential purposes, the rest was covered by streets, squares, and public monuments. The city's eastward expansion may have already been planned during the reign of the Galatian king Amyntas (39-25 B.C.). The restored late Hellenistic fountain building of Hellenistic type must predate Augustus' reign, since it was already altered in the latter period. A combination of surveys and test excavations in previous years indicated that the part of town stretching from the Hellenistic wall to the theater--occupying well-exposed southern slopes--became the new residential area of Sagalassos from early Imperial times onwards. Our geophysical survey in the last two seasons offered a picture of large peristyle houses. The oldest still made use of ashlars, but ashlars were replaced by brick and mortared rubble walls in the second century A.D. Most of these urban mansions were located along a new north-south oriented street. The new quarter's overall layout shows a more regular street plan in the western section of the area with an irregular one following the slopes higher up. There seems to have been another small square here surrounded by sanctuaries on the south and east. The eastern sanctuary occupied a dominant position overlooking the whole city, likely one of the many unidentified temples or shrines referred to on coins and in inscriptions. There was a large open area above this larger sanctuary in front of a huge honorific column east of the theater. During this year's survey, we found what could be a small bath building immediately south of the theater and a large gymnasium to the east of it. Our geophysical survey also showed that the developed area extended far more north and east of the theater than previously assumed, with a very dense pattern of workshops and at least 22 furnaces or kilns (see Geophysical Survey, July 6-26). However, the position of some of these kilns suggests they were built later.

Occupation also expanded south onto the long, narrow plateau where the sanctuary dedicated to Hadrian and Antoninus Pius was later built. A nearly 600-meter north-south street gave access to the city and formed the axis of the area's street plan. A new monumental south gate without any defensive function was built under Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) at the street's southern end where it connected to the main access to the city. This new street had stairways to overcome differences in level, so it was probably used only by pedestrians and pack animals. A few rectangular street corners and our discovery of an early Imperial monumental structure with the same orientation in the northern part of the sanctuary suggests this south extension of the city followed an orthogonal street plan (see Antoninus Pius, July 27-August 2).

Within these new city boundaries, Sagalassos witnessed a tremendous building boom during the Julio-Claudian period (25 B.C.-A.D. 68). As in Imperial times, building activities concentrated along the main north-south street and along the main east-west thoroughfare. The Upper Agora was enlarged, re-oriented, paved, and embellished with huge honorific columns carrying bronze statues of the Tiberii Claudii, the family that became the city's first Roman citizens. The well-preserved upper parts of the northeastern column were exposed this year (see Upper Agora). The first transformations of the Lower Agora also started during the reign of Augustus, when the back wall of the west portico was built, and a large sanctuary was dedicated to Apollo. To the west, an early Imperial gateway decorated with a garland frieze spanned the street leading to the sanctuary. Under Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 17-38), an elegant U-shaped gateway supported by Corinthian columns was built near the southwest corner of the square. Its opulent fruit garlands illustrated the prosperity of the "golden age" inaugurated by Augustus' reign. The city honored Caligula (A.D. 38-41) and Claudius (A.D. 41-54) with honorific arches in the south corners of the Upper Agora. Claudius and his son Nero (A.D. 54-68) also received a shrine and honorific gateway, and the last emperor may even have been linked to the inauguration of the stadium northwest of the Hellenistic defences (see map). Characteristic for most of these building activities is the fact that they made use of the very rich Corinthian order, which is in clear contrast with construction in other Pisidian cities, which continued to build in the plain Doric order.

The architecture of the next generation was less opulent, possibly because of economic setback after earthquakes. It has been assumed that the Flavian period (A.D. 69-96) saw no building activity at all, but we found this season that the Lower Agora's rearrangement began during the second half of the first century. Our excavations in the early Byzantine mansion showed that the fills connected with the portico's construction contained ceramic material going back to that period. Even if this offers only a terminus post quem (see Lower Agora, July 13-19), it does not exclude a Flavian date for building activity.

Under the Flavians or at the latest during Trajan's reign, a portico with a row of shops was erected along the Lower Agora's east side. Its columns were unfluted and its entablature very simple, including a smooth, cushion-shaped frieze (see Lower Agora - South, July 20-26). The fact that at least the southern shops seem to have had a fired brick back wall suggests a construction date in the late Trajanic period at the earliest (see Lower Agora - South, August 10-16). We found a well-preserved drain below the shops of this portico this year (see Lower Agora - North, August 3-9).

An almost identical portico, though without shops, was constructed along the Lower Agora's western edge, immediately below the Apollo Sanctuary. The same type of plain entablature is also found in the restoration of the last temple, dated by an inscription to the year A.D. 102-103, in a honorific monument dedicated by Claudia Severa and her brothers to the emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117). Most of the refurbishment of the Lower Agora may date to this emperor's reign. This certainly was the case with the raising of the curved terrace wall along the northeast access to the square. Beautifully carved busts of Ares, Hercules, Hermes, Zeus, Athena, and Poseidon, can be dated to Trajan's reign. The rearrangement of the square's northeast access was triggered by the construction of a new nymphaeum composed of nine arched niches arranged inside a Roman concrete wall with brick facing along the north edge. Different building elements from the nymphaeum's façade made of local limestone show the same lack of decoration as the other contemporary structures around the square. However, the use of fired brick throughout the back wall, a building technique only introduced in Anatolia late in Trajan's reign, rather suggests a late Trajanic construction date for this nymphaeum.

The same technology was also applied in the construction of the Roman Baths, part of a complete transformation of the natural slope to the east of the Lower Agora. Early in the reign of Hadrian (A.D. 117-138) structures on top of this slope were torn down, and a huge artificial terrace composed of at least five vaulted rooms was created on the west side of the slope. The outer walls were made of huge ashlars, some of them weighing four tons. Some of the upper floor's walls may date to the middle or second half of the second century, especially those made of brick, a new technique that was replaced by mortared rubble alternating with brick layers during the second half of the century. If this assumption is correct, the large frigidarium we exposed in 2002 and the richly decorated frigidarium excavated this summer (see Roman Baths) may be the oldest parts of the building still preserved. This hypothesis about brick walls would also imply that the oldest courtyard system of the Domestic Area may also date to the second century (see Domestic Area, August 3-9).

A street covered with pavement slabs separated the baths' west façade from the back wall of the eastern portico's shops. We exposed over 25 meters, finding that the slabs covered a water supply (four terra-cotta pipes) and a gutter system. There was a beaten earth floor covering a tile and mortared rubble drain and a terra-cotta pipe water supply system along the street's west and east edges. Both pavement and water systems showed signs of repair until the sixth century (see Lower Agora - North, July 20-26; and Lower Agora - South, July 27-August 2).

The second half of Hadrian's reign also saw the inauguration of at least two or three other major building projects--a new sanctuary for the imperial cult, a second nymphaeum, and a Dionysus temple. The first two may have been connected with one of Hadrian's visits to Pamphylia (and perhaps even Sagalassos proper), the last one may date to the first years of the reign of his successor Antoninus Pius.

The nymphaeum was built on a terrace immediately north of the Trajanic fountain on the Lower Agora's north side. A building team from Pamphylia probably executed the architectural decoration, pointing towards a date during the second half of Hadrian's reign. The building was at least 21.3 meters long and possessed a two-story façade based on the two sizes of entablature and other building elements. It was made of better quality limestone than the Trajanic nymphaeum and also had granite columns. The building stood on a platform that could be reached by a flight of eight steps and was flanked by two side wings. The latter bordered on a paved water basin surrounded by a parapet on the south and a podium on all other sides with a number of niches, alternating curved and rectangular (see Lower Agora - Nymphaeum, August 10-16 and 24-30). The podium at the back of the basin was interrupted every two meters by slightly projecting pilasters decorated with reliefs of dancing women. The collapsed structure still produced masses of statuary pieces (see Sculptural Studies, August 24-30). The niches on the lower level contained statues representing a satyr and Poseidon, and possibly a bronze statue of a member of Sagalassos' founding family (see Lower Agora - Nymphaeum, August 10-16). Large marble statues of Hadrian and his wife Sabina formed the main group of the nymphaeum's statuary outfit. We've recovered at least one statue from the top floor, a marble Aphrodite of later date thought to have been an addition or a replacement of the original statuary. Other fragments suggest the presence of at least eight statues.

An even more impressive late Hadrianic building project was that of a new sanctuary for the Imperial cult. Although previously known as the Antoninus Pius Temple based on the fragmentary preserved dedication copied in the 1880s, the architectural decoration indicates that building activities started under Hadrian, only to be completed during the reign of Antoninus Pius (A.D. 138-161). This was confirmed by our discovery of the beginning of the dedication during the first week of our activities there, mentioning the divine (i.e. the deceased) Hadrian as the first inhabitant of the temple (see Antoninus Pius, July 13-19). Excavation in the northwest corner of the courtyard also confirmed that it had been laid out around the middle and second half of the second century. Although its pavement was gone, the portico surrounding the courtyard could be identified as belonging to the Ionic order. Another row of contemporary rooms was built against the back wall of the portico's northwest corner, but were not accessible from it (see Antoninus Pius, August 3-9).

The reign of Antoninus Pius saw the completion of both the sanctuary and probably also the construction of the Dionysus Temple mentioned above. Another mid-second century Ionic shrine or temple was constructed on top of Alexander Hill (see Alexander's Hill, July 6-12). In the meantime, work continued inside the bath complex and the large central room was completed under the next emperor, Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180), and his co-ruler Lucius Verus (A.D. 161-169). A market was built on a terrace to the southwest of the Upper Agora to commemorate the Parthian victory of Marcus Aurelius, and a nymphaeum was erected along the north side of the Upper Agora. This building, which is currently being restored (see Restoration & Conservation), was a polychrome structure full of white marble statuary with Dionysian imagery. Only the giant corner statues representing a drunken Dionysus supported by a satyr belong to the original statuary display.

During the final decades of the second century, the stage building of the city's theater was completed and a new nymphaeum with eight niches behind a façade of pavonazetto (i.e. purple veined marble) columns from Dokimeion was erected a mere 0.4 meters in front of its Trajanic predecessor. Before the end of the Severan dynasty, a monumental gateway possibly commemorating Severan victories in the east was erected immediately north of the Roman Baths at the crossing of the city's two main thoroughfares. During the same century, at least one other temple was built along the southwest corner of the "Lowest Agora" (see survey conclusions). The third century did not witness any important building activities on the whole. This did not reflect an economic recess, as the city still prospered thanks to its export of grain and other goods to the Roman armies. By then the city possessed a complete urban infrastructure, filled with all types of monumental amenities, most of them concentrated along the city's two main thoroughfares. This helped visitors find their way through the city, but also brought them face to face with its monuments. The aristocracy now invested its money in the creation of expensive games.

Building activities resumed in the fourth century, mostly repair or refurbishment of public monuments, but also the construction of new palatial mansions for the rich. By now the most common building technology consisted of mortared rubble walls alternating with brick courses. The northwest corner of the Roman Baths was partially rebuilt and repaired during this century. Renovation activities included the oldest caldarium, covered with 40 tons of Docimian marble veneer, as well as the tepidarium to the north of it, and the undressing room (apodyterium) immediately west of the smaller frigidarium with its opus sectile floor (see Roman Baths, August 24-30). Our excavations this year did not confirm a fourth century repair of the east portico of the Lower Agora as previously assumed. The building must have already been destroyed (set on fire during civic riots) towards the end of the century. The Antonine nymphaeum on the Upper Agora may have been largely repaired during the fourth or fifth century, when the lost statuary was replaced with sculptures in Docimian marble removed from other places in the city. A similar operation may have filled some of the niches of the Severan nymphaeum on the Lower Agora.

During the first decades of the fifth century, the city was still prosperous enough to build a new city wall against raids. This wall largely followed the course of its Hellenistic predecessor, even incorporating parts of it--the Zeus Temple, the NW Heroon, and the Odeion. Around the same period, the apodyterium of the Roman Baths was also repaired (or transformed), receiving new marble benches along its walls (see Roman Baths, August 24-30). The transformation of the old "Kaisersaal" into a second caldarium goes back to the same operation, rather than being a result of the early sixth-century earthquake. We also believe that the transformation of the Domestic Area into a palatial mansion with a four-room private bath and dining room (room XL, see Domestic Area, August 10-30) on the ground level and a reception hall on the second floor reflects the living conditions of the provincial aristocracy. At that moment they shared local power with a new breed of magistrates directly appointed by the Imperial governors and with the bishops. The latter's power at Sagalassos is clearly reflected by the transformation of the Bouleuterion complex into a church. Also around A.D. 500, a richly decorated church replaced the Ionic temple on Alexander's Hill (see Alexander's Hill, July 6-12). Shortly afterwards the Apollo Klarios sanctuary must have been transformed into a martyr's church, whereas the Dionysos temple was moved, stone by stone, to be incorporated into yet another martyrium built in the city's stadium. So the fifth century represented a period of prosperity and building activity at Sagalassos reflecting the gradual triumph of Christianity, although the Dionysos statues in the Antonine nymphaeum on the Upper Agora were kept in place. Gradually private structures also made an appearance within former public spaces. The western portico of the Upper Agora was subdivided during the fifth century, some spaces used for smithing until the end of the city's occupation (see Metallurgical Activities, August 3-9). Aristocrats also bought and subdivided former public spaces into smaller units to lease, so such transformations of public structures should not always be regarded as a sign of decline. This also occurred in the portico of the Hadrian and Antoninus Pius sanctuary, where the second century floor was removed and new walls erected within the old building (see Antoninus Pius Temple, July 27-August 2).

This type of intervention increased dramatically after a massive earthquake struck and devastated most of the city early in the sixth century. Although thus far not supported by stratigraphical evidence, it is unlikely that the series of arched (work)shops in the northeast building of the Upper Agora could have survived this catastrophe--most probably postdate this event (see Upper Agora). A second encroachment phase took place in the former Imperial sanctuary during the sixth century, with structures still following the original orientation of the portico but now also extending beyond it (see Antoninus Pius Temple, July 27-August 2).

The streets accessing the Lower Agora from the northeast were raised and the former pavement covered by an earth walking level that remained in use until the seventh century (see Lower Agora - North, July 20-26). While this may have been the result of the earthquake, the plague ravaging Anatolia in A.D. 542 eradicated many aristocratic families or eliminated the base of their wealth and may have contributed to a decline. The western portico along the Lower Agora was subdivided into eateries and workshops that remained occupied until the earthquake of the mid-seventh century. During the sixth century, a large dwelling was built on the northern part of the Lower Agora's east portico and its shops, no longer respecting its previous layout (see Lower Agora, July 13-26). The northeast access of the square was controlled by two small guards' houses policing the street between the east portico and the Roman Baths and the stairway giving access to the square (see Lower Agora - North, July 20-August 9). Before the middle of the seventh century A.D. the area had been "ruralized," for instance the Trajanic street fountain being used as a dump for slaughtered cattle remains (see Lower Agora - North, July 20-August 2). The large dwelling just south of the guards' houses was also abandoned during the third quarter of the sixth century (see July 20-August 2). One of its rooms had a seventh century floor deposit (see Lower Agora - North, August 10-16), and another one was used as a dump (see Subsistence Studies, August 17-23). The palatial mansion was also subdivided into smaller living units in the sixth century, and some of these functioned as rural entities such as stables or storage for dried animal dung (see Subsistence Studies, August 3-9). However, the second floor and the ground level remained occupied until the seventh century (see Domestic Area, July 20-August 24). Although the urban surveys could suggest a larger concentration of occupation inside or near the late Roman city walls, the site more and more presented a rural character. The ceramic industry also came to an end at this time. The lavatory in the Roman Baths' ground floor became a collector of fertilizer to support intensive farming near the city (see survey conclusions). The workshops in the Upper Agora's northeast building were also used as dumps during the seventh century (see Upper Agora).

What happened to the city proper after the totally devastating mid-seventh century earthquake is unclear. There are traces of efforts to repair some structures (the Church of St. Michael and the Upper Agora's northeast building workshop area), but there is no evidence for any important occupation in the city center. The earthquake debris on the west side of the Lower Agora became a Christian cemetery. Along the east side it was used as support for a system supplying water to the Antoninus Pius temple area where a fortified small village site may have existed between the eighth and eleventh centuries (see Antoninus Pius Temple, August 3-9; and Ceramic Studies, August 3-9). The bishops of Sagalassos are thought to have lived here as late as the eleventh century. After that period, however, only the Alexander Hill remained occupied and became a fortified stronghold until the thirteenth century when it was likely levelled by Turkmenian tribes (see Alexander's Hill, July 6-12; Ceramological Studies, August 3-16; and Subsistence Studies, July 27-August 2). Reduced to a fortress, the Sagalassos of 332 B.C. had ceased to exist.

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