By the Editors of the Madain Project

Sagalassos, situated in the southwestern region of Turkey, is an archaeological site that is also referred to as Selgessos and Sagallesos. During the Roman Imperial era, Sagalassos was identified as the "First City of Pisidia," an area located in the western Taurus Mountains, which is presently recognized as the Turkish Lakes Region. In the Hellenistic era, it was already regarded as one of the leading towns in Pisidia.

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The area has been inhabited by humans since 8000 BCE, before the current Sagalassos site was established. Hittite documents mention a mountain location called Salawassa in the 14th century BCE, and the town expanded during the Phrygian and Lydian civilizations. Sagalassos was situated in the region of Pisidia, located in the western portion of the Taurus Mountains. During the Persian period, Pisidia gained a reputation for its militant groups.

With a population of several thousand people, Sagalassos was among the most affluent cities in Pisidia during Alexander the Great's conquest in 333 BCE as he journeyed to Persia. Following Alexander's death, the area was incorporated into the lands of Antigonus Monophthalmus, potentially Lysimachus of Thrace, the Seleucids of Syria, and the Attalids of Pergamon. The archaeological evidence suggests that the indigenous population quickly assimilated Hellenic culture.

After the fall of the Attalids, Pisidia was annexed by the Roman Empire and incorporated into the province of Asia. In 39 BCE, the region was given to the Galatian client king Amyntas, but following his assassination in 25 BCE, Rome transformed Pisidia into the province of Galatia. During the Roman Empire era, Sagalassos became a significant urban hub in Pisidia and was especially favored by Emperor Hadrian, who proclaimed it the "first city" of the province and the focal point of the imperial cult. Modern buildings in Sagalassos feature distinct Roman architectural styles.

Notable Structures

circa 50 and 25 BCE

Late Hellenistic Era Fountain House
The fountain house was built just before the reign of the emperor Augustus, between 50 and 25 BCE. It was reconstructed in 1997 CE, and the original water source (discovered during the excavations) was reconnected and now fills the fountain basins again. The fountain is u-shaped, with a Doric order portico elevated on a balustrade. The portico protects the water basin behind it from heat and dirt.

The fountain was built when Sagalassos began to outgrow its original city walls. This fountain was part of the new quarter that developed to the east, in a less-steep area with beautiful panoramas. The new neighbourhood was favoured by wealthy families during the Imperial period, who got their water from this fountain or others in the town, though many also had water supply systems in their homes.

Within one century (50 BCE - 50 CE) Sagalassos tripled in size. Most of the city's undergound water distribution pipes were also laid in this period, which is a very early date for such an infrastructure.

After the early earthquake around 500 CE, the fountain house was partially filled up and converted into a holding tank from where water was taken by terracotta pipes to various places in the city.

circa 1 CE

North-west Heroon
The heroon was built around the year 1 CE, during the reign of the emperor Augustus. The monument was recently re-erected using its original stones. Architects could tell where each block belonged on the monument by looking at the original connection holes on the stones. Visible from afar, the monument stands on a square podium 7.8 x 8.5 meters and is fifteen meters tall.

The north-west heroon was a monument for a young aristocrat, whose name is unknown.Archaeologists have not found a dedicatory inscription. However, parts of a 2.5 meters high statue of the possible owner along with a beautifully carvved head in Docimian marble. The statue most likely stood in front of the doors of the monument. Acount 400 CE, the north-west heroon was incorporated in to the new city walls, where it functioned as a tower.

The base of the Heroon was decorated with a detailed frieze (inspect). The reliefs depict a girl playing the cithara and thirteen dancing girls in almost life-size. They are dancing in a circle, and two carry symbols related to the worship of god Dionysus. It could be that the person honoured with this monument had introduced this cult to Sagalassos, or had organized festivals for him during which such dances were performed. The original stones from the frieze are on display in the Burdur Museum, as well as the beautiful marble head of the statue found here.

Another frieze of lush winding vines is visible higher up on the walls. This decorative theme comes from Italy, were the architects of emperor Augustus used it to symbolize the prosperous 'golden age' that the emperor had begun. At Sagalassos, this imagery (and the propaganda behind it) spread very quickly.

The Heroon exemplifies the work of Sagalassos' master craftsmen, which can be seen over many generations on numerous prestigious graves and public monuments. Archaeological research allows an indepth study of the architectural evolution over almost four centuries.

circa 40 CE

Arch of Claudius
Remains of a collapsed monumental arch, visible in the upper layer of earth in the south-west corner of the Upper Agora, were first discovered in 1987 CE. It was identified as an arch dedicated to emperor Caligula dating to 37-41 CE.

The area was excavated in 2010 CE and almost all of the original building blocks were found, well preserved not to mention, along with in situ bases of the arch pillars. The inscriptions revealed that the monument was financed by "Kallikles, son of Darius". He was a grandson of Eilagoas who was honoured with a bronze statue on top of the north-west column in the agora. This Sagalassian family was the first family in the city to acquire Roman citizenship, perhaps because they sponsored the construction of this arch.

The building was indeed originally dedicated to Caligula, however, upon his death, his name was condemned and erased from inscriptions all over the empire including this arch in Sagalassos. Subsequently the arch was re-dedicated in 43 CE to his successor emperor Claudius and his brother Germanicus, Caligula's father.

The original central inscription was erased and replaced by new ones at the two ends of the frieze. Inscriptions were placed on the side of the arch facing the agora, while a weapon frieze decorated the side facing the south-west street approaching the agora. Although, a popular theme for many centuries, this was the last weapon frieze on a public monument at Sagalassos. Statues of Claudius and Germanicus must have stood on top of the arch, but no remains of either of the statues were discovered.

The monumental arch was restored using its original building stones in 2011-2013 CE. An almost identical monumental arch, dedicated by the city to Claudius in 46 CE, stood just opposite to this one at the south-east corner of the Upper Agora.

circa 120 CE

Neonian Library
One of the monuments constructed by the affluent families of Sagalassos is the Neon Library, which was erected circa 120 CE. The intention of these elites was to display their wealth and establish a lasting legacy. Titus Flavius Severianus Neon, a member of one of the most prominent families in Sagalassos, commissioned the library's construction. He was the city's greatest supporter and the patron of games. Neon built the library in memory of his deceased father, and it bears similarities to the Library of Celsus in Ephesus, which was also dedicated to a father by his son and constructed between 114-117 CE. The two buildings share some architectural features.

The original building phase of the Neon Library included only the podium of the rear wall. Small statues were displayed in the podium's niches, and a row of slabs above them bore a series of inscriptions honoring Neon and some of his family members by the city council (boule) and the assembly (demos). The solid brick back wall and side walls belong to the library's second building phase, which occurred around 200 CE due to structural problems. The interior of the library was made narrower during the renovation. The black and white mosaic floor is from a subsequent renovation phase during Emperor Julian the Apostate's reign in the mid-4th century CE. The central mosaic panel, which depicted a scene from the Trojan War showing Achilles bidding farewell to his mother Thetis before going to battle, was damaged. The artist's name, Dioskoros, was visible on the panel.

In the late 4th century CE, the Christians destroyed the Neon Library and the mosaic panel as they were viewed as pagan symbols. The significant cracks on the mosaic floor were caused by a massive earthquake in the 7th century CE.

circa 120 CE

Roman Theatre
The construction of the theatre at Sagalassos most likely started around 120 CE, when emperor Hadrian granted Sagalassos an important role in the imperial cult. This new status meant that the city would be hosting events for all of Pisidia; therefore adequate buildings were needed to accommodate the ceremonies. Although Sagalassos only had at most five thousand inhabitants at that time, the theatre could seat about nine thousand spectators. The construction of the theatre stopped around 180-190 CE, probably due to lack of funds.The city had been overspending for many years. Thus the stage building does not have a second story, and the seating above the southwest entrance was never completed. In 2011 CE architects and archaeologists discovered traces of an older theatre.

The theatre has a well-preserved vaulted corridor (inspect) with entrance and exit gates (vomitoria) for the spectators. Archaeologists have found reliefs of gladiators and animal hunting in the theatre. Besides performances, the theatre was also used for gladiatorial contests, which were commonly sponsored by the rulers to entertain the common people and improve their public image. The theatre provides an excellent view of the Alexander's Hill from the cavaea.

circa 129-132 CE

Hadrianic Nymphaeum
The monumental water fountain, dating back to 129-132 CE, was built on a terrace above the lower agora and dedicated to emperor Hadrian. A flight of eight steps leds to the basin of the fountain, behind it the remaining part of the monument's back wall is still visible. Originally seventeen meters high it was the only two-story fountain in Sagalassos. Functional and prestigious at the same time, the monument was aligned with the south colonnaded street so that the visitors could see the upper story as they entered the city.

The fountain was commissioned by the first knight of Sagalassos, Tiberius Claudius Piso, who ordered its construction in his will. He dedicated the monument to emperor Hadrian. It was quite common in Roman provincial towns for the local aristocrats and benefactors to dedicate monuments to the emperors. This helped them display their connections with Rome.

The monumental fountain is an excellent example of "tabernacle architecture". The back wall has niches, while projecting podiums made of one or two pairs of columns formed "tabernacles" in which statues were placed. In the centre of the lower part stood a four meter high statue of Apollo. The fountain was close to the Temple of Apollo Klarios and was dedicated to this god. Above the statue of Apollo stood a bronze statue of Emperor Hadrian, with bronze statues of Piso on both sides. The other statues in the fountain represented Piso’s two heirs and statues of gods and semigods.

The plasters of the podium is decorated with relief carvings (inspect) of six of the nine muses. All statues of the nymphaeum are of a very high quality. This fountain probably collapsed in early 6th century and was never reconstructed.

circa 135 CE

Temple of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius
The prestigious imperial temple was built on a natural promontory to the south of the town, making it visible from afar. Emperor Hadrian (reigned 117-138 CE) declared Sagalassos the official center of the imperial cult for the sub-province of Pisidia. This launched the city's "golden-age" and a period of intensive construction. Hadrian also gave Sagalassos the honorary title of "first city of Pisidia, friend and ally of theRoman".

Construction on the temple began under Hadrian himself and was completed under his successor Antoninus Pius (reigned 138-161 CE). When completed in was one of the most elaborate buildings in the city of Sagalassos. With a courtyard more than seventy meters long and a portico surrounding the whole precinct. An inscription on thebuilding proudly proclaimed Sagalassos' new title for the first time.

Every year, delegations from all the Pisidian cities came together here to honour the emperor with sacrifices, festivals, and processions along the colonnaded street. The temple was the center of the imperial cult until the end of the fourth century CE. Its courtyard was filled with statues and honorary monuments to the emperors, priests and victors of the festival games. From the end of the fourth century CE onwards, private construction started to appear on the temple grounds.

This promontory was one of the longest inhabited places in Sagalassos. Settlement continued in this area until the end of the eleventh century CE when it moved from here down to Aglasun.

circa 160 and 180 CE

Antonine Nymphaeum
Between 160 and 180 CE, a fountain was built on the north side of the Upper Agora which was adorned with a variety of stones and decorative features. The fountain is 28 meters long, almost nine meters tall, and has a single story. Its façade has six "tabernacles", with the lateral ones projecting more than the central ones. The basin, which has a volume of 81 cubic meters and is accessed by a short staircase, was reconstructed and its water system reconnected between 1998 and 2010 CE.

During excavations, numerous statues were discovered inside the basin, and in 2011, casts of these were restored to their locations in the nymphaeum. The fountain was probably financed by Titus Flavius Severianus Neon, Sagalassos' most significant patron, and his wife. Neon was part of a prominent family that had been influential in Sagalassos for several centuries, and his name appears on more than a dozen statue bases in the city, some of which date from long after his death. After 500 CE, the fountain was repaired and transformed into a memorial monument for the Neon family. The inscriptions on the bases of the statues inside and on top of the fountain include the names of some family members.

The Antonine Nymphaeum in Sagalassos is one of the most lavishly adorned buildings in the area. The use of intricate decorations on buildings in the Roman Empire started during the reign of Emperor Augustus as a representation of the prosperous period that began with his rule.

The main design motifs in the fountain are related to water and the deity Dionysos, as indicated by the presence of theatre masks, grapes, and plants with intoxicating properties. Two costly statues of Dionysos and a Satyr, larger than life-size and originating from Aphrodisias, support the fountain. These are the only original statues in the fountain.

The remaining statues found in the basin were initially located elsewhere and were placed in the fountain during the fourth and fifth centuries CE. The statues include Nemesis, Apollo, Asklepios, and Koronis. The Christians broke and threw all of the statues, except Nemesis, into the basin. The statue of Nemesis was damaged during an earthquake that occurred between 600-620 CE. The original statues are displayed at the Museum of Burdur, while the statues on exhibit are replicas.

circa 400 CE

Southern Mansion
Beginning in the era of emperor Augustus, the local aristocrates of Sagalassos invested in the decoration and infrastructure of the city. In return, the received Roman citizenship and social prestige. However, this began to change in the fourth century CE. From this period on, a new class of super rich landowners spent more on their own personal building projects. This palace-like urban residence is an example of this trend.

The urban-palatial residence acquired the shape seen today, more or less, around 400 CE. However, its building history began much earlier. The firsthouse, built in the first century BCE, stood outside the city walls of the time. in the first century CE, a peristyle dewlling with a small, paved courtyard was constructed. In late antiquity this courtyard became the core of the private section of the mansion, which grew to gigantic proportions with eight floors and more than eighty rooms have been excavated.

In the late fourth and early fifth century CE, the private part of the villa had its own bath spaces, three inner courtyards, many private rooms and service spacesspread over two floors. The southernmost colonnaded courtyard is one of the largest known in Asia Minor.


Marble Hall or the Imperial Hall
This central part of the large bath-complex of Sagalassos was a prestigious hall, measuring 25 x 18.5 meters. Such halls were found in bath buildings in many ancient cities of Anatolia and were called the "Marble Hall" or the "Imperial Hall". Celebrations such as award ceremonies for the games were held here. In this way it was also linked with the imperial cult.

Probably six, or perhapseight, colossal statues of emperors and empresses stood in the niches of the hall. Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcu Aurelius and possibly Lucius Verus were represented here with their respective wives Sabine, Faustina the Elder, Faustina the Younger, and possibly Lucilla. After paganism and the imperial cult were abolished, the bath complex went through a renovation. This hall was turned into a warm water bath with pools in the niches where the statues once stood. The statues were moved to the niches of the southern wing (apodyteria) of the frigidarium. Later most of them were burned in kilns to obtain lime. Parts ofthese imperial statues were discovered during the excavations of 2007-08 CE.




Upper Agora


Lower Agora and Severan Nymphaeum


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