Photos by Jack A. Waldron
After a very good sleep at the Teachers' Hotel in Bucak, it was time to cycle to the ancient city of Sagalassos, where the resurrection of its monumental Nymphaeum was producing freezing clear spring water for the first time in over one-thousand years. However, before I would be able to survey the site, I needed to find new sleeping accomadations after my eighty kilometer trek to Aglasun, the village that sits five kilometers under the mountain on which Sagalassos is situated.
I was told about a cheap hotel on the mountain before I left Bucak, and though I love camping, cheap rooms in Turkey often times means $10-$20 a night, which fits well into my travel budget. I stopped at a local gas station that was manned by some young Turk Motorcycle Hipsters, twisted chrome spokes, lowered front forks, and a massive 150 CCs driving the megaphone exhaust pipes, too cool . . . , and they confirmed that there was a cheap hotel on the mountain that cost about $20. So, I cycled up the mountain toward the hotel and ancient Sagalassos. Just below the hotel a spring was gushing from the hill, so, I filled up my bottles, because it's always best to be prepared. I found my way into the hotel, and before even asking, I had my suspicions upon having looked over the facilities. $90?! Woa! Ok, time to search out a camp site.
Finding a camp site was easy, and as it turned out, much more scenic! After setting up camp I hosted my first guests of the evening, two dogs chasing through the ravine at top speed and at full volume, perhaps it was a Pavlovian thing at play, but the procession was just beginning. A flock of rambling goats were the next to arrive on the scene, and they weren't alone. Following the goats was a young herder, who when he caught site of my tent just stopped in his tracks. I explained that I was going to visit Sagalassos the following day, and at that he was on his way to catch up with his goats.
As you can see by looking at the photos above, I was nestled nicely amongst the pines, and though I felt safe, as always, I still make it a habit to lock my bike up no matter the circumstances, so, I picked a tree, wrapped the cable around it and secured my bike for the night. Well, wouldn't you know, the wind began to gentlely rustle me and my bourbon right to sleep, sweet dreams . . . , until I was awakened by warm thrusts of mountain currents, up and down drafts of wind that challenged the tent stakes. But, all was well, and the tent shape-shifted into the terrain, and I went back to sleep.
It was a beautiful mountain morning, and all was good, until I had a thought of the pine needles that had pricked me while setting up camp the night before, and then I recalled the nasty sap from the needles that left an itchy point of contention behind. I looked at my bike, and I instantly knew, yep, the all night wind had worked in collusion with the pine branches and had left a coating of wonderful sap all over my bike!! What to do?!
Ok, I am that kind of guy, I mean after all, I was in the military, so, I need alcohol, yes for me and, the bike. Take a swig, then turn the bottle upside-down over my red bandana, ow, nice, the bike feels it too, the sap is coming off! Take another swig, 7 am, no problem, partners in crime, wipe her down, she loves it, and so do I. Clean smellin' green machine, time to head for Sagalassos.
This documentary focuses on Sagalassos, and it is rare to have such a fine production covering the discovery and restoration of an ancient city when there are so many neglected and forgotten sites throughout the ancient world. Enjoy!
Sagalassos is profoundly impressive, because it was buried under landslides caused by an earthquake in the 7th century and then abandon until it was rediscovered in modern times, thus, it is an ancient city with most of its pieces still on site and un-quarried post its abandonment. However, building materials had been reassigned and reused prior to the quake, which offers a challenge to the archeologists who have been chosen to put this monumental puzzle back together.
The large column at the far left in the illustration above is the same column as seen in the photo below, and which is surrounded with scaffolding next to the arch dedicated to Caligula 37-41 AD and, rededicated to Claudius in 42-43 AD. This is one of four honorific columns topped with statues that were each placed at one of the four corners of the upper agora. Of the four columns, only the opposing front corner column has yet to be re-erected, as the other two are today in situ on either end of the Antonine Nymphaeum (as can be seen in photos below).
The Burdur Archeological Museum now houses this monument (pictured above and below) which once sat in the upper agora.
The Antonine Nymphaeum and the honorific columns are quite impressive and dominate upper agora (as seen in the photo below), not to be outdone however, is the dark structure in the upper left of the photo, which is the Doric temple in antis, next to which sits the Haroon with its missing front columns.
The eastern tabernacle on the Antonine Nymphaeum was sanctuary to the exquisitely sculptured Dionysus with draping cloth and onlooking satyr. A copy of the statue now occupies the space on the nymphaeum, while the original (pictured below) is in the Burdur Museum.
A monumental honorific column can be seen at the eastern end of the Antonine Nymphaeum in the photo below, next to the tabernacle with the sculptured Dionysus with draping cloth and onlooking satyr.
Nearly all of the original sculptures that once decorated the Antonine Nymphaeum have been recovered, since they were preserved under the landslide that occurred following an earthquake in the 7th century AD. Pictured below, a cornucopia sculpture with a face resembling Alexander the Great is housed in the Burdur Museum. Following the death of Alexander the Great, countless sculptures from Buddha to Jesus have been sculpted with the iconic face, and might be representative of a first in cross cultural pop art.
The detailed carving of the Antonine Nymphaeum is spectacular, and the fountains reconstruction and working order is nothing less than miraculous. The millennial old spring that fed the fountain during antiquity has been reconnected through the original piping system and continues to feed the fountain today.
It is quite a challenge to avoid the gaze of Medusa who watches over the spring fed pool.
Atop the nymphaeum sits a dedicatory block to the Neon family, who over many centuries continued to provide for the construction of new buildings and their restorations, as well as numerous sculptures that decorated those buildings.
In the western tabernacle of the Antonine Nymphaeum is a copy of the original sculpture of Dionysus and Satyr (pictured below), the original of which was carved in Aphrodisias, and is now on display at the Burdur Museum (pictured above).
The statue of Nemesis with a Sphinx from the Antonine Nymphaeum is now also on display at the Burdur Museum. As stated in the display description below, the marble used for this statue was quarried near ancient Dokimeion or Docimium, which is today the village of Iscehisar on Hwy 96 from Ankara, about 80 km before reaching Afyon.
Excavations of the Upper Agora exposed some truly exquisite and unique artifacts, such as the Ring of Dionysus (pictured below), on display at the Burdur Museum.
The Antonine Nymphaeum with a monument in the center of the agora (pictured above) sits below the Heroon Monument (upper left corner of the photo). From the opposite direction, looking down over the top of the nymphaeum (pictured below) with the two honorific columns at each end of the nymphaeum, and a view of the continuing excavations in the eastern portion of the upper agora.
In the left side of the photo above there is an arch over a passage way and staircase that took citizens to the top of the nymphaeum. At the top, a road leads left to the back of the Haroon, and right to the theater, which can be seen at the top in the picture below.
Just below the upper agora is the site of the Macellum, which was a market for luxury goods, and was anchored in the center by a tholos that contained a water basin.
Walking west out of the upper agora the path leads past an honorific column and under the Arch of Claudius, which was originally dedicated to Caligula only to see it rededicated after his death in 41 AD, as was ordered done to all monuments throughout the Roman empire.
Continuing west along the path one reaches the Bouleuterion with its lone half column marking the area. Below, a photo looking back at the Antonine Nymphaeum, with the Bouleuterion column decorated with a relief of Athena and a war prisoner beautifully on display.
Pictured below, an arial view of the Bouleuterion provided by the information boards at the site.
The Bouleuterion was cordened off and entrance was prohibited as excavations of the area continue.
Standing in front of the Bouleuterion entrance, there scene looking up the slope of the city offers a step back in time: in the picture below, front and center stands the Bouleuterion, rising above the building to the left is the grand Doric temple, and to upper right the Heroon.
The Doric temple which sits above the Bouleuterion was built between 50-25 BC, and is a combination of both Greek and Roman architectural design as it was not built with a stepped crepidoma as was typical of Greek temples, yet it is in antis, a common design of Greek temples.
Pictured above, the Haroon guarding the back of the Doric temple. As can be seen in the photo below, the crepidoma is of the Roman temple architectural style. Further, the late addition of incorporating the temple into a defensive wall can also be seen, with the temple itself serving the function of a defensive tower.
Pictured above, looking past the Doric temple an honorific column rises from the upper agora, and across the mountain depression far in the distance sits the well preserved theater. Below, the back of the Doric temple with its side supporting the defensive wall, which was a late construction to protect the city center (see the illustration below).
The photo below shows the gate that was built between the Doric temple and the Haroon as it too became a tower in the new defensive wall. Blocks were quarried from the Bouleuterion for this construction.
Pictured above, reconstructed from original stones, with its front columns and roof missing, the Haroon still strikes a magnificent pose, as is celebrated by the dancing girls that adorn its base.
The dancing girl reliefs ornamenting the Heroon monument at Sagalassos are extremely accurate reproductions that give the building a unique place amongst the vast variety of monuments in ancient cities spanning the ancient world. (see photos of the originals in the Burdur Museum further down).
Few of the buildings members needed to be replaced, but they can be seen as the clean perfectly shaped blocks that stand out within the structure.
The dancing girls of the Haroon Monument are truly one of the most exciting group of sculptures I have ever seen. As a group, or on an individual block-by-block basis, they amaze and mesmerize!
Probably honoring the young man who was represented in a colossal statue that guarded the door to the Haroon, the head of that sculpture retains its innocence, and dancers honor the marriage that might have been, had he survived the battle.
Looking out over the village of Aglasun, which takes its namesake from Sagalassos, and the fertile valley from behind the Heroon at 1500 meters up Mount Akdag is, along with Termessos and Selge, as close to the opening where human meets mother nature in thankful harmony.
Continuing along the path toward the theater leads us first to the ancient Neon Library, that must itself be housed and protected, a service it once performed for the likes of Plato, Aristophanes and Homer.
Unfortunately, the building that protects the Neon Library from the elements was not accessible, though I did manage to squeak out the two photos (above and below) from behind the protective screen fence.
The Neon Library is situated above and behind the Hellenistic Fountain (pictured below). With its ancient spring pipes reconnected and again producing icy clear flows, and the Late Hellenistic structure intact, half fluted and double fluted Doric columns in magnificent condition; this is a testimonial to the buildings of Sagalassos leave a lover of ancient history, architecture and yes, culture, completely ecstatic, exhilarated and exuberant!!
The approach to the Grande Theater of Sagalassos lay up the ravine from the Neon Library and Hellenistic Fountain, and as one climbs it becomes obvious that the theater is surrounded by an extensive urban sprawl buried under centuries of erosion from Mount Akdag.
The arches of the theater rise above massive piles of fallen blocks, and the entrance to the vaulted corridor of the vomitoria is and impressive sight. It would seem only a matter of time and funding before this grande monument is reconstructed and restored to a functioning facility once again.
Pictured below, looking back at the entrance to the theater after having climbed over the fallen blocks of the skene and various stage building members. The theater is believed to have begun construction under Hadrian around 120 AD as he had named the city the "first city" of Pisidia; though, the building was left with a small section of unfinished seating and without a second story to the skene around 170-180 AD due to a lack of funds.
Turning around from the photo above reveals the grandness of the this theater, as it sat up to 9000 people, even though Sagalassos was inhabited by around 5000 only. The size of the theater was built to scale in order to accommodate visitors from all over Pisidia for special events.
With the Alexander hill striking the sky above the partially standing stage building, the view from the analemma of the theater is very special; and it is especially at moments like these that I am able to truly appreciate my world travels. There will come a day (and it may even be here already) when Ephesus pales in comparison to a restored Sagalassos. Whether the tourists will come is another question, as access to this ancient city is not as simple as jumping in a taxi for a fifteen minute ride from the beach hotel.
Leaving the theater and heading back toward the city center first brings one past a once rich urban mansion. What is interesting about the archeological discoveries with regard to this site is that the mansion appears to have been compartmentalized as the wealth of the city declined, meaning that, the owner of the mansion had corridors and sections blocked off in order to create individual apartments for rent. Continuing past the mansion brings us to one of the most colossal discoveries at Sagalassos thus far, the Marble Hall within the Roman Baths.
The remains of the Roman Baths seem less than impress when looking over them, however, supporting the level that is pictured below is an intact building containing a complete substructure that is currently under investigation (see substructure in photos further down).
Unearthed from within the former frigidarium (following 4th-5th century refurbishment), then the southern apodyterium which, was converted into a statue gallery, or, what is now known as the Marble Hall of the Roman Baths were no less than three colossal heads, those of Hadrian (dated at 120-125 AD), Faustina the elder (dated at 138-161 AD), and Marcus Aurelius (dated at 170-180 AD). Also discovered were the colossal legs of Marcus Aurelius still in situ in the apodyterium front parts of the feet of Sabina, wife to Hadrian, and a colossal leg belonging to the statue of Hadrian.
Pictured on the left above, Hadrian, and on the right Marcus Aurelius. The incredible preservation of the sculptures is due to their being buried under the collapse of the bathes as the result of a major earthquake during the 7th century AD.
Pictured below, the colossal leg of a statue of Marcus Aurelius. The fine detail of the sculpture is very impressive, and also that it is so well preserved.
Below, a photo of me standing next to the colossal leg of Hadrian in the Burdur Archeological Museum.
Above, a photo of the Marble Hall. Below, the building and substructure of the Roman "Imperial" Bathes viewed from the lower agora, with the public fountain in the left of the photo.
In the left portion of the pictures above and below, a monumental fountain in the lower agora greets new arrivals to the city. It would appear that many ancients were well aware of the need for hygiene, as many ancient cities built fountains at or near the entrances to their cities. It was recognized that plagues were often brought into areas from the outside. Furthermore, aesclepions were often placed at a distance from cities in order to sequester the ill.
The lower agora is situated between the upper city and the colonnaded entrance to the city. Rising above the lower agora in the photo above is the Alexander hill. In the photo below, the mound of building materials in the center left is the Temple of the Pisidian Emperor Cult.
Pictured below, looking back at the colonnaded entrance to the steps that lead up to the lower agora and the city itself.
An up close picture of the bottleneck of the rebuilt gate at the entrance to the city, while in the far distance outside the gate lay the remains of the Temple of Hadrian and Antonius Pius, the Temple of the Pisidian Emperor/Imperial Cult.
Articulately sculptured building members of the Temple of Hadrian and Antonius Pius, the Temple of the Pisidian Emperor/Imperial Cult await the day they are reassembled into the magnificent structure that once greeted people entering Sagalassos.
An illustration of the Temple of Hadrian and Antonius Pius, the Temple of the Pisidian Emperor/Imperial Cult provides a glimpse of the temples' classical architecture.
The Gnome Deity of Good Luck
The symbol for Dionysus is a small green lizard. Followers of Dionysus will generally have one or more of these tiny lizards running around their home. Their love of these little lizards does not extend to any other lizard, although they do pretty much freak out if they see one of the little guys come to harm.
One day the god Dionysus took a liking to a gnome named Pesash. Now, Pesash lived in the gnome village of Wilona and was not an exceptional gnome by any stretch of the imagination, but he was well liked in his village and on the whole, was thought to be a very lucky gnome. He lived for years within the village, friends to everyone he knew and met. One would have thought that such good luck could not continue and one day when it should have run out, it did not.
Pesash was standing by a large tree. To his side there were a group of hunters readying their crossbows. One of the hunters was showing his son how you load and shoot the weapon. The village had just gotten the weapons. It had taken a lot of wheeling and dealing and time to accumulate the funds and find a set of human merchants with the cross bows to sell. As Pesash stood by, he daydreamed and looked up at the sky. From somewhere to the tree side he heard a tiny voice say to him “I think you should move!” Pesash glance around to ask why... and all he saw was a tiny little lizard, quite common to the area, clinging to the tree and staring at him. “I think you should move now!” it said. “Ga....”, was all that Pesash could get out as he jumped back from the tree. Just as he moved, the boy that held the crossbow had pulled the weapons trigger. Everyone knew that he had not meant to, but he had done it. The bolt landed in the tree, passing through
the point where Pesash had just stood. “Hehe,” the little lizard laughed. It turned to scuttle up the tree.
Pesash was quite taken aback by the incident but did not think anyone would believe him and so never told the others why he had jumped back. Everyone just thought, what a lucky little gnome he is.
A few days passed and there was a very terrible storm. Pesash was in his home and he was having trouble sleeping because of the noise of the wind. It was a very bad storm and he was worried that something might blow over and someone would get hurt. As he lay in bed listening to the wind, he heard the tiny voice again “I think you may want to leave your house now,” it said. Pesash was not about to argue after the last warning it had given him and he rushed out the door and up the stairs and out of the burrow. No sooner was he outside when he heard the greatest crashing sound of his life. As he looked back, one of the old protector trees had been blown over and it had landed on the very top of his home. He would have been killed! As he looked he heard a scurrying sound by his feet. The little lizard dashed by and disappeared into the darkness.
Pesash was now a little worried. He stayed at a friend’s house and confided in him that a little lizard had warned him. His friend asked, “You mean those little lizards that run around all over the place?”
“The very same,” confided Pesash.
His friend cocked an eyebrow at that one and nothing more was said that night.
When Pesash awoke the next morning he was still worried. He wondered if the little lizard was bringing him the bad luck.
“Not I!” he heard the little voice say. As he turned he could see the little lizard clinging to the wall. “You will need a new home”, the little lizard continued. “May I suggest that you have a look beneath the protector tree that is nearest the well. Dig deep on the well’s side... there you will find what you need”. The lizard scampered up the wall and across the room’s ceiling to disappear into one of the earthen air vents.
Pesash was a bit confused but decided to take a look. He went out to the ring of protector trees and found the one closest the well. He found a shovel and dug for a short time. His hole was deep, but not too deep when he found it. It was a metal box. He was finally noticed by some of the other villagers when he pulled the box from the ground. He opened it and all present gave a collective gasp.
Each gnome village has a good luck symbol that helps bring prosperity to the village. Wilona’s good luck symbol had vanished years before. Although the village had not suffered any really bad luck, all within knew that it would have no really good luck without the symbol.
Pesash pulled the symbol from the box.
Word spread like wildfire through the village. Pesash was an instant hero. In honor the village elders gave him a new house. He told each gnome that asked how he knew where to dig “a little lizard told me!” Most just cocked an eyebrow at this... but a few wanted to know more so he told them of how the lizard had given him warning to move from the tree and get out of his house.
The village celebrated the return of the symbol for the whole of the day. Near evening, Pesash was again troubled. He walked out to the protector tree where the symbol had been buried. He called up into the tree’s branches “are you there?” he asked. “The one that helps me?”
The little voice answered, “Yes, I am here.” “Why do you help me?” he asked.
He saw the little lizard scamper down the tree to head height. The little lizard cocked it little head to look at him and said, “I help you because I am Dionysus and you are my priest!”
Pesash was taken aback “But I am not your priest” he protested.
“Oh really?” the little lizard said...
Pesash though about it for a little time as a smile crept across his face. “I guess I am”, his smile broadened as he spoke, “I guess I am at that!”
© David Pemberton 2000
The Hadrianic Nympaeum is another monument that awaits reassembly. I spoke with the chief archeologist at the site, who confirmed that approximately 80% of the buildings members have been identified (that was his estimate) and that all that was needed to begin work was funding.
As a testament to the recovery and unearthing of the remains of so many whole buildings at Sagalassos, the magnificently well preserved Colossal statue of a seated Apollo Kitharodos having been found buried after more than a thousand years says a lot about the potential resurrection of this ancient city.
Just down the hill from the Hadrian Nymphaeum are the remains of the Temple of Apollo Klarios.
And again, siting in an open area of to the side of the temple site are the building remains, which again, are fairly complete, including tiles from the roof!
Pieces of the puzzle are organized, numbered, and wait to be placed into the bigger picture.
Below, a view of the necropolis down the hill and across the valley. What a beautiful day it is to be alive! I live mine to the fullest and least harm now, thanks.
Leaving Sagalossos over the mountain pass and on to Burdur.
*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)