My today’s journey actually goes to the most beautiful ancient fountain that I have ever seen in my life, a fountain that is pouring its water since thousands of years – Sagalassos, the ancient city at the Taurus Mountain Range at Aglasun / Burdur about 100 km north from Antalya in the south of Turkey.
The city is located about 1450 -1600 meters above sea level with a wonderful view and with the impressive Akdag mountain at its eastern side with a height of 2271 meters. Sagalassos is surrounded by a lot of valleys and lakes, that’s why it is also called the “Lake District” and was also linked to the Roman road network in Anatolia in those days. In the Roman Empire it was also linked to the ports of the western coast in Ionia and also to the Mediterranean coastline of Pamphylia.
The soil of the valleys around were very fertile over here, there were plenty of natural water springs around the city which led Sagalassos to high prosperity and growth.
We are driving up from Aglasun, the city how it is called today and derived from Sagalassos.
Wheat, olive trees, pine trees were growing in this region and the city was also very safe as it was situated at the steep slope of the mountains.
We enter the ancient site by walking on its ancient white stone paths upwards the hill -such an exciting feeling. The air has a nice smell – a mix of the trees, the flowers, the sun and also the ancient remains. We walk through 2 ancient arcs one after the other – these should be the entrance gates of the city.
Just at the right hand side, first what we see are the remains of the Macellum. In Roman times it was the market where meat and food was sold. Probably at this place in Sagalassos it was a market place where especially luxurious goods such as jewels, glass, musical instruments and home decorations made out of bones and horns were sold.
A little further there is the Roman Bath at the edge of the place with a beautiful view down to the valleys.
Sagalassos in those days was the capital of Pisidia and a very rich settlement for the Roman Empire.
We arrive on the main area of the site which is absolutely impressive with its famous and marvelous Antonin Fountain with its sculptures, its unique decorative roman carvings and its running natural water in the middle of the fountain. The first version of the fountain was built in the 1st century BC and the water is running since then. Later in Augustus times it was rebuilt in its unique version as it can be seen by today.
The fountain is 28 m long and 9 m high.The water is running in the middle of the fountain from a niche of 4.5 m high into a pool in front of the fountain and which has a volume of about 81 m3. Most probably this fountain was also financed by Titus Flavius Severianus and his wife, a family who had a significant influence to the whole Sagalassos site in the Roman period.
At each side of the main niche there are some more niches which were decorated with several sculptures of Dionysios ( God of Fruitfulness and Vegetation , especially of Wine and Ecstasy ), Nemesis ( Goddess of Justice, Retribution and Revenge ), Appollon ( Son of Zeus and God of Sun, Music, Art, Poetry and Prophecy ), Askeplios ( Son of Appollon and God of Medicine, Healing and Truth ) and Koronis ( Mother of Askeplios and wife of Appollon ) which have been brought here from Afrodisias, a huge city and art center in the Aegean region where sculptures for the whole Roman Empire were built. The originals are today presented in the Museum of Burdur and some copies are situated at the fountain at their original places.
The Antonin fountain is a symbol of the wealth of the city and not only the theme of water but also of wine and relaxation are shown here. Dionysios, the God of Wine, theatre masks, grapes are symbols carved into the stones of the fountain.
We enjoy the gorgeous view of this beauty at this height to the green mountains and the deep valleys around and try to imagine how vivid and marvelous this place was with all its fountains, the running clear water and the colorful market place around.
After a while we decide to walk up to see the library of the city. It is on top of the hill under the theatre and was built in 125 AD by Flavius Severianus Neron. Unfortunately it was closed but we could see the mosaics of the ground and the marble shelves where the documents were stored. In those days books did not exist yet but Papyrus and Parchment were used.
Papyrus was originally flourishing as reed thickets in the freshwaters of the Nile River in Egypt and the plants roots were used as food, medicine and perfume while the stems were used for the production of baskets, floor mats, ropes,clothing, boats, building material and the most writing material in the ancient world, the paper rolls.
Parchment on the other hand, was made of the dried skin of animals like sheep , goats and calves and was produced in Pergamon (Bergama), Smyrna, Turkey, which was the place where Parchment was invented and where the name of the city is derived from. For this reason it were Papyrus and Parchment rolls which were stored here in this library and which became books on the shelves in later centuries.
Above the library actually is the ancient theatre of Sagalassos built in the 2nd century AD which is the highest ancient theatre in the World, set on a height of 1650 m in the mountains and be used by about 9000 people.
The theatre was not only a place for theatre performances but also for fights of gladiators with animals since archeologists found decorations on the stones at the theatre with scenes where gladiators and hunted animals were shown.
What another gorgeous view from this theatre down the hills. Imagine you watch a performance and you sit at the top of the mountains and look down and you have a perfect light -unbelievable how beautiful it was.
Today the site is so well reserved as it was left in the hills far behind and the stones were not used for new settlements as the distance was too far away. The city was just forgotten and sleeping for hundreds of years.
Sagalassos dates back to 10.000 years BC and went through a lot of civilizations.
The oldest known settlements were 6500 BC. The first agricultural settlements date back to 4000 BC.
In 2200/2300 it fell under the influence of the old Hittites and Lucian Empires. Shortly after 1200 BC the area was conquered by the Phrygians, the Lydians and finally by the Persians.
600-100 BC the city was hellenized under the influence of Pisidia and also under Alexander the Great who was passing by this region.
Under its first Roman Emperor Augustus in the 1st century the city was under its strongest influence as under his reign, peace and prosperity came to the city, the tax system was settled and the roads were connected to the sea, the population was growing. The weather was getting warmer and affecting agriculture in a positive way so that the city was economically growing.
It was the Golden age of Sagalassos.
In the 5th century a new era began when the city was christianized and the architecture of the city was changing.
In the 6th and 7th century 3 events caused the gradual decline of the city which were several earthquakes happening in that time period and a plague epidemy in 541/542.
People were living here since then till the 13th century but then disappeared from Sagalassos. In the meantime the new city of Aglasun very nearby in the neighborhood started to flourish.
The city was then lost from the 13th century till 1706 when it was re-discovered. In 1824 the name of the ancient site was found. First studies started on the site but then it was forgotten again in the 19th century as Sagalassos was overshadowed by the discovery of great other ancient cities in Anatolia at the coastline.
Finally it was Prof. Marc Waelkens who started in research campaigns on Sagalassos in 1986 and started his excavations in the 1990s. The ancient city was covered under the vast vegetation of the region and was lying under erosion layers and was perfectly reserved due to its location in the mountains far from any civilization, even today it is one of the best reserved ancient sites at the Mediterranean coastline.
After having strolled around in the historical site and fully enjoyed it we leave to visit the Museum of Burdur to have a look at the historical founds of Sagalassos that are collected and presented over there.
The visit to the ancient city of Sagalassos was absolutely too short – there is so much more to discover and to see at this wonderful place in the mountains. I am looking forward to visit this site again the soonest with planning a little bit more of time !