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Old November 25th, 2004, 06:42 AM   #1
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Sagalassos / Turkey

The archaeological site of Sagalassos is located in SW-Turkey, near the present town of Aglasun (Burdur province), roughly 110 km to the north of the well-know port and holiday resort Antalya. As a result of this location, Sagalassos not only has become part of most ‘cultural tours’ of Turkish tourism, but also has become a favourite day excursion from the coastal resorts. In ancient times, the western part of the Taurus mountain range, in which Sagalassos is set, was known as the region of Pisidia. Next to its mountains, a series of lakes form another typical feature of the regional geography. Today this region is known as the Lake District.

The town, laid out on south-facing terraces at altitudes between 1450 and 1600 m, is crowned to the north by a steep, and today barren, limestone range of about 1800 m high, extending in the east to the peaks of the formidable Akdag (2271 m). To the south, Sagalassos overlooks the lush, green plain around the modern town of Aglasun and, behind some forested hills, the vast plain where the modern village of Çanakli is nestled.

The inland position and mountainous character of Pisidia make the Oro-Mediterranean climatic regime more pronounced in this region, where summers are short, hot and mainly dry and winters colder and wetter than those in the coastal regions.

The first traces of hunter/gatherers in the territory of Sagalassos date back some 12,000 years BP. During the eighth millennium BC, farmers settled along the borders of Lake Burdur. During the Bronze Age, territorial chiefdoms developed in the region, whereas Sagalassos itself was most probably not yet occupied. This may have changed by the fourteenth century BC, when the mountain site of Salawassa was mentioned in Hittite documents, possibly to be identified with the later Sagalassos. Under Phrygian and Lydian cultural impulses the town gradually developed into a regional centre. During the Persian period, Pisidia became known for its warlike and rebellious factions; a reputation to which the region certainly lived up in 333 BC, when Alexander the Great experienced resistance in integrating the region in his larger strategic scheme of conquering Persia.

Pisidia changed hands many times among the successors of Alexander, being incorporated into the kingdom of Antigonos Monopthalmos (321-301 BC), perhaps Lysimachos of Thrace (301-281 BC), the Seleucids of Syria (281-189 BC) and the Attalids of Pergamon (189-133 BC). The use of Greek, the development of municipal institutions and the material culture testify to a fairly quick Hellenisation. After the Attalids bequeathed their kingdom to Rome, Pisidia at first became part of the newly created Roman province of Asia, then, around 100 BC of the coastal province of Cilicia and once more of Asia around the middle of that century. This political structure was revised in 39 BC, when the northern part of the region was donated to the Galatian Amyntas, a local client-king of Rome. When Amyntas was killed in an ambush in 25 BC, however, Rome decided to incorporate his kingdom once and for all into its empire and thus created the province of Galatia. The armies of Augustus introduced the pax Romana into the region, and this favourable climate would remain unchanged for centuries. Sagalassos and its territory turned into dependable and very prospering Roman partners. In fact, the control of an extremely fertile territory with a surplus production of grain and olives, as well as the presence of excellent clay beds allowing an industrial production of high quality tableware (‘Sagalassos red slip ware’), made the export of local products an possible. Rapidly, under Roman Imperial rule, Sagalassos became the metropolis of Pisidia.

Trouble, in fact, only started around 400 AD, when the town had to fortify its civic centre against, among others, Isaurian tribes. Yet, Sagalassos seems to have remained rather prosperous even under these conditions, and even after it had been dealt another serious blow by an earthquake in 518 AD, it was restored with a great sense of monumentality. The eventual decline was mainly triggered by the plague of AD 541-542, which wiped out half of the population and dealt a fatal blow to the old municipally oriented pagan culture. The last inhabitants finally abandoned the crumbling civic centre around the middle of the seventh century AD, when the socio-economic network of the town was shattered by another major earthquake, new epidemics and the first Arab raids. The transition from a farming society to pastoralism, mainly that of goats, eventually resulted in a massive erosion which covered the ruins of the abandoned city. As a result, Sagalassos, which was never looted in later periods, remained one of the best preserved ancient urban sites in the Mediterranean.

Last edited by Taha; November 25th, 2004 at 07:51 AM. Reason: Sagalassos / Turkey
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