On the way home from a recent trip to Turkey and Greece (October 2022) Mary and I had a transit layover at the Istanbul Airport. During the trip, we noticed that a number of our favorite artifacts were no longer on display in their “normal” museums (grr). The signs in the museums said ‘on display at the Museum in the Istanbul Airport.’
Well, since we had time in the Istanbul Airport we sought out the new Airport Museum. It is on the second level of the transit area. After paying an entrance fee, we found ourselves touring the rooms with one other person. They have collected famous artifacts from all over Turkey, from the earliest periods up through the Ottoman Period. The displays are very “modern” and the rooms a very dimly lit—modern, but not too good for photography. Many of the magnificent pieces were on display were previously in local museums scattered around Turkey. Not very many non-Turkish travelers would be able to visit all of those museums, and so it is convenient to have them collected here. Samples of the collection follow.
Coffers, Roof & Capitals of the Nymphaeum in the Upper Agora at Sagalassos ALL BUT the blue pieces (I have shaded them blue) are original pieces that were found at the foot of the Nymphaeum and were used in the reconstruction (anastylosis)
The Turkish site of Sagalassos is situated on a remote mountain slope and because of this, building stones from the site have not been carted off by locals nor were very much reused in antiquity.
Thus, when Professor Marc Waelkens and his team were excavating the Nymphaeum in the Upper Agora at Sagalassos they found over 3,500 pieces of the structure and by carefully matching them together they were able to form 400 blocks and columns.
The Upper Agora Nymphaeum after excavation as the process of reconstruction begins. Over 3,500 pieces of the superstructure were found at its base and were carefully reassembled into 400 blocks and columns.
By using these reconstructed blocks and columns, and supplementing these originals with carefully crafted modern pieces, Waelkens and his team have been able to recreate the stunning Nymphaeum, the Heroon, and other structures at Sagalassos.
The Nymphaeum (from the same angle as the above photo) AFTER reconstruction (anastylosis) Click on Image to Enlarge
To view the reconstructed Nymphaeum, with water in it(!!), Click Here.
The famous “Library” at Ephesus was similarly reconstructed.
The “Library” at Ephesus after reconstruction (anastylosis) Click on Image to Enlarge
Of the many archaeological remains at the Turkish site of Sagalassos a good number of them are located around the Upper Agora. An agora is a Greek term for the large open space in a typical Greek polis.
The Upper Agora at Sagalassos See the image below to locate structures Click on Image to Enlarge
During the Roman period the Latin term forum is often used to refer to this space. In both the Greek and the Roman worlds people would meet here, goods and services were offered for sale, and on their perimeters temples to a variety of deities (and often emperors), law courts (Acts 16:19), council houses (Bouleuterion), monumental water fountains (nymphaeum) and honorific monuments (touting leading citizens of a polis) were common.
The Upper Agora at Sagalassos is no exception. It, and surrounding structures, have been excavated and partially reconstructed—thus allowing visitors to the site to easily enter into the life of the ancient city.
It was in agoras and forums around the Roman World that philosophers would teach their students and it would have been there that the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:17), Barnabas, Silas, Phoebe, etc. would have had the opportunity to share their faith. The term agora is used 11 times in the New Testament (9 of the uses in the Gospels).
Our Turkish friends in front of the reconstructed Nymphaeum at Sagalassos.
People often will ask me “what is your favorite site in Turkey (or Israel, or Greece, or . . . .)?” I have so many favorites that it is a difficult question to answer, but in Turkey, Sagalassos is one of my top picks.
Sagalassos is a magnificent ancient city located about 80 mi. [130 km.] north of Antalya. It was one of the largest cities of the region/district of Pisidia. Although located in a very remote territory it was conquered by Alexander the Great and it was near one of the ancient roads that ran from Attalia (mod. Antalya)/Perge to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13-14; 14:25).
The well–preserved Hellenistic “Fountain House” on the north slope of Sagalassos. Fountain Houses usually were built at the site of a spring but were not as elaborate as Nymphaea This Doric structure is partly reconstructed and actually is functional today! Click on image to Enlarge
Among the many well–preserved remains is a partly reconstructed “Fountain House” from which the inhabitants of Sagalassos could draw water.
Mountains in the region of Sagalassos Click on image to Enlarge
Sagalassos has been under excavation since 1990 by a Belgian team led by Mark Waelkens of the Catholic University of Leuven. Because of its remoteness it is very well-preserved and Waelkens’ team has made some outstanding discoveries and has been very diligent in the preservation and restoration of the site.
The Heroon (Funerary Monument) at the northwest corner of the Upper Agora at Sagalassos—Possibly honoring Alexander the Great Click on Image to Enlarge
A “Heroon” is a Greek term that refers to a monument that was built in honor of a hero. It is not known to whom this Heroon was dedicated, although a head found nearby looks suspiciously like that of Alexander the Great—but the excavators believe that the monument was built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus (27 B.C.–A.D. 17). Continue reading →