Bouleuterion, the church in the council hall’s forecourt and the portico to east

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The Upper Agora was the political core of Sagalassos. In the 1st century BC a council house or Bouleuterion was erected on a terrace to the west of the agora and had a forecourt to the north that could be reached from the agora. Little is known about the original layout of the portico in front of the Bouleuterion terrace wall. An Augustan date for its erection was suggested, since the 4 honorific columns, positioned on all four corners of the Agora, were placed after the renewal of the pavings in the first decades of the first century AD (except the probably early 6th century repaired western section of the square, resulting from the completely new monumental layout around the Bouleuterion Basilica, which has respected the original orientation) and the fact that the postament of the north-westernmost of these columns runs parallel with the orientation of the steps of the western portico. The oldest material evidence however, is the ceramics retrieved in the foundation trenches of an almost completely dismantled wall, cut out in the bedrock and dated between the 1st to 3rd century AD.

The Bouleuterion it self was a rectangular ashlar structure with three wings of seats running parallel to the W-, S-, and E-wall of the building. On the north, the structure was preceded by a courtyard. On this side, its facade has five door openings. The seats are interrupted by two staircases of 16 steps. In the lowest row, the seats at either side of the staircases are decorated with lion pawns, some of them only roughed out and smoothened. During the first three centuries of the Roman Imperial period, the building undoubtedly retained its function. Eight blocks, found in a secondary position originally formed four pedestals which had been placed inside the council chamber between the central entrances. They once carried bronze statues representing, from left to right, personifications of the “popular assembly”, of the city itself and of the council of Sagalassos. They date to the later 2nd or the early 3rd century AD.

Building activity ceased and by the late 4th – early 5th century the late Hellenistic council house had clearly lost its function and was exposed to the elements. As a result, the external face of its façade was dismantled and the material was reused as building material in the new structures. As such parts of the decoration of the former Bouleuterion (the weaponry friezes and the bust of Ares and Athena) were used as spolia in the Late Roman city fortification wall and city gate. In the 5th century AD the former Bouleuterion became the forecourt of a church, which was constructed in the former courtyard of the council house and was furnished with a polychrome mosaic floor and al fresco plastered walls. Inside the church seems to have been divided into three naves by means of square pillars made of tuffa blocks alternating with brick bands and covered with painted plaster. Lots of fragments belonging to an ambon, some of them incised limestone slabs, some of them worked open floral and faunal motifs, were found in the western extremity of the church.

In late Roman times, the space between the northern Bouleuterion wall and the western wing of seats was closed off from the rest of the council hall by a wall of spolia. Henceforth, this room was only accessible through the westernmost door connecting it with the christian church built inside the old Bouleuterion’s courtyard. Inside this room, a cross-shaped marble faced font was found, built against the new wall. Inside the font contains two steps in the west and east arm of the cross, while the southern arm has a drain cut into the floor. The marble facing of the font consists of reused marble slabs, mostly of Pavonazetto.. Inside the font, there are two crosses, one on the floor in red and green opus sectile, the other incised on the eastern step. Both crosses are inscribed with the intersecting words FWC (light) and ZWH (life).

The construction of the church on the terrace to the west of the Upper Agora brought about a complete reorganisation of this side of the Upper Agora including the agora’s pavement on that side. This reorganisation was not necessarily one event, but was probably the gradual materialisation of the new Christian faith. During the 5th century AD, the adjoining western portico (dating to the end of the 2nd century AD) was rebuilt, whereby two vaulted spaces supported the apsis of the church, erected in the courtyard of the former council hall.
The whole area of the original portico was thus subdivided into several units acting as shops or workshops (including two smithies in the two northern rooms). Whereas during this period the remains of the council hall, which had lost its roof, was transformed, since the early 5th century AD, into an open atrium accessible from the south, at some point in the early 6th century, possibly as a result of a presumed earthquake around 500 AD, the whole area of the west portico was transformed again. Henceforth, a monumental stairway established more or less in the middle of the atrium’s south side, gave direct access to the latter, dividing the portico into a northern and a southern half. The southern part was occupied by a multi-room housing unit; according to the enormous amount (hundreds) of small coins in its room facing the agora, perhaps either a shop or even the house of a money lender or exchanger. Even a tax collector for the many temporary shops/stalls, which henceforth replaced the honorific monuments on the square, is not excluded as owner/tenant of the house. The walls separating the former workshops in the northern unit were torn down, thus forming one long open area again, of which the back wall was covered with marble veneer, whereas recycled Doric columns on recycled pedestals formed the front. This 6th century AD ‘portico’ thus formed the back side of an open air water basin, whose parapets included many reused parts of honorific monuments previously adorning the Upper Agora. The marble wall veneer inside the portico had to reflect the water in the basin, so that the whole layout still formed a ‘monumental’ Early Byzantine fountain.
The construction of the basin, however, required the installation of a new water supply and drainage system in the northern part of the portico. In the later 6th – early 7th centuries AD, the area around the Bouleuterion complex seems to have been largely abandoned. The last registered activity in the portico building is the construction of two support walls composed of piled up spolia in a dry arrangement, filling the back sides of the vaulted rooms supporting the church’s apsis. After these vaults had cracked and the portico behind the water basin had partially collapsed during the massive earthquake, which now is dated by AMS C14 around 540-620 AD, most likely ca. 590 AD. These thick walls were built in an attempt to save the eastern end of the church, supported by the vaulted back room of the water basin portico, which at the time of the catastrophe was undergoing a renovation. The renovation of the basilica, however, was never completed before the structure was abandoned: the doors of the baptistery were blocked, the floor of the southeast chapel was removed but not replaced yet, and columns, brought in for reuse to form a ‘ciborium’ above the atrium, were lined up against its northern
all. The large amount of window panes in the debris layers were concentrated around the two rows of piers forming arcades subdividing the church into three naves. This suggests that despite the fact that the church was no longer in use at the time of the seismic event, the windows in the higher central nave of the church, supported by the ashlar piers, still had (at least part of) their window glass in place.

Before the whole area around the Upper Agora became gradually abandoned in the course of the late 6th – early 7th century, buildings (or rooms) were partially closed off and used as waste disposal units.