North-west Heroon

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The Northwest Heroon is a 14 meter high ashlar (made of cut stone blocks) monument built to comemmorate a leading citizen of Sagalassos. The monument is siutated near the Doric Temple. It must have dominated the urban fabric of the Upper Agora of Sagalassos and its vicinity as well as being visible like a landmark from almost all parts of the town. The term 'heroon' means, a monument built in honour of a hero. As far as it is known today, the Northwest Heroon at Sagalassos did not contain the grave of this honorable citizen. We also do not have an inscription from which we could learn the identity of this important personality. Together with most of the stone blocks of the collapsed sections of the building, the head of a large statue that must have represented the ‘hero’ was also discovered during these excavations.

The ruins of the monument were excavated during the summer campaigns of 1994-1998, by archaeologists Burcu Arikan Erciyas and Inge Van Damme. A detailed archaeological, historical and architectural research was conducted on the Northwest Heroon following its excavations. The results revealed a monument dating from the middle of the reign of Augutus (27 BC – 14 AD), with exceptional urban, historic and architectural qualities. These qualities provided sufficient grounds for its anastylosis, a scientific method to re-build it as much as possible using its original elements.

The building was composed of three main parts, namely the podium, the frieze and the temple-like main structure. As it was built against a steep rocky slope, a podium was constructed to obtain an elevated platform. Three steps (the krepis) on top of the podium surrounded the frieze section. The podium and part of the steps were found in situ (in their original position) during the excavations. The frieze and the temple above, thus the upper parts of the heroon had collapsed. The collapsed building stones were found dispersed around the monument mostly in well-preserved condition or with minor damage.

The frieze section of the monument was made up of large orthostats (large cut stones, set upright) of about 117cm high, carrying on three most visible sides of the monument a continuous relief of 14 dancing girls holding each other from the ends of their shawls. All of these blocks with carving were recovered during an earlier study in 1970’s and during the excavations of the 90’s.

The main structure that rose above the frieze of the dancing girls was a temple-like building. It was made up of a small cella behind four columns in Corinthian order carrying a pediment in the front. Unfortunately no pieces belonging to this frontal arrangement were found during the excavations, diminishing our chances to find a building inscription. However, almost all ashlars of the cella and the blocks of the entablature were identified.

Owing to its special construction technique, it was possible to identify the original position of each stone on the monument. The purpose of the anastylosis project was not to reconstruct the monument entirely, but to restore, as much as possible, the existing original building stones back into their exact position. The missing parts of the monument were only completed when sufficient information was available and with the sole purpose of making the installation of original elements structurally possible. None of the missing parts of the monument was reconstructed based on assumptions for aesthetic or didactic reasons. The original structural system of the monument was also considered a characteristic of the monument that should be conserved and therefore the structural interventions and techniques were chosen in a way that would not change the original load distribution within the building and allowing all parts to work as individual members. The few missing parts were carved using the same type of limestone as the original building stone. Upon a permit obtained from the Turkish authorities, the Northwest Heroon was re-erected during the summer campaigns of 2001-2009.