Lower Agora

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Coming from the south, using the Colonnaded Street and passing through the Tiberian Gate, the Roman visitors would have arrived at Sagalassos on the Lower Agora. This rectangular market square, which essentially may have fulfilled a commercial function, and which may have had its origins in the late 1st century BC, was a display of the city’s wealth.

On the north side there was a fountain with nine niches, the Trajanic Nymphaeum. In a later phase, ca. 200 AD, the latter would be replaced by a smaller fountain, the Severian Nymphaeum, in front of it in order to make room for the construction of a staircase leading to the late Hadrianic Nymphaeum and the Upper City. This two stories high, lavishly decorated fountain was built on the north terrace above the agora under the reign of Hadrian in order to conceal the plain façade of the (late 1st – beginning 2nd century AD) Odeon. On the east side, an enormous bath building was erected in the 120’s and completed ca. 165 AD. In front of this massive building, a mid 1st century portico in the Ionic order, that was mirrored on the western side of the square dominating the agora, built on the western terrace with an early first century ashlar temenos wall around it, was the Augustan (simple pseudo-prostylos in antis) temple of Apollo Klarios, which from Vespasian onwards also housed the cult of the Imperial Family and in 102-103 AD was transformed into an Ionian peripteros.

As the local elite preferred to invest its money in festivals and games rather than in monumental buildings like before, building activities ceased on the agora during the 3th century. Later construction phases (in the 4th, 5th and even early 6th century) are largely confined to repairs and restoration works. By the 7th century, the continuous warfare in the Byzantine Empire, a general economic malaise and a series of disasters (earthquake ca. 500 AD, plague ca. 541-542 AD) had caused a great reduction of the population. The gradual abandonment of the city was initiated and by the middle of the 7th century the Lower Agora was completely deserted. The square’s fate was finely sealed with a probably late 6th century AD earthquake, with epicentre near the city proper, dated by AMS C14 on owl pellets to 540-620 AD (most likely ca. 590 AD). The porticoes collapsed and the agora was covered with debris layers and erosion material originating from the Apollo Klarios temple. During the Mid Byzantine period a cemetery dated to the 11-13 centuries AD was laid out on this slope.

Considering the fate of the other pagan temples in Sagalassos, the sanctuary for Apollo probably went out of use at the end of the 4th c. In the late 5th or early 6th century, the peripteral temple was converted into a Christian tripartite transept-basilica. The last phase of usage of the basilica area was tentatively dated to the Byzantine Dark Ages (mid 7th – 9th centuries AD), when a hamlet of the ‘kastron’ type, which Sagalassos had become, extended around the church. According to AMS C14 dating of the skeletons, the area eventually became a cemetery during the 11th to 13th centuries AD, the same date as the one on the agora’s western slope. The burials found on the plateau are all concentrated in the area south of church, which can be identified as a kind of “churchyard” cemetery and that linked up with the graves in the debris of the Lower Agora.

The Western Portico

The portico as preserved today consists of a series of small rooms that were encroached inside the mid to second half of the first century AD western promenade. In the late 5th-early 6th century, most likely after the earthquake ca. 500 AD, the portico and especially the southern part of its back wall were to a large extent reconstructed with the original architectural elements, but also spolia originating from other buildings were used. The ashlar back wall was separated by a nearly 1m wide alley from the temenos wall for the sanctuary of Apollo Klarios. In front of the portico a row of postholes was discovered, leading to believe that during the final phase of occupation, in front of the shops which were formed by walling up the portico’s frontal colonnade, an additional portico was made of perishable materials.

The Eastern Portico

After its transformation, most likely as the result of the same earthquake ca. 500 AD, the three northernmost rooms of the portico (E1, E2 and E5) formed a separate unit, located at a higher level. In contrast to the other rooms of the portico, they are not oriented towards the agora itself, but towards its north-eastern monumental entrance on the one hand, and towards the street between the portico and the Roman Baths on the other hand, and they are placed on a higher level. With the (late 5th-) early 6th century renovation of the walkway, the lower level of E5 (that most probably was the most northern room of the original, first century AD portico) was transformed into a cistern. At the same time, rooms E1 and E2 were built against the north wall of E5 and the actual entrance of the square was narrowed down. Upon excavation it was thought that this unit was a guard station, due to its strategic position and some isolated, military related finds. In depth artefactual analysis however, showed that the function of the room was rather related to storage, or commercial activities, although this does not exclude a military presence on the agora.
The water channel laid out in the debris layer is most likely to be related with the Mid Byzantine occupation on the promontory where the temple of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius used to be, which formed during the 8th-9th century AD the fortified core of the ‘kastron’ of Sagalassos.

On the other outer end of the Eastern Portico, several waste deposit units were excavated. In room E9, three succeeding layers, all illustrating different types of refuse could be identified.

In-between these outer ends, 5 other rooms were excavated (E3, E4, E6, E7 and E8, fig. 75). Layer 8 was considered to be a foundation fill, corresponding to the foundations of the walls of the first (1st century AD) building phase. Because the inclusions in layer 7 were distinctly different from layer 8 and 7 was considered to be a floor substrate. The last walking level was identified as layer 6, although it needs to be stressed that the layer in itself also comprised the foundations of later walls. In this way it also served as foundation fill for the final reorganisation of the rooms. Layer 4 was situated immediately above this floor. As such it contained material left behind upon abandonment and debris of the collapse of the roof.
According to Toon Putzeys, this complex served a private as well as a commercial function, being a thermopolium (a restaurant serving meals and hot drinks, rooms E4 and E8-the latter even being a kind of take-away shop) and at the same time the house of the caretaker/owner (E7). E3 and E6 were the preparation areas for the meals and drinks.