Macellum

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Excavated since 2005, the Macellum (food market) of Sagalassos was located to the south-east of the Upper Agora, on a terrace at a lower level than the public square. It was built in the last decennia of the 2nd century AD by P. Aelius Akulas, a local benefactor who had received the Roman citizenship under Hadrian. The complex consisted of a paved quadrangular courtyard (ca. 21 by 21 m) bordered on three sides by rows of shops hidden behind Corinthian porticoes. In the middle of the courtyard, a round columnar building or ‘tholos’ (diam. ca. 6.35 m) sheltered a small fountain or a water basin in which the fish sold in the building could be kept fresh. During the excavation campaign of 2007, it appeared that, unlike the three other aisles of the Macellum, the southern side of the courtyard was not provided with shops. Instead, a single colonnade opened towards the lower city and the magnificent scenery beyond. According to the three series of almost identical dedicatory inscriptions found in the late 19th century and during the excavations on the entablature of the east, west and south porticoes, the complex could formally be identified as a Macellum – or food market – erected under the reign of the emperor Commodus, whose name appears partially erased on one of the architraves.

Around the beginning of the 6th c. AD, the Macellum underwent a thorough structural transformation. The rows of shops were completely rebuilt, whereas the porticoes surrounding the courtyard and the central tholos were maintained in their original appearance. This resulted in the peculiar and contrasted look of the Macellum, with its late 2nd century limestone pavement and marble columnar display hiding the rebuilt shops. Their architectural structure consisted in mortared rubble masonry alternating from place to place with horizontal brick levels. The walls also contained a substantial amount of spolia reused from other monuments. The individual doorways of the shops were for instance composed of reused facetted column shafts turned into door jambs. So far, four rooms of the west wing and five rooms of the east wing of the complex were fully excavated.

The abundant artefactual evidence retrieved from the excavations of the Macellum provides a broad-ranging insight on the goods once sold in the shops during the 6th c. AD. The ensemble of seven pithoi and storage vessels found in 'room 2' leaves little doubt on the function of that spatially isolated space of the west wing as an extra storage room. The large assemblage of items found in the three other rooms of the west aisle suggests that they were used for the retail and selling of luxury goods. They show that, in the 6th c. AD at least, the Macellum had become more than a simple food market. The presence of finely carved worked bone fittings and jewelry pieces, of utilitarian and decorative metal and glass artifacts (keys, locks, fittings, knives, rings, suspension devices, perfume flasks), possible fragments of music instruments (flute, tortoise shell), of table wares and storage vessels, give a good impression of the large spectrum and the quality of the goods once sold in the market building. Apart from the remains of antler processing, no evidence for other manufacturing activities has been observed so far in the Macellum: none of the four rooms contained the specific infrastructural equipment expectable in such contexts, as for instance basins, vats or other built features.