The Byzantine Fortifications: Fortification Gate 1

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The site known as Fortification Gate 1 consists of two tower-like structures situated on both sides of the main north-south Colonnaded Street of Sagalassos. They are connected by an almost 10 m long solid wall which permanently stopped all traffic over this street. Both the eastern tower of the complex as well as the blockage wall has been uncovered.

The eastern tower was bordered by four massive walls (max. 2.36 m thick) consisting of two faces and a dry rubble fill. The outer faces comprised many reused architectural blocks, often of very large dimensions, but of diverse shapes and origin. The interior faces were largely constructed with limestone rubble. The entrance to the eastern tower (ca. 2.96 m wide) was located in its southern wall, which makes it likely that the main core of defence of the city of Sagalassos was in this later period onwards situated on the peninsula with the temple of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, although habitation also continued at several locations within the old city centre. Additional arguments are the fact that the towers protrude in the direction of the old city centre, the use of larger building blocks providing large solidity in the northern face of the blockage wall, the presence of a staircase in the southern face of the blockage wall and the use of mortar on the southern face.
A floor of beaten earth situated on the same level as the doorsill of the tower could be identified. The north-western corner was in addition provided with a make-shift floor composed out of medium-sized rubble blocks, brick and tile fragments of diverse measurements and shapes. Against the western wall and in the north-western corner of the tower traces of hearths were still visible. This floorlevel had been installed on top of several compact foundation fills. For this purpose collapse material had been collected in the immediate environment and deposited on the inside of the tower. Inside these layers, a number of highly interesting metal finds were exposed, as well as a relief of a house god, a small square altar and a bone relief depicting a lying female and standing male character. In addition, we also encountered a massive statuary base, which must have once stood along the north-south Colonnaded Street of Sagalassos. The ceramics found at the bottom of this sequence suggest that this defence structure was constructed in the middle/late 7th or 8th c. AD.

Against all expectations, an older building phase was encountered underneath this packet of soil. Three rooms were exposed. In the west of the tower, two narrow rooms were interconnected by a low door. The eastern half was occupied by one large space. In the tower phase, this may initially have stayed in use as a cellar, since beam holes in its southern and western wall indicated it could be accessed through a wooden staircase leading down from the entrance of the tower.

Absolute dates remain very tentative. The oldest building could not yet be dated, as it could not be connected to datable archaeological material. Nevertheless, the building technique of its walls, comprising reused ashlars on the outside and a large amount of broken bricks on the inside, indicates it was constructed rather late in date. The defences were then in all likelihood constructed in the later course of the 7th or the 8th c. AD. For this purpose, the original building was filled up with a massive load of soil and collapse material that was no doubt taken from the immediate surroundings. The finds within suggest that they were at least partially taken from collapsed shops. This may also explain why so little remains of the porticoes and shops just to the north and to the south of the wall and towers. Most of the ceramics retrieved in the fill could be dated to the later 6th or 7th c. AD, so that it is very likely the area of the Colonnaded Street remained at least partially inhabited until that period.

The structure known as Fortification Gate in all likelihood belonged to the circuit wall surrounding the promontory with the Temple of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. Soundings executed just north of the temple delivered so-called “pattern-burnished ware”, the same ceramics found at the bottom of the stratigraphy within the eastern tower of Fortification Gate. Although the site is not physically connected with the circuit on the promontory, it most likely served as a first defensive barrier of this walled hamlet, defending a strategic point in the landscape.