Street pattern and town planning

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As part of the doctoral and postdoctoral research by F. Martens the concept of the town planning of Sagalassos and the urban infrastructure is investigated by an ongoing program of test soundings, whereby between 1998 and 2008 sixteen trenches were excavated. An important contribution to the investigation of the town plan of Sagalassos is offered by the geophysical survey supervised by B. Mušič (Department of Archaeology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), which has covered an area of 15 ha until 2008 (magnetometry and georadar).

The monumental centre of Sagalassos was laid out on a succession of large terraces, which allowed distinguishing between an Upper and Lower town. The Upper Town was irregularly planned in Hellenistic times around the Upper Agora. Only from Augustan times onwards this irregular plan was “corrected”. From early Imperial times onwards the urban area expanded to the east, beyond the Hellenistic city walls, where a new residential area with initially cobbled streets was organized. Toward the south the monumental centre stretched out to the Lower Town, the buildings of which were regularly organized around a second market square, the Lower Agora, in the course of the first and second centuries AD. The prevailing orientation of the buildings of the Upper and Lower Town differed as they had been laid out perpendicular to the natural terraces. This organization of the monumental centre thus reflected the desire to comply as much as possible with the cardinal north direction, yet within the constraints posed by the local topographical conditions.

Also outside the monumental centre the organization of the street pattern was governed by topographical imperatives, whereby the course of the main west-east thoroughfares was determined by the aim of maximizing the accessibility for wheeled traffic, which was not self-evident on this sloping terrain. Therefore, west-east connections largely followed the contours of the terrain. Other -partly stepped?- streets were organized perpendicular to the slope, to assist the evacuation of rain and waste water. This was particularly well illustrated in the eastern residential area, where geophysical survey showed divergent orientations of the insulae, which -apart from the issue of the topographical determinants- also suggested a planning in different phases. Test soundings in this area confirmed that since the early Imperial layout of the area at least one extensive building programme of urban infrastructure took place here during the transition of the 2nd to the 3rd century AD.

The network of streets generally seemed to have been well-maintained into late Roman times. Around AD 500, however, Sagalassos was hit by an earthquake, which caused considerable damage to the town’s buildings and infrastructure. For the period between 450/75 AD and 550/75AD test soundings showed that some streets were rebuilt with a sense of monumentality, but with a reduced width, whereas elsewhere, streets were stripped from their pavement, exposing the stony substratum upon which slabs were normally laid out. Some of these substrata were the original ones, others proved to be newly arranged during late antiquity. A programme of repair thus may have been initiated, but was interrupted in the course of its execution or may have been given a lesser priority at some locations within the town. The gradual decline of the central municipal authority, particularly tangible from the mid 6th century AD onward, also affected the network of streets, many of which were ultimately encroached by private structures.