Sagalassos: The forgotten glory on rocky hills of southern Anatolia

There used to be a Roman city, famous with its ceramics and wheat at southern Anatolia. Being in the middle of marble mines, the citizens created a wonderful urban structure following 1st century AD. Here it is, Sagalassos…

Sagalassos is located in southwestern Turkey, near Aglasun town of Burdur province. It is about 100 kilometers away from Antalya and the ruins are at an altitude of 1450 to 1600 meters.

There are fertile plains around Sagalassos. Over time, they were included in the city’s hegemony. The most important of these plains is the Burdur Plain. With the capture of the dominance of the plains, the fields of agriculture that the city had had expanded, and thus Sagalassos was bound to the Roman road network in Asia.


In ancient ages, there were reasons for this. At first, there is security concern. Another reason is the abundance of water in the region. In addition, there are plenty of mineral deposits around. So people could make high-quality ceramic items and bricks.

The basis of the economy of the city was leaning on breeding cereals, olives and ceramic workmanship. Thus, Sagalassos has become a prosperous city.


It is likely that Sagalassos was taken under Hellenistic influence during the Persian rule. This transformation was accelerated by the conquest of Alexander the Great. Sagalassos became a “polis” faster than the other cities in Pisidia region.


The most important person in the history of Sagalassos was Augustus, the first emperor of Roman Empire. He did not directly intervene in the city, but the peaceful atmosphere established in his time provided the opportunity for improvement. With the roads built by the order of the Emperor, Sagalassos was bound to the sea. Thus prosperity and population increased. The elites of Sagalassos also adopted the Roman identity because of their advantages. During 1st century AD, Sagalassos lived its golden age.

The city had undergone a new change in 4th century AD. Sagalassos accepted Christianity. As a result, important administrative changes took place. Construction works that have been standing for two centuries resumed.


The three events that took place in the sixth and seventh centuries caused Sagalassos to become increasingly weak: Two earthquakes and an epidemic of plague. After these events, Sagalassos could not come to life as bright as before again. It turned into a small colony dealing with agriculture. In 13th century AD, the Seljuk Turks seized the city put an end to its existence. They established Aglasun near Sagalassos, which still continues to live.


400 years after the abandonment of Sagalassos, a diplomat of French Emperor Louis XIV found the city’s ruins in 1706. It was in 1824 that it became clear that the ruins are belonging to Sagalassos. In 1884 and 1885 Count Lanckoroński made first scientific researches in the ruins. However, Sagalassos was forgotten again besides the sensational excavations in Western Anatolia like Ephesus, Pergamum and Miletus at that time. In 1983, an extensive investigation was initiated by Stephen Mitchell in Sagalassos. In 1986, Marc Waelkens joined the board and later conducted the presidency of the surface survey lasted four years. In 1990, Marc Waelkens was granted permission to excavate in Sagalassos and conduct research on urban lands.

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