Emperor Hadrian’s Favourite Galatian City Throwing Up Archaeological Treasures

Sagalassos, the first city of the Roman province of Galatia (present-day southwestern Turkey)

The archaeological dig at Sagalassos in present-day southwestern Turkey is uncovering some real treasures.

Last year, a massive statue of Emperor Hadrian was uncovered. This week a colossal marble head of Faustina the Elder was found by archaeologists.

Sagalassos is in present-day southwestern Turkey

Some background on Sagalassos:

Sagalassos is an archaeological site in southwestern Turkey, about 100 km north of Antalya (ancient Attaleia), and 30 km from Burdur and Isparta. The ancient ruins of Sagalassos are 7 km from Ağlasun in the province of Burdur, on Mount Akdağ, in the Western Toros mountain range, at an altitude of 1450-1700 metres. In Roman Imperial times, the town was known as the ‘first city of Pisidia’, a region in the western Taurus mountains, currently known as the Turkish Lakes Region.

The Roman Empire absorbed Pisidia after the Attalids and it became part of province of Asia. In 39 BCE it was handed out to Galatian client king Amyntas but after he was killed in 25 BCE, Rome turned Pisidia into the province of Galatia. Under the Roman Empire, Sagalassos became the important urban center of Pisidia, particularly favoured by the Emperor Hadrian, who named it the “first city” of the province and the center of the imperial cult. Contemporary buildings have a fully Roman character.

Around 400 CE Sagalassos was fortified for defence. An earthquake devastated it in 518 and a plague circa 541-543 halved the local population. Arab raids threatened the town around 640 and after another earthquake destroyed the town in the middle of the seventh century, the site was abandoned. The populace probably resettled in the valley. Excavations have found only signs of a fortified monastery — possibly a religious community, which was destroyed in the twelfth century. Sagalassos disappeared from the records.

In the following centuries, erosion covered the ruins of Sagalassos. It was not looted in significant extent, possibly because of its location.

On the current dig:

From 1990 Sagalassos, a major tourist site, has become a major excavation project led by Marc Waelkens of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. The monumental city center is now exposed; four major restoration projects are (nearly) completed. The project also undertakes an intensive urban and geophysical survey, excavations in the domestic and industrial areas, and an intensive survey of the territory. The first survey documents a thousand years of occupation — from Alexander the Great to the seventh century — while the latter has established the changing settlement patterns, the vegetation history and farming practices, the landscape formation and climatic changes during the last 10,000 years.

On August 9, 2007, the press reported the discovery of a finely detailed, colossal statue of the Emperor Hadrian, which is thought to have been stood 4-5m in height. The statue dates to the early part of Hadrian’s reign, and depicts the emperor in military garb. It was carved in sections that were fitted together with marble tenons on the site, which was a thermae, a public bath. A major earthquake sometime between the late sixth and early seventh centuries CE brought the vaulting crashing down; the statue of Hadrian was felled, coming apart along the joins of its facture. The discovery of carved marble toes drilled with dowel holes to fasten them to the hem of a long mantle suggests the possibility of finding a companion sculpture of Sabina, the emperor’s consort.

Here is the official website of the Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project. You’ll find a selection of photos from the dig.

Faustina the Elder (AD 100-141)

Faustina the Elder
The marble bust of Faustina the Elder, uncovered at Sagalassos

Annia Galeria Faustina, more familiarly referred to as Faustina the Elder (Latin: Faustina Major; born September 21 about 100, died 141), was a Roman Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius.

Faustina was the only daughter of consul and prefect Marcus Annius Verus and Rupilia Faustina. Her younger brothers were consul Marcus Annius Libo and praetor Marcus Annius Verus. Her maternal aunts were Matidia Minor, Roman Empress Vibia Sabina and Rupilia Annia. Her paternal grandfather had the same name as her father and her maternal grandparents were Salonina Matidia (niece of Roman Emperor Trajan) and consul Lucius Scribonius Libo Rupilio Frugi or Bonus. As far it is known, she seems to be the only known granddaughter to Salonina Matidia. Faustina was born and raised in Rome.

On July 10, 138, her uncle emperor Hadrian had died and her husband became the new emperor. Antoninus was Hadrian’s adopted son and heir. Faustina became Roman Empress and the senate accorded her the title of Augusta. Faustina as an empress was well respected and this beautiful woman was renowned for her wisdom. The Augustan History impugned her character, criticizing her as having “excessive frankness” and “levity”. However, this doesn’t appear to be the case with her character. Throughout her life, Faustina – as a private citizen and an empress – was involved in assisting with charities, assisting the poor, and sponsoring and assisting in the education of Roman children, particularly of Roman girls.

She can be viewed as one of the most moral, stable and respected empresses in the history of the Roman Empire. When Faustina died, Antoninus was in complete mourning for Faustina.

Emperor Hadrian (AD 76-138)

The Statue of Emperor Hadrian found in Sagalassos

Publius Aelius Hadrianus (January 24, 76 – July 10, 138), as emperor Imperator Caesar Divi Traiani filius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, and Divus Hadrianus after his apotheosis, known as Hadrian in English, was emperor of Rome from 117 to 138 AD, as well as a Stoic and Epicurean philosopher. A member of the gens Aelia, Hadrian was the third of the Five Good Emperors, or the second of the recently proposed ulpio-aelian dynasty. His reign had a faltering beginning, a glorious middle, and a tragic conclusion.

click this link to read more about Emperor Hadrian.

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