Sagalassos – A Hidden Gem

Sagalassos – A Hidden Gem

Ephesus is probably the most well known and intact ruin in all of Turkey. Aside from that, none of the other ruins in this country have garnered much attention from tourists. To be quite honest, we didn’t know much about the ruins in Anatolia until we reached Fethiye a couple weeks ago. As we were trying to figure out how to fill our days along the Turquoise Coast, a little bit of research led us to the ruins around the area. Though none of the them were particularly impressive, visiting them did introduce us to Anatolia’s rich history. By the time we reached Antalya, we were armed with some basic knowledge of the region’s history, and stumbled upon the splendor of Greek and Roman ruins. We got to walk along the colonnaded streets of Perge, admire the beautifully intact theater of Aspendos, and soak in the incredible scenery of Termessos.

Today, we visited a hidden gem – Sagalassos. We had never heard of it before, it wasn’t mentioned in the guidebook, and it’s not offered by any tours in town. We only learned about it when I was researching ways to get to Perge and Aspendos via public transportation. When reviews on TripAdvisor mentioned Sagalassos and Ephesus in the same sentence, I decided we had to check it out.

First we had to rent a car, as public transportation is not as convenient – infrequent buses running on odd schedules. We picked up the car at the airport and drove the hour and 45 minutes to the remote little town of Ağlasun.

Shepherd herding his goats along the route up to Sagalassos

Sagalassos is located at 4500-5500 ft above sea level, and we were unprepared as to how cold it was. We were dressed for 78 degree weather, not low 60s with wind chill and overcast conditions.

View of the valley

Sagalassos was conquered by Alexander the Great in 333BC (after he failed to take Termessos). The city was abandoned in the 7th century AD after a large earthquake. Thanks to its remote location, most of the ruins have remained on site, and excavation began in 1986, led by Belgium archeologist Marc Waelkens. Since all of the stone pieces remained in close proximity to each other, the team was able to rebuild a lot of the structures, including the Antonine Fountain.

Gates leading to the upper agora
Where the Antonine Fountain is located
Close up of a working fountain! The water is directed from the Late Hellenistic fountain house located 230 meters to the east.
Admiring the working fountain
The statue of Dionysos is original to the fountain. The other sculptures are copies.
View of the upper agora from above
Fountain with a monument in the background
Beautiful friezes on the monument
The Hadrian Fountain
Located in the lower agora
Looking down the colonnade street from the lower agora
The basilica still waiting to be rebuilt

Needless to say, the Antonine Fountain is the pièce de résistance of Sagalassos. Ephesus doesn’t even have a working fountain. I can imagine that this place will start to get more attention as more structures are restored, but for now, it’s for the lucky few to enjoy. Unfortunately, we were so underdressed that we blew through this site in under an hour. Normally, Joe is Mr. Slow As Molasses when we’re wandering through ruins in mid-70 degree weather, but today he was Sr. Speedy Gonzales running from sight to sight trying to stay warm. We managed to missed the theater in the process!

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