Just over 100 kilometers north of the coastal city of Antalya, in the mighty Taurus Mountains, lies the ancient city of Sagalassos.The hub of the ancient region of Pisidia, whose people often preferred the secure embrace of the mountains to the vulnerability of the coast, this city’s birth amongst the clouds provided a secure position with commanding views of the surrounding mountains and nearby valley.
Prehistory to Early Antiquity
Sagalassos was a site well chosen for commerce as much as for security, however. The soil is composed of a layer of thin, water-permeable limestone atop thicker layers of clay. Dozens of water wells formed in this amenable soil, creating the rudiments for settlement, but the earth also yielded further treasures: clay for high-quality ceramics, metal ores, and fertile ground for planting. Corn, olives, pine trees, and fine red-slip tableware formed the basis of the Sagalassian economy, which grew as the city attracted wealthy patrons and the eye of the Roman emperor himself, Hadrian.
The heyday of the Roman Empire represented just one of the many periods in Sagalassos’s storied history, however. 10,000 years ago, the earliest inhabitants clambered up the mountains and settled in the fertile, well-protected pocket of land underneath the towering Mount Akdag. Over time, these early hunter-gatherers became habituated to the land, forming the first farming community in 4,200 BC. “Salawassa” was referenced in a letter from the Hittite King Arnuwanda I to a certain Maduwatta, marking the first historical record of what would later become Sagalassos. The city finally became established in its own right when the Pisidians, a successor group to the Luwian states, emerged from the Archaic period in approximately 750 B.C.