Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.07.10

Stephen Mitchell, Marc Waelkens, Pisidian Antioch. The Site and its Monuments.   London:  Duckworth with the Classical Press of Wales, 1998.  Pp. 249; 144 halftones, 43 plans.  ISBN 0-7156-2860-7.  £48.00.  

Reviewed by C. Brian Rose, University of Cincinnati (
Word count: 1187 words


Jean Burdy, Maurice Byrne, Jean Öztürk, Mehmet Taslalan

Pisidian Antioch has attracted the attention of historians and archaeologists since the early nineteenth century. A copy of the Res Gestae was found here, and the town contained a well-preserved sanctuary of the cult of Men as well as one of the largest early Christian basilicas in Asia Minor. Articles on various aspects of the site have appeared sporadically during the twentieth century, but there had never been a comprehensive investigation of the city's topography and extant buildings. Stephen Mitchell and Marc Waelkens have attempted to remedy this gap in scholarship with this copiously illustrated guide to the site. The material in the book is largely drawn from the authors' site survey in 1983 and 1984, but they have supplemented their investigation with a wealth of archival material which is summarized in an appendix.

The first two chapters deal with the geography and history of the site as well as earlier attempts at excavation and survey. These are followed by chapters on the Sanctuary of Men, the theater and city plan (including walls, gates, and streets), the Imperial cult complex, the water systems (aqueduct, nymphaeum, and bath), and three early Christian churches. An appendix surveys the epigraphic and numismatic evidence for the civic and religious buildings at Antioch, most of which have been partly excavated.

The site is bordered by the mountains of the Sultan Daglar at the north and east, which resulted in a closer interaction with the cities at the south and west. Antioch was founded in the third centuy B.C. as a colony of Magnesia, and there is enough epigraphic and architectural evidence to indicate that the relationship between the two cities continued throughout the Hellenistic period. Funds for construction may also have been supplied by the Attalid kings as part of an effort to hellenize the area.

A Roman colony was established here in 25 B.C., with the settlers consisting primarily of veterans from northern and central Italy. As at other cities and colonies in Asia Minor, Antioch experienced a building boom during the Augustan and Julio-Claudian periods. Fewer buildings can be dated to the Flavian, Antonine, and Severan periods, during which Ancyra became more prominent, but Diocletian made Antioch the capital of the new province of Pisidia and this resulted in the enlargement of the theater and the building of a new porticoed agora next to it.

The site began to be explored and published in the first half of the nineteenth century, largely due to the fact that Paul had preached here; but excavation did not begin until the early twentieth century, with a team that included W. M. Ramsay, F. W. Kelsey of the University of Michigan, and D. M. Robinson of Johns Hopkins. Their work lasted only a short time, from 1924 to 1927, and during the subsequent sixty years the site was used as a stone quarry by the residents of the nearby town of Yalvac. Excavation resumed in 1991 and has been conducted annually since then by Mehmet Taslalan, Director of the Yalvac Museum.

The most prominent religious complex in Antioch was the extra-mural Sanctuary of Men Askaenos, which appears to have been in operation from the second century B.C. through the third century A.D. The Sanctuary consists of a rectangular temenos enclosure that frames a hexastyle Ionic peripteral temple. In the vicinity were a second temple, approximately one-half the size of the first, a stadium, and a series of small buildings. The authors compare the design of the two temples with those of Artemis Leukophryene and Zeus Sozopolis at Magnesia and suggest that some of the small buildings were intended for cult meals or banquets. Games in honor of Men took place in the small stadium, and statues of the victors stood within the temenos. Stone aediculae carved with the symbols of Men decorated the exterior and interior of the precinct, although many were defaced or destroyed during the early Christian period. The large tracts of land that belonged to the Sanctuary were probably divided and distributed to the colonists during the Augustan period.

The large sanctuary on the eastern side of the city is not well-preserved, and it has been assigned at various times to Men, Cybele, Jupiter, and Augustus. A Corinthian podium temple was framed by a semicircular two-storeyed portico (Doric below, Ionic above), while the porticoed square in front of the temple was entered through a triple-arched propylon. The temple apparently contained no dedicatory inscription, but the dedication of the propylon occurred in 211 B.C., and it was here that the Res Gestae were exhibited. The gate featured an elaborate sculptural program that would have complemented the statements in the Res Gestae: reliefs referred to Augustus, his conquests on land and sea, and the peaceful and prosperous conditions that resulted from those conquests. The authors argue persuasively that the complex was dedicated to the Imperial cult, and they propose that its form and decoration were at least partly influenced by the Forum of Augustus in Rome.

The date of construction of the city wall cannot be fixed with certainty, although the western city gate, which had been placed in the Severan period, can now be securely assigned to the reign of Hadrian. It featured the same kind of triumphal iconography as the propylon in the Imperial cult center. The large aqueduct and an associated nymphaeum were probably set up during the early days of the colony, and possibly the theater as well.

The descriptions of the monuments are concise and lucid, and the discussion of the Imperial cult center is especially valuable. The plates and plans are of a high quality, and it is relatively easy to navigate from one section to another. The appearance of this volume is therefore a welcome addition to the Antioch bibliography, and the authors should be congratulated for having presented the material so clearly and comprehensively. What we need now is a synthetic overview of life at Antioch during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. One currently has to turn to Mitchell and Waelkens for the monuments, to Barbara Levick's Roman Colonies in Southern Asia Minor (1967) for the history and inscriptions, to Eugene Lane's Corpus Monumentorum Religionis Dei Menis (1971) for the finds within the Men Sanctuary, and to Mehmet Taslalan's annual reports in the Müze Kurtarma Kazlar Semineri series for the latest discoveries. Some of these sources are difficult to find even in good research libraries, and there are still outstanding questions concerning the switch from Hellenistic town to Roman colony. One wonders to what extent the inauguration of the colony prompted a change in diet and ceramic imports, as well as farming techniques and types of sacrifice. This was a site where duovirs, aediles, and quaestors lived side by side with gymnasiarchs and agonothetes, and it is therefore an ideal place to examine the process of cultural assimilation during the early empire. In the meantime, Mitchell and Waelkens have provided us with a valuable framework for future discussions of Pisidian Antioch. One hopes that questions regarding the society and economy of the site will be answered in part by the continuing excavations of Mehmet Taslalan.

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