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If you want to take a brief stroll through history, follow the famous royal road that passes through Adada, one of the most important cities of ancient Pisidia.
Cradle of civilizations, Anatolia is criss-crossed by a network of ancient royal roads that have been used for millennia. And today’s new roads overlap the old ones because these are the routes that follow the natural geography of Anatolia. One of the most important of these migratory routes, used mainly for military and commercial purposes and noteworthy for its regular stone workmanship, passes through the ancient city of Adada. Consisting of giant granite blocks, this almost five hundred kilometer long segment of the ancient road is in remarkably good condition. Unfortunately however the stretch that winds to the archaeological site through a valley between two lush green hills has been crushed by boulders tumbling down into the river bed.
RELIGIOUS AND MARTIAL CAPITAL
According to Mustafa Büyükkolancı, who is taking part in the excavations, Adada’s role in history emerges in the text of a treaty found at Termessos. The inscription in which the city is mentioned documents an alliance by the cities of Termessos and Adada against possible aggression by Selge, whose expansionist policy was harrying its neighboring city-states, and other common enemies. The golden age of Adada, a Pisidian city, coincides with the Roman era when the city’s most prominent buildings were constructed between the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. Following Alexander the Great’s incursion into the Anatolian peninsula, the city’s men reverted to fighting far and wide as mercenary soldiers as their chief source of livelihood, as is evidenced by the many warriors’ graves found in Cyprus and at Sidon in Lebanon. Coming into contact with Christianity under the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire, Adada, like many Pisidian cities, became a center of the new religion. Continuing to flourish up to the ninth century, in time it began to wane in importance and in the period of the Hamidoğulları Principality came under Ottoman rule along with the rest of the region.
The ruins of Adada in Sağrak, fifty kilometers from Isparta’s charming Eğirdir township and 10 km from Sütçüler, lie spread between two hills, Erikli and Aktepe. Most striking among the ruins are the interlocking agora and forum, and a Hellenistic tower. With its twenty steps and capacity to accommodate 1000 persons, the forum was the area where the popular assembly used to gather to discuss the city’s problems. The stone-paved forum is littered today with columns, pedestals of statues, and stones bearing reliefs and inscriptions. Lined up from south of the Hellenistic tower at the end of the steps to the entrance to the city on the ancient road are buildings and defense walls from the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods and a three-nave basilica. The most important surviving structures in the area between the forum and the city center are a two-storey administrative palace, a market building, several stoa, a colonnaded avenue with its original paving stones, a small theater seating three thousand with a stage and an orchestra pit, a monumental fountain, a monumental grave known by the locals as the ‘bone tower’, and several temples. The three temples still partially standing today indicate a period of ostentation and splendor. The temples of Zeus-Serapis and of the Emperor Trajan and other emperors are the pride of the city. In the Roman period, a city that could boast a temple to an emperor over which it stood guard was accorded the title ‘Neokoros’; Adada was one of the cities deemed worthy of this honor. Unlike those of other ancient cities, the necropolis area is undistinguished and contains nothing but a handful of shattered sarcophagi. As evidenced by the reliefs found among the ruins, festivals to Bacchus, and Tykhe, the god of fortune, were once held here. An inscription adorned on all four sides with love charms, together with reliefs of Hermes, the god of travel and news, bearing a serpentine staff, and of Selene, the moon goddess with a bull’s horns on her shoulders, all of which were found on the forum, are displayed along with other pieces in the Isparta Museum. The most commonly encountered relief at this archaeological site is the three-legged ‘triskelion’ figure. Representing power and strength, this relief, symbol of the city and stamped on its coins, represents Megistos, Adada’s name for Zeus (every city in antiquity worshipped Zeus under a different name).
Like its neighbors and the other Pisidian cities of Kremna, Sagalassos and Prostanna, Adada is situated in a mountainous area with a natural command of its environs and the potential for good communications with its neighbors. There are other historic sites as well in the vicinity of Adada, which is 90 km from Isparta. Located in the Hastahane district of Sütçüler, the ruins of Taşkapı, known in antiquity as Baulo and Karabaulo respectively, Sığırlık, one of the largest fortresses of its time, the unassailable Gelinyutan Fortress perched high above the rocks, and the Sığırlık Gap ruins, which have been defaced by a marble quarry, are all visible from the top of the Adada acropolis. Yazılı Kanyon, one of the region’s spots of historic and natural beauty, is another stop definitely worth seeing. The ancient road, which was carved into the rock with such painstaking effort, is passable in summer only to the extent that the rushing river waters permit. Strolling along this stone-paved road and wandering amidst the waterfalls and ponds is a unique pleasure not to be passed up. A witness to time, the ancient city of Adada and its grey-white stones represent a cross-section of the millennia-old history of the Pidisian region. At the same time it is a major stop on the past’s journey into the future. In the name of discovering a different dimension of the archaeological richness of the Anatolian geography that is our heritage, it is a must-see.