Satala

On the road back from Aydin Tepe coming down the mountains, or on the road up the mountains heading for Trabzon, one passes a small archaeological site off the main road, and hardly noticeable.  But my alert colleague Mark knew about this site and while we missed it on the first pass, we found it on the second on the other side of a small town.   Sometimes finding a site like this is half the battle.  But when we got there,  the things listed on the sign had mostly done a disappearing act.   Yes there was still an aqueduct, but where were the Latin and Greek inscriptions and burial stones and the like?

Satala was an important site in the Roman period, an outpost where an entire Roman legion, the Apollonaris legion was housed, and it was a site once visited by the Emperor Domitian on his tour of ‘Asia’ and ‘Galatia’ and other provinces.   Mark Fairchild and I wandered all over several farmer’s fields looking for the ruins proper, and found nothing beyond the aqueduct.  Where had they gone?

n the category of ‘ask and ye shall receive’  it appears we merely had to wait until we got to the Hagia Sophia church courtyard in Trabzon.  For there, lying up against a wall in a portico in the church courtyard two pieces was the tombstone or better said the signpost marker for the tomb for a centurion of the legion in question, himself named Apollonarius  who served under Domitian.    Cool.   Good things do come to those who wait.  Turkey has so many treasures, so many artifacts, so many amazing archaeological sites undug, partially dug, partially preserved that it is impossible for the government to do justice to all of this.  Thus you find valuable things just lying around in museum courtyards everywhere, sometimes even completely unprotected.  It is an embarrassment of riches.   It makes you wonder why are they asking for some of their treasures back from Germany and elsewhere— they hardly have enough places to put them even with 100 public and 100 private museums.   Which brings us to our comic relief portion of the program.  As is well known, in Berlin’s museum there is a huge amount of Pergamon’s temple complex.  Even a Turk has to go to Berlin to see it.   Here is a cartoon from the museum in Erzurum (site of University Olympic style games and a skiing village to boot. The cartoon on the left depicts a Turkish tourist in the Berlin museum with the statue from Turkey tapping him on the shoulder and saying  ‘Psst I’m over here homeboy!’

In the same museum we also have this cartoon—an imposing looking ancient stele which when the code of the language is cracked says nothing more than ‘love’ love love’ flowers flowers……. love love love’!

  • Mark Fairchild

    As you know, I photograph every inscription that I can find. Then I process things when I get home. While going through my shots from the Erzurum Museum, I found five funerary inscriptions in the Museum courtyard that came from Satala. Satala was the most important Roman legionary outpost on the eastern Roman frontier. I wish we had more time to explore the Satala area. I’m sure there was more to be found, but we came up rather empty handed.

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