After years of isolation, Turkish Lakeland has been discovered by birdwatchers, trekkers and skiers, and many tourists now stop off en route from Cappadocia and Konya to the south coast around Antalya or Fethiye. Facilities are quickly improving, especially in Eğirdir, but the area as a whole remains unspoiled by tourism, making it ideal for quiet, unhurried holidays away from the seething coastal resorts. As well as the eye-catching lakes themselves, it holds the remains of Pisidian cities (notably at Sagalassos and Antioch ad Pisidiam), and the provincial town of Afyon, a popular winter destination with its acclaimed thermal spa hotels.
Despite Lakeland’s inhospitable nature, it has been populated as long as anywhere in Anatolia. In early Paleolithic times, the lakes provided a livelihood for primitive hunters and fishermen, and during the Bronze Age, the Hittites, a race who once rivalled the Egyptians, chose the plateau as their homeland.
By the early historical period, northern Lakeland had been settled by the Pisidians, mountain people who sold their services as mercenaries throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Their strategically situated settlements were difficult to subdue, and Xenophon described them as perennially obstinate troublemakers, who succeeded in keeping their towns independent despite the continuing encroachments of the Persian Empire.Read More
The site of Sagalassos is well labelled, with illustrations that show the buildings in their original state. The 96m-wide theatre, right of the entrance, remains much as the 244 AD earthquake left it, with seating mostly in place, but the stage building rather more wrecked. Two restored nymphaea (fountain-houses) here have retained their floor mosaic almost intact, along with the alcoves and a major inscription. Walking west you come to the upper agora, of which the second, huge nymphaeum formed one side. Two ceremonial arches opened off, and a pagoda-like monument stood in the centre.
Just above, north of the upper agora, a Doric temple of the second century BC is incorporated into the city walls. As you walk down from the upper agora, you’ll see fragments of beautiful Roman friezes laid out like a giant jigsaw. Below the main track is the lower agora and adjacent baths; earthenware pipes and hypocausts reveal how water was distributed and heated. A temple with Corinthian columns dedicated to Antonius Pius stands beyond this area, while straight ahead down the steps are the necropolis and a hill that locals say is the site of an Alexander monument – they believe a gold statue dedicated to Alexander is waiting to be discovered.
Antioch ad Pisidiam
Antioch ad Pisidiam
The ancient city of Antioch ad Pisidiam is where the apostle St Paul first attempted to convert pagans to Christianity. Originally a Hellenistic foundation of the late third century BC, the city peaked as the capital of the Roman province of Pisidia, and remained important well into Byzantine times.
The most unusual surviving remains are of the sizeable temple, at the highest point of the city, built in a semicircular colonnaded precinct in honour of the Emperor Augustus. Below this is the toppled three-arched propylon (gateway) dedicated to Augustus, where the Tiberius and Augustus squares meet. Even more substantial are the remains of the baths fed by an aqueduct and surviving sections of a flagged Roman street.
At the lower end of the site, a few courses of monumental stone blocks belonging to the fourth-century Church of St Paul (on the site of the synagogue) still stand, but little else can be seen except for the ground plan and some small areas of mosaic floor.