Roman spa in Turkey submerged under dam waters

2000-year-old Roman bridge almost submergedThe 1,800-year-old Roman spa complex of Allianoi in Izmir Province, Turkey is already halfway submerged under the dammed waters of the Ilya River. Flooding began on December 31st, 2010. By the end of February, Allianoi was already under an estimated 61 million cubic meters of water. You can see a desperately sad slideshow of the rising waters here.

Despite the best efforts of historical preservation activists, the government refused to budge from its plan to make a reservoir out of one of the best preserved ancient spas — still a functional hot spring — in the world. According to the Bergama Chamber of Agriculture, the dam will double the agricultural value of the area, irrigating 44,000 acres of hard farmland and helping 6,000 local families.

The Turkish government also claims the sand they covered the Roman structures in will preserve the site so they can just dig it back up again once the dam reaches the end of its lifespan (30-50 years), but according to Ahmet Yaras, the head archaeologist of the Allianoi dig, even if the immense pressure from the weight of the water and silt don’t damage the site, and even if the dam isn’t just rebuilt, the notion that anyone will just happily dig down through the 50 feet of silt that will be left behind after the water drains is no more than a fantasy.

Meanwhile, the hemorrhage of young people leaving the area for greener pastures isn’t likely to be staunched by the new reservoir.

“Irrigation is crucial for the agriculture of the region,” said Gorenc. “Eventually the salaries of the villagers will rise and migration to the big cities will decrease.”

But some in the village of Pasakoy, which lies nearest to the dam, believe it will not halt the current migration pattern, which has already turned many Anatolian villages into virtual ghost towns. “There aren’t people who want to farm the land,” said Pasakoy Mayor Adnan Celik, who has lost most of his own fields to the reservoir.

“The young people emigrate from the village and their parents and grandparents are too old to farm. The tourism from ruins would have kept them here,” Celik contended.

Colonnaded atrium with mosaic floor as the water encroachesThe economic potential of the ruins has never been fully explored. The ruins were only discovered in 1998 when archaeologists excavated the area in preparation for the construction of the dam. They found the complex in exceptional condition, complete with thermal baths, streets, insulae, covered passages, courtyards, colonnades and huge swaths of undamaged mosaics. They also found a hospital that was very likely used by famed 2nd century doctor Galen, the father of pharmacy and author of medical books that were held as the gold standard of medicine in Europe and the near East until Andreas Vesalius in the 16th century.

10 thoughts on “Roman spa in Turkey submerged under dam waters

  1. Because I’ve cheated and seen a vision of the future I’d heartily recommend sending in the Google™ trykes to at least get a virtually explorable version of the baths.

  2. That is literally sickening.

    It is. I can’t imagine the agony of the archaeologists and local people who used to work on the site having to watch, helpless, as the waters rise.

  3. Because I’ve cheated and seen a vision of the future I’d heartily recommend sending in the Google™ trykes to at least get a virtually explorable version of the baths.

    They’re going to have to be SCUBA trikes at this point, I’m afraid.

  4. İt is not only wrong action of Turkish governments this case. Zeugma archaic city and Hasankeyf historical city submerged under the dammed waters, too. Turkish archaeologists worked 24 hours per days on both place but they recovered fractional historical artifact. Archaic mosaics from Zeugma and one or two torso. Hasankeyf however, it’s historical artifact besides. İt submerged the waters all over.

    Non-governmental organizations, intellectuals and region people defianced to actions but governments followed one’s nose.

    Now, we makes to motorway and subway that join underwater the Bosphorus sides in İstanbul. Archaeologist finded a lot of historical artifact in here, too. Most importantly, they finded archaic harbour of old Istanbul. Our prime minister very warmed at this. He said to journalists ; “They are making late to one or two pots and pans. I am not accepting this flippancy.”

    And, this quoted passage, from The Economist;
    “Statues in Kars are not safe when Recep Tayyip Erdogan is around. When Turkey’s prime minister visited the city last year, the local mayor, who belongs to Mr Erdogan’s mildly Islamist Justice and Development (AK) party, sought to avoid his ire by ordering the removal of a public fountain featuring bare-breasted nymphs” (Jan 13th 2011)

    There are ordinary jobs in here.

    * Notice:
    In the same article on The Economist, say “the slaughter of up to 1.5m Armenians by Ottoman forces in 1915 amounted to genocide”

    Turks didn’t kill 1,5m. Armenians, never. Both of two people are victims to that bloody age. Certainly, many armenians people killed. But, never 1,5m. no. Really, when forced emigration, -granted that, Ottoman Government forced on foot- 300 000 or 350 000 Armenian people killed on way.

    When The Ottomans draw away from the Balkans, 3m. Turks to be killed by the Balcan’s people.

    That age was different from present. There were hard times for all Middle East, Balkan and Anatolian peoples.

  5. Ya know, I’m kinda torn in two about these sorts of issues. I mean, on the one hand, the awesomeness of such well-preserved ancient sites means they should be preserved for our posterity as a human race.

    On the other hand, we should be striving for the future. As much as I love history, I love science even more. (How can I not? I’m a computer geek, after all. lol.)

    AS awesome and great as such sites are, we are now living on a planet of 7 billion humans, many of whom are starving. While at the same time, scientific breakthroughs will continue to lead the human race into the future, while we need to be able to sustain ourselves in the present.

    I believe that the future is more important than the ppast. What is done is done, afterall. The importance of the past stems from the fact that it allows us to learn of past mistakes…learn of other cultures and so forth.

    I guess what I am saying, is that there needs to be thin line we walk in preserving historical sites, yet improving civilization. The US is lucky, in a way, that we can build improvements, such as subway tunnel extensions, dams, and so forth, without worrying about ruining history. Europeans countries are in a bad spot, because they need to be able to come up with ways to solve development issues, while preserving as many historical artifacts as possible.

    I remember an entry you wrote about how Rome was trying to extend their subway line. As they were doing so, they ran into an ancient amphitheater. Because that theater was in the way, they had to halt the project, plan out a new route, and spend a lot of extra money for the re-routed line that was already under construction.

    Now, I’m not saying they made the wrong choice (indeed, in this situation, they were able to solve the problem while reserving that amphitheater. It just cost a heck of a lot more money than was originally planned. But IMO, it was the right choice in the end.)

    However, one way to look at it is: That amphitheater would not have been discovered if not for the subway project to begin with. The city of Rome has an excellent tourist industry, with tons of other, far more significant sites as it is. We already know a heck of a lot about the Roman Empire (especially about the city itself.) I don’t think one amphitheater would really add a whole lot to our knowledge base. Nor indeed, to the tourist industry. (As I said, it’s awesome that they were able to solve the problem by spending more money for the new, unplanned, route.)

    The pros for the subway line: It would increase the ease of coming into and out of the city, hopefully encouraging more people to ride the subway over driving a car. This means less crowded roads, less pollution, less use of oil.

    Case-in-point: Our current president has a plan to build more high-speed rail systems in the US. As one example: One line would connect the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh going along pretty much the same route as the PA Turnpike (I-76). I-76 is a nightmare of a highway. Far too many people travel on a roadway that is so far out of disrepair, making it a dangerous highway to travel. A railway between the two large cities would reduce the amount of traffic on the highway. Obviously, this translates to less pollution, less usage of gas (oil), and would make the highway safer and far more efficient.

    If an ancient amphitheater were in the way of such a railway system…especially one that was unknown before the project…it should be explored, documented, and cataloged. But it shouldn’t force an end to the new rail project, simply because the pros for the railway would still outweigh the cons. Preservation of the environment and the safety and security of the people living today probably should get a higher priority.

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