Ancient Roman spa in Turkey about to be flooded

Nymph fountain in situ at Allianoi (has been removed now)The 2nd century Roman thermal spa complex of Allianoi outside of Bergama (ancient Pergamon) in Turkey’s Izmir Province is in the process of being filled in with sand. Cranes and dump trucks manned by workers from the Turkish State Waterworks Directorate are filling the whole site — 17-foot walls, mosaics, colonnaded porticoes, the still-working thermal spa fed by a natural hot spring and much, much more — in preparation for the entire valley being flooded and turned into an irrigation reservoir for area farmers.

This nightmare has been in the offing for 5 years. Organizations like Europa Nostra and UNESCO have tried to stop construction of the Yortanlı Dam and the subsequent flooding of the valley, but they were only able to delay the project. The Turkish government could not be budged. Now the dam is built and the flooding is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

In theory this sand filling is meant to preserve the site so it won’t be damaged in the flooding, but the government is refusing to allow archaeologists access so it’s not like they’re going about this in a responsible way. The flippant comments from officials are hardly soothing.

Environment Minister Veysel Eroglu … said in late August: “Allianoi does not exist, it is an invention… There is just a hot spring like many others across Turkey.”

His remarks were roundly criticized while the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the European non-governmental preservation organization Europa Nostra and archaeologists from the European Union urged the Turkish government in a letter to preserve the “common heritage” at Allianoi.

But the game seems to be over: Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay quashed hope of saving Allianoi last week when he dismissed the idea of questioning the local archaeological commission’s decision in late August to bury the site for preservation.

“After all, Allianoi remained underground for a long time and it surfaced only during drilling works,” he said.

Professor Ahmet Yaraş, who excavated the site for 9 years and is now the leader of the Turkish NGO Allianoi Initiative (in Turkish only), is horrified. He believes 80% of the site has yet to be excavated and that the filling will, at best, do no good at all. Once the valley is flooded, sediment will build up quickly, so even if in some nebulous future the site were drained, archaeologists would have to dig through 20 feet of sediment to even get to the sand fill.

This isn’t the first time Turkey has dammed and flooded an area, submerging its ancient heritage. They’ve been building dams since the 70s to extend agricultural productivity and hydroelectric power, and sadly, preserving cultural patrimony just doesn’t seem to be a priority for the politicians.

Allianoi site, reconstructed thermal baths on the front right

13 thoughts on “Ancient Roman spa in Turkey about to be flooded

    1. Right? I mean, you can tell just from looking at the pictures that there are extensive ancient structures on site. That minister so clearly just doesn’t give a rat’s ass.

  1. This makes me very sad.. I don’t understand why they deny access to archaeologists, that proves the point that they know they’re wrong.. 😥

  2. Unfortunately, the Turkish is trying to erase any trace of their Roman heritage. It is a shame that the liberal Muslim is going to destroy part of what made them once, a great nation.

    1. From what I’ve seen, Turkey is making an enormous effort these days to publicize its Roman heritage for tourism purposes. They’re just willing to sell the more out-of-the-way pieces for money/political advantage.

  3. These Roman relects were under my father in law’s fields. My hisband grew up on this area and worked the fields above them. The family lost 8 fields and a summer dwelling due to the dam project. I was there last week and saw the setruction of the follding whihc has begun. The natural habitat hasd been destoyed and the ruins are certainly not being looked after by the sand. This is an international tradgedy and the Turkish government should be ashamed.

  4. Turkish government equals ASS! You wouldn’t see them harm a Muslim site huh wooooh that would just be so wrong . Bunch of wankers , surprised they don’t just invade Europe again.

  5. I have to comment on this. Everyone in this comment section, including the article, seems to be trashing the Turkish government. I don’t live there. I don’t know what the situation is on the ground, so take what I say with a grain of salt:

    This world of ours has a very, very high population of human beings that it is imperative they all be fed and watered. As I understand it, Turkey is a fairly dry nation, with a struggling agriculture business. There are many third-world workers who are attempting to get the local farming community to raise their productivity, but it’s extremely difficult due not being able to produce enough for export, since most Western nations already grow so much food in abundance, as to make food very cheap. Western countries, especially the USA, are nothing but a bunch of greedy assholes that care nothing for the poorer/drier nations on the planet. They care nothing for the environment.

    Like I said, I don;t know the situation on the ground in Turkey, but I would suspect that the Turkish government is doing its level best balancing preserving cultural heritage, with increasing agriculture production and usage of alternative, non-nuclear, non-fossil fuel, energy. For that, I would applaud them. Sorry, but our environment, and our food and water sources, particularly for non-European, Non-USA nations, should take superior considerations for those things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.