Roads and aqueducts need repair and even policing, without which the countryside becomes unsafe both through standing water (hence malaria) occasioned by bad drainage, and through an increase of bandits on land and sea. Even in the first century AD, Frontinus calculated (1980, 405) that barely half of the water leaving the sources reached its destination in Rome; and he names fields, shops, garrets and brothels as fitted up with fixtures through which a constant supply of flowing water might be assured. Lawlessness probably increased as time went on. Christians could take over some of the monuments, and perhaps convert them into churches - and there are of course plenty of classical sites in Turkey well-known because they are connected with the Bible; they could also maintain the aqueducts; but the lower level of population meant that large tracts of cities either could not be repaired for lack of personnel, or were ignored because they were of little use. In a few cases, however, even broken aqueducts could be put to use: near Seleukia in Pamphylia, a Seljuk pack-bridge leans against the structure as it crosses the river (16).

Theft of building materials

The robbing of building materials created more problems. It bears stating that even the smallest robbing can condemn an ancient building, if that robbing is strategic. Removal of the tiles from a roof exposes the beams, and causes them to rot and the structure to decay - a procedure sometimes employed by Christian Emperors in the West for the surreptitious "condemnation" of pagan structures. It is unfortunate, what is more, that whereas most spolia need to be reworked in some manner to serve a different purpos, roof tiles have always been amongst the most popular of spolia - for they can be re-used "as is", without any reworking whatsoever. Indeed, a house built today could easily and conveniently be roofed with Roman tiles, were they available. In mediaeval Italy they certainly were - in such profusion that scholars have suggested that there were whole centuries when new tiles were simply not made. Much the same might have occurred in Turkey.

Theft of metals

As well as building materials, searchers also needed metal, especially lead and iron, both used in cramps (sometimes iron covered in lead) to hold together the blocks of large antique walls. Both were amongst the metals in short supply during the Middle Ages (Lombard 1974). Where a wall lies dismantled, the tell-tale signs of pouring channels for the molten metal, often terminating in a double dovetail, are common; a similar system is to be seen for securing column bases, and then the drums of the column above. Usually, the metal has gone. For the same reason, few standing walls are perfect: searchers have gouged out the stone at the interstices of the blocks, leaving deep and unsightly pock-marks. At Stratonikeia the gymnasium, parts of the walls of which stand to five metres, are pocked marked by robbers. There was perhaps plenty of metal to be found in exposed walls. At Nyssa, for instance, the retaining walls of the theatre were half-buried long ago by a land-slip; and although the upper sections, dirty through long exposure to the air, have been robbed of cramping materials, nobody bothered to dig into the earth to rob the lower sections which, recently uncovered by the archaeologists, are perfect, and retain their original creamy colour.

An end to civilized life could come swiftly, either through earthquake or through sack and destruction; and there are plentiful examples of both, the best known being the Sack of Constantinople in 1204, which resulted in the import of marble panels and "trophies" to Venice (Demus 1955; Deichmann 1977-8). This is indeed all very depressing - the more so since such a complete breakdown of services is almost beyond the imagination of the 20th century West; but it provides an essential explanation as to why so much antique architecture and sculpture survives today in Turkey.

Characteristics of the Re-use of Antique Monuments

Re-use of older monuments - sometimes their refurbishing, but more generally their dismantling so that the building materials could be used elsewhere - happens continuously throughout history: a delightful example is to be seen at Sultanhisar, where spolia from neary Nyssa support a clock and some placards in the main square (SB3.4). But it presents a particular problem during the post-Roman period because Roman luxury living (for some) and splendid cities are replaced by a general decline of population and skill levels, and perhaps even of the will to build things anew. Destruction (especially of tombs) was rife all over the Empire, so much so that various emperors issued decrees - such as those found in the Theodosian Code. The intent of these was to try and regulate not only the pagan cults (gradually completely banned, of course) and their buildings, but all monumental structures. The fact that these were issued repeatedly in different places, and with ever-stiffer penalties, must mean that depradation was rife. The reasons for the concern of later (Christian) Emperors about pagan buildings stem partly, perhaps, from the desire to preserve building materials for their own use; but also, to be sure, because they valued the architecture of the past and the political statement which they could make by reusing it. Thus the first Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (SB4.5) would have been quite familiar, in both its scale and the nature of its structure and decoration, to any splendour-seeking citizen of - say - the Ephesus of several centuries earlier. The second and current one, of course, is in part constructed from classical columns and marble.

Early Christian settlements either converted Roman buildings or, more usually, made their own basilicas out of earlier spolia, often including pagan funeral remains such as cippi (e.g. Haidra). This might seem surprising: but in fact the Romans did likewise with their earlier monuments, as (for example) at Mustis, where (second century?) cippi are used as door jambs in a (fourth century?) civil building. In other words, the re-use of conveniently sited earlier monuments or objects is common throughout the once-Roman world, and might even be universal. An interesting case of reuse by means of theft concerns Bishop Antoninus of Ephesus who, in 400, was deposed for taking columns from the adjacent church to decorate his dining-room, and marble from the baptistery for his bath (Foss 1979, 52).

It is not the case that the reworking of older buildings is necessarily an indicator of contemporary insufficiency and hence of decline. This is brought home to us by visiting the magnificent - and well reconstructed - synagogue at Sardis, which was made toward the end of the third century AD from part of the palaestra of the great baths complex, without any suggestion that the baths were disused at this time. Equally, the magnificent Street of the Kuretes at Ephesus (and there are other similar streets at Ephesus) uses a whole variety of column types, capitals and bases, in a variety of marbles and granites: there are columns fluted (vertical and spiral) and unfluted, and of differing girths and heights. The same startling diversity is to be seen on the north side of the Marble Street, and on the Arcadian Way itself. This, like the 4th century renovation of the 1st century Baths of Scholastikia on the same street, must indicate re-use of other, older structures by the engineers (and hence surely their destruction), but scarcely an impoverished vision of what their city deserved in terms of monumental architecture.


From here you may also go to The Preface, The Introduction, Archaeology in Turkey, Building for Splendour, Town Planning, Roads, Water Supply, Aqueducts, Harbours, The Architecture of Work & Leisure, Religion: Temples & Special Sanctuaries, Funerary Art & Architecture, The Conclusion, The Bibliography, or The Table of Contents

Greek & Roman Cities of Western Turkey