Anatolian Civilizations

During the Hellenic Period, when the Pergamum King Attalos II turned over his territory to the Romans in 133 B.C., Rome gained control over Anatolia. In addition to the immense territory around the Mediterranean that they governed, the Romans had also established rich city-states in regions such as Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Anatolia. Together with the Roman state concept came social, economic, and political conditions, which all gained large dimensions for art. As for the fact that Eastern Mediterranean cities becoming Roman states, they blended in with previously existing local sculptural and architectural traditions for balanced richness. Amongst the large statues that decorated the monumental buildings were figures of gods, loved, powerful leaders, and the aristocracy.

From the standpoint of trying to gain control of the other states, the Romans gave a lot of importance to Anatolia. The Roman Empire was made up of free cities. For this reason, as many Anatolian cities informed Rome of their loyalty and friendship, the Roman Emperors would pay visits to these cities. It was for this reason that Roman Emperors were perhaps better known in Anatolia than back in Rome. During this period, large buildings were being built in Anatolian cities, not on hills as they used to be, but in places supported with rows of arches. In the Roman period, many of the theaters were also built in the same fashion. The two-storied walls forming the theater stage were a characteristic of Roman architecture. In the Hellenic Period, the orchestra pit was shaped like a horseshoe, whereas it was transformed into a semi-circle in the Roman period. While magnificent theaters like Aspendos were being constructed, theaters such as Pergamum, Ephesus, and Priene were repaired and utilized additional sections. After 80 B.C., once the Romans had discovered central heating by passing hot air under the floor and through holes in the brick walls, they constructed large thermal facilities. Today, the magnificent Roman baths that can be found in all of the ancient cities were important from the point of their once serving as sports schools. The Vedius Gymnasium and Miletus Faustina Bath in Ephesus and the baths now used as museums in Side and Hierapolis are the best examples. In addition, the mosaics decorating the floors of the baths also reflected the Roman art of painting. Aqueducts were also a Roman invention.

The best examples of these architectural structures that once carried water into town from distant places can be seen in Side, Aspendos, Phaselis, and Ephesos. Another typical Roman structure was the Triumphal Arch of which there are few examples of these in Anatolia. However, magnificently constructed city entrance gates are quite common throughout Anatolia. In the Roman Age, the sides of libraries the walls of stage entrances, and especially monumental fountains were ornately carved and decorated with statues. Constructing roads with columns to protect people from the sun and rain was another Roman discovery. Examples of these may be seen in the ancient cities of Ephesus, Miletus, Side, and others. In addition to the previously constructed temples that were repaired and used, new temples such as the Augustus Temple in Ankara, the Zeus Temple in Aizanoi and the Apollo Temple in Side were all newly constructed.

Today, it is possible to view these temples and theaters in our ancient cities. The portrait art form was popular as a way of immortalizing historic Roman personages. Instead of the idealistic lines of the old period, the art of Roman portrait making reflected an individual’s characteristic appearances.

Not only were portraits made for the emperor and his family, but for those respected in society, clerks, and thinkers. Ephesus, Miletus, Pergamon, and Aphrodisias were all-important Anatolian sculpture centers in the Roman period. In particular, masterpieces that were made from the white and blue-grey marble quarried from Mt. Babadag near Aphrodisias were so fabulous that they were shipped to Greece and Italy.