About a mile from Angora I was met by all the
English, and most of the French; and after having taken a collation that
was prepared in a house near the road, I was mounted on a fine horse
and went to the house of my friend in Angora. Angora is called Angara by the Turks, and by the common people
Engureh; it is the antient Ancyra; It was made the Metropolis of Galatia under the reign
of Nero, and so it is called in the inscriptions that are found here. The
emperor Caracalla having been a great benefactor to the city, it was called Antoniniana.
Richard Pococke - A Description of the East and Some Other Countries - 1745
Ottoman tower at the top of the citadel
The antient city seems to have been on the same
place as the present, except that in some parts it appears to have extended somewhat further to the west. (..)
Angora is on the west and south of a crest of hills on one summit of which there is a large castle; the city also stretches on the north side to another small hill, or rather rising ground, on the top of which is the principal mosque called Hadjee-Biram, near which is the temple of Augustus, and the famous inscription of Angora. (..) The walls of the town are about
1 mile and a half in length, and extend near half a mile up to the castle, which cannot be much less than a mile in circumference; it has a
wall across the middle of it, and a strong tower at the summit of the
hill, which to the north and east is a steep precipice. Pococke
Ankara has a very long history dating back to at least the VIIIth century BC. Its position at the centre of the Anatolian tableland made it a key stopping-place on the Persian Royal Great Route which linked Susa to the Aegean coast. It then became the capital of the Galatians, who established peaceful relations with the Romans. In 25 BC Emperor Augustus annexed it to the Empire and in the following period Ankara was embellished with temples and baths.
The castle itself is
like a small town, and is well inhabited both by Christians and Turks. Pococke
Modern Ankara is dominated by a citadel (Hisar) on the site of the ancient Acropolis. Its walls were mainly built by the Byzantines in two stages by Emperors Heraclius (610-641) and Michael II (820-829).
Details of the walls of the citadel
The present walls of the city are very ill built, and consist chiefly of the stones of antient buildings put together only with mud, so that a great part
of them are fallen down. Pococke
What is impressive is the fact that the pieces of ancient Roman temples and buildings are displayed as if they had the power to charm or deter the assailants. The Greek letters POMA (Rome) are still readable on the piece of an inscription as a sort of spell. You may wish to see the ancient reliefs which were used to build the walls of Narbonne. The row of sections of columns shown as a background image for this page and the icon "Roman Ankara" at the top of the page, both come from the citadel walls.
As to antient buildings there are very few remains of any. (..) The most curious piece of antiquity is (..) an
oblong square building of white marble, about ninety feet long, and
fifty broad; it stands north and south; the walls are three feet three
inches thick, and the stones are channelled at the joints. It is built on
a basement; and there is a cornish round at the top, both inside and
out, adorned with sculpture. At the distance of twenty feet from the
south end, which is open like a portico, there is a grand door, the
frame of which is very richly carved; at the same distance from the
north end there appears to have been another partition; and it is very
probable that there was such another door, and that there were four
lofty columns to each portico; so that the middle room is about forty-four feet long, and has a second beautiful entablature seven feet below
the upper one, which is adorned with festoons, and on each side below
it there are three windows with semicircular tops, about four feet wide
and five high, which have before them a grate of marble; it is supposed
to have been a temple to Augustus. On the inside of the portico to
the south is that famous inscription, which is the second volume, that
Augustus left with his will in the hands of the vestal virgins, and ordered
to be cut in two brass plates in the front of his mausoleum in Rome.
The inscription consists of six columns, three on each side of the portico, each having between fifty and sixty lines in it, and each line about sixty letters; on the outside of the eastern wall I saw part of it cut in
Greek, and part might be on the west side; I have reason to believe
that it was in about twenty columns; I copied part of it: The letters
appear to have been gilt on a ground of vermilion: Some houses are
built against the other parts of it. The title of the Latin inscription is in
three lines over the three first columns, as that in the Greek appears to have
been in one line on the east fide; which is a good reason to suppose that
the whole Greek inscription was on that side, because the Latin begins on
the west side. Pococke
The most important Roman monument of Ankara is the Temple to Augustus and Rome built at the top of a little hill at the foot of the Acropolis, on the site of a pre-existing temple to local divinities. It is known as Monumentum Ancyranum and it became important when its restoration led to the discovery of the text (both in Latin and Greek) of the spiritual testament of Augustus (Index Rerum Gestarum).
In 14 AD at the age of 77, Augustus dictated a short summary of his achievements:
The document was cast in two bronze columns in Rome and the text was sent to
the provinces to spread
the message throughout the whole empire. The bronze columns in Rome are lost, but fragments of the document have been found
at several locations across the territory of the Roman Empire. The Temple in Ankara provides the most complete text in both
Latin and Greek.
The document is split into 35 short paragraphs mainly dealing with military expeditions, of which Augustus often pointed out the peace enforcing aspects in line with his constant policy of highlighting the peaceful and religious aspects of the Roman rule. Augustus was also very proud of the shows he offered to the Romans and one of the statements describes a naval battle on the Tiber which involved more than 30 triremes and biremes. More than 3,000 soldiers were involved in the fight. Another aspect highlighted in the Index Rerum Gestarum is the number of public buildings Augustus erected in Rome without requiring an inscription making reference to his generosity.
Column dedicated to Emperor Julian
north west corner of the city there is a very extraordinary pillar, the
pedestal of which is raised on a stone work about ten feet above the
ground: That work probably was cased with marble, which might have an inscription on it, and be adorned with reliefs; the shaft is about
four feet in diameter, and is composed of fifteen stones, each being
two feet deep; it is worked all round horizontally with convex and
concave members, which are about an eighth of a circle, divided
by lifts, all those members being three inches wide; the capital
consists of four plain circles something like paterae, with leaves on
each side of them, the work above this somewhat resembling a Tuscan capital: The style of the shaft has no bad effect; but the capital is rather in a Gothic taste: It may be supposed that this pillar was
erected to the honour of the emperor Julian, when he passed through
Ancyra from Parthia, there being an inscription to his honour in the
castle walls. Pococke
Turkey was the birthplace of some of the earliest Christian communities (e.g. Antioch). At the time of the recognition of Christianity by Emperor Constantine (Edict of Milan, 313 AD) most of the coastal areas of Turkey were largely Christian. The inhabitants of the Anatolian tableland however kept their allegiance to the pagan gods for some time. This explains why Ankara erected a column to celebrate Emperor Julian the Apostate, the last heir of Constantine, who attempted to restore paganism and who visited Ankara in 362 during his campaign against the Sassanid rulers of Persia. Today storks have built their nest on the top of the column (that is not uncommon in Turkey; see the Temple of the Storks in Silifke).
(above) Hypocaust (heating system) of the Roman Baths; (right) Roman ruins
The greatest part of the antient buildings were of an ash-coloured marble with veins of white in it, which are brought from the mountains to the south east, where I saw also a great quantity of red
marble streaked with white: Most of the capitals here are of the Corinthian order. Pococke
As usual, public baths were a focal point of Roman social life. The ruins of the Roman baths of Ankara provide an interesting example of how the Romans built hollow spaces below the pavement of the various halls to provide them with uniform heating. The area of the baths is today an open air museum where the Turkish authorities have displayed ruins of temples and other Roman buildings found in different locations in Ankara. By the number of capitals, columns, funerary inscriptions, etc. one understands the size and the importance of Roman Ankara. A saying referred to Rome could be applied to Ankara: "Quanta Ankara fuit, ipsa ruina docet" (how great Ankara was, its ruins tell it by themselves).
Museum of Anatolian Civilizations: (left) column with inscription celebrating Emperor Septimius Severus; (centre) detail of a sarcophagus; (right) Museum of the Roman Baths: funerary inscription
The "must see" of any visit to Ankara is the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, a journey into the very first days of mankind. The Museum has also an interesting section dedicated to Roman Ankara. The funerary inscription at the Museum of Roman Baths tells us that the L. Pontius Seneca decurio (leader of 10 cavalrymen) in the Vth Legion, died at the age of 32.
The great staple commodity of the place is the yarn of
the fine Angora goats wool, and the manufactures of it. These goats are peculiar to the country for about thirty miles round Angora, insomuch that if they are carried to another place they degenerate; They are very
beautiful goats, mostly white, but some are of an ash colour, and very
few black; the hair or wool grows in long curled ringlets; some of it is
even a foot in length, the finest is that of kids of a year or two old,
and when they are about sixteen years old, it grows coarse, and in a
manner turns to hair; it is so exceedingly fine that the most experienced
persons could not know it from silk, but by the touch. Pococke
In 1923 MustafÓ Kemal, as part of his nation building effort, selected the town of Ankara as capital of the newly founded Republic of Turkey. The decision to abandon "Konstantiniye" (Constantinople, which was a few years later officially renamed Istanbul, a word of Greek origin meaning "this is the town") was due to both military (Istanbul was too close to the border with Greece and Bulgaria) and ideological reasons (the young Republic of Turkey was not to be confused with the decaying Ottoman Empire).
At the time, Ankara had a population of 30,000 and was known only for its declining textile industry based on the Angora goat. Today Ankara is a very modern city with boulevards which resemble those of Paris, many gardens and statues and it seems totally projected into the future.
You may find useful to locate the Roman monuments shown in this page in a map of today's Ankara (opens in another window) which has been created by Ferhat Akgul, Assistant Prof. of Engineering at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey.