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Roman Ruins in Ankara, Turkey

Last Updated on September 16, 2023

Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, is a historical gem that was once a significant Roman town known as Ankyra. Today, the city is home to numerous Roman artifacts that attest to its rich past. Among these are the imposing Temple of Augustus and Rome, the Column of Julian commemorating the emperor's visit, and the remnants of Roman baths.

All of these remnants are near Ulus Square (Metro: Ulus) in the northern part of the city near the Citadel, which also has bits of Roman history on its walls (map).

This area serves as a testament to Ankara's vibrant history, offering visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and explore the city's Roman heritage.

Walking Tour

From Ulus Square, with its equestrian statue of Kemal Atatürk as victorious commander of the Turkish Republican armies, walk uphill, then turn left and walk north along a sunken portion of old Roman road to the Column of Julian (362 AD) by the Ankara Vilayet (provincial government headquarters) buildings.

Keep walking uphill, then turn left and climb the stairs to the Hacı Bayram Camii, a popular mosque built beside the tomb of the Muslim saint Hacı Bayram Veli.

Right beside the mosque is the Temple of Augustus and Rome, with several of the high walls of its cella still standing, and bits of fluted column drum scattered through the precinct.

A plaque explains (in Turkish and English) the history of the temple: it was apparently built on the site of an earlier (25-20 BC) temple to the Anatolian goddess Kybele (Cybele) and the Egyptian god Men.

Walk downhill to Çankırı Caddesi, the northern continuation of Atatürk Bulvarı, and the main thoroughfare heading north. Cross to the west side and walk north for several blocks to find the extensive remains of Ankara’s Roman baths:

Ruins of the Baths of Caracalla in Ankara

The Temple of Augustus and Rome and the Column of Julian are open all the time, for free. For the Roman baths, there are visiting hours and a small fee. If you have a Museum Card, you can use it as well.

Ankara Roman Bath Site

Between 1997 and 2001, significant restoration and conservation efforts took place at the Ankara Roman Bath Site, resulting in the creation of an impressive Open-Air Museum covering an area of approximately 65,000 m2. 

Within this museum, more than 1000 diverse objects were carefully categorized and displayed into main groups, including "steles, inscriptions, and architectural fragments." The steles are positioned on the south and west side of the Palaestra, while inscribed blocks, post-aments, and water pipe objects are found on the north side. The east side showcases the altar and other architectural fragments, while the middle part features the sarcophagus and a lion statue.

The exhibited steles predominantly belong to the Roman and Byzantine periods, providing valuable historical insights. The inscribed block objects, such as inscriptions and milestones, offer detailed information about various aspects of life during that era. For instance, these inscriptions reveal details about the establishment of an association for retired soldiers of Ankara during the reign of Emperor Vespasianus (A.D. 69-79), along with insights into the economic, social, cultural, commercial structure, and sportive activities of the time.

The site also presents well-preserved architectural fragments from Roman Period buildings, including a remarkable Nike Relief Block-shaped victory monument, capitals of columns, bases of columns, and other small architectural elements. These fragments offer excellent examples of Roman architectural craftsmanship.

To enhance the visitor experience, walking courses have been established, allowing visitors to tour the areas with ease. Additionally, environmental arrangements have been carried out to create a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere for visitors.

The Ankara Roman Bath Open-Air Museum is a treasure trove of historical artifacts and architectural wonders, offering visitors a unique opportunity to explore the rich history and culture of the Roman and Byzantine periods in this region.

The Roman Bath of Ankara

Discover the captivating Roman Baths in Ankara, Turkey, situated on an ancient city mound. These ruins combine remnants from the Roman period, along with traces of the Byzantine and Seljuk eras. As you explore the area known as Çankırı Kapı, you'll find intriguing remains of two types of Roman structures: a columned roadway that connected to the Temple of Augustus, and the well-preserved Roman bath and palaestra buildings.

These Roman Baths were essential to the ancient city of Ancyra, which served as the capital of Galatia during Roman rule. The bath complex, dating back to the reign of Emperor Caracalla, is an impressive archaeological site, comprising grand palaestra and enclosed baths. The baths were actively used for around 500 years and underwent occasional repairs.

Imagine stepping into the past as you explore the various rooms, including the dressing room (Apoditerium), the cold room (Frigidarium), the warm room (Tepidarium), and the hot room (Caldarium). The Tepidarium and Caldarium are particularly noteworthy, featuring a unique subterranean heating system that kept visitors warm during the chilly Ankara winters.

Large Bath (Caracalla)

Not far from the Roman Baths, you'll find the remarkable Large Bath (Caracalla), believed to have been constructed during the reign of Emperor Caracalla. This vast bath complex is an architectural marvel and adds to the rich history of Roman Ankara.

Balgat Roman Tombs and Findings

Another fascinating historical site is the Balgat Roman Tomb, which showcases a distinctive cradle vault design, commonly found in Roman tombs across Anatolia. The artifacts discovered within the tomb suggest that its owner belonged to a prestigious family, offering valuable insights into the region's ancient elite.

Exploring these historical Roman ruins in Ankara is an unforgettable journey into the city's past, allowing you to immerse yourself in the captivating stories of ancient civilizations.

The Excavations of Roman Bath

There are the Provincial Coin of Ankara, Amulet, Statuette of Attis, Statuette of Jesus Christ, and Statue of Roman Emperor displayed in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.

Ankyra Open Air Theatre

Another of the most important Roman works in Ankara is the Roman Theatre. This theater, which has a history of approximately 2000 years, is located in the Ulus district of Altındağ district, between Hisar Street and Pınar Street. Discovered in the 19th century, the theater was unearthed in the 1980s after long studies. Artifacts unearthed around the theater, which underwent a long-term restoration process, are exhibited in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.

Conclusion

You can include the Roman Baths and Roman Theatre in your trip to Ulus and Çankaya and learn more about Ankara's history. If you have an interest in archeology, visiting the ruins and the bath spread over a sunny area will definitely satisfy you. For more, you should visit Ankara Civilizations Museum.

 —by Tom Brosnahan, updated by Melike Kocaer

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