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  • Jason Borges

2-Day Itinerary for Galatia

The Roman province of Galatia occupied central Anatolia. The name “Galatia” comes from the ancient Gauls who settled around Ankara in the 3/2C BCE. Confusingly, the term can refer to (1) the ethnic region in the northern part around Ankara and (2) the larger province that came under Roman rule in 25 BCE. The boundaries of Galatia morphed throughout history. In the mid-1C, it included land stretching from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Then, in 72 CE, it became a double province with Cappadocia. Suffice it to say, the area of “Galatia” was often shifting.


Galatia is relevant for biblical scholars because Paul visited the area on all three of his missionary journeys. The most detailed account is of his first journey in Acts 13–14. This post covers the sites of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, as well as a few other sites of interest along the way. This was a 48-hour itinerary from my home in Antalya.


Pisidian Antioch (Yalvaç)


My first destination was Pisidian Antioch, the Roman colony established by Caesar Augustus in 25 BCE and the principal city of Galatia. The first evening, I drove up through Isparta, stopping to see the peninsula at Eğirdir, which has remains of a Byzantine castle wall. That night, I stayed at Oba Otel in downtown Yalvaç (average) and ate at Urfa Sofra (good).


The next morning, I scoped out the Temple of Men, the large 2C BCE sacred settlement dedicated to Men Askaenos, the patron god of Antioch. The site is located on a hill southeast of Antioch (here). The winding dirt road there takes 30-40 minutes each way from the city center and requires a vehicle with higher clearance. Because it rained the night before, the road was too muddy to chance it. Instead, I drove through the (dried-up) Anthios River valley on the eastern each of the city mound to visit the village of Hisarardı and the aqueduct north of the ancient city.


Then I visited the ancient city, spending about 90 minutes walking around the major sites, especially the city's two defining religious structures—the Temple of Augustus and St. Paul’s Church. On the slope east of the nymphaeum, a Byzantine church with mosaic and tile flooring has been excavated and recently restored.


Antioch, Temple of Augustus

At the Yalvaç Archaeology Museum, I was looking forward to seeing three inscriptions: the Sergius Paulus inscriptions, the pieces of the Res Gestae inscription, and the grain edict. However, the museum is closed on Mondays due to the local bazaar.


Pisidian Antioch to Konya

There are several historical points of interest on the road to Konya.

The Hittite water monument called Eflatun Pinar exceeded expectations. The 3,000-year-old monument still stands and impresses. Water flows from the monumental (7m x 7m) façade with reliefs of Hittite gods into the rectangular pond. Click for the location and more info. (As a shortcut, you can take the village road due east and connect with the Konya-Beyşehir highway.)


A double-arched Roman bridge remains along the main road, about 1.5km east of Yunuslar village (here). This bridge, along with the four Seljuk-era caravansaries, indicates that the modern road follows the route of the ancient Roman road (Via Augusta).

Roman bridge in near Yunuslar

A friend informed me about a Byzantine cave church and monk cell outside Kizilören (here). The small 10-11C cruciform chapel is cut into a raised rock. About 100m west is a large room articulated with niches. It is an animal stable now, but may have been a trapeza dining hall or other sacred room. A local farmer has blocked off three caves as cheese cellars. The church is accessible on the dirt road, but not impressive.


Around Konya


Coming into Konya, I wanted to visit the Roman fortress called Gevale Castle on Takkeli Dağ (official website), the southern peak that the Greeks named after St. Phillip. The entrance (here) features a nice billboard of the restoration work, but the guard through the intercom was unhelpful and threatened to call the police when I asked about visiting the archaeological site. This is unfortunate, as it would be a nice ancient site to visit in the area. Although Iconium was an important Roman colony, there are few ancient remains to visit. The Seljuk capital and modern city have been built over the Greco-Roman city.

Gevale Castle, outside Konya

I took the back road into Sille, a charming former Greek town with the restored 19C Church of St. Helena. I wanted to visit the famous Ak Monastery (aka, Hagios Chariton, Deyr-i Eflatun, or Platon Monastery), but it is located on a military barrack. So, no luck. Click for the location and an article.


That night, I walked around Aladdin Tepesi and noted the ancient columns throughout the Aladdin Mosque, the state burial mosque of Seljuk rulers. I ate at Nezih Konya Mutfk (pricey but good) and stayed at Paşapark Hotel (very nice).


The next morning, I planned to visit the Konya Archaeology Museum, but it was closed for repairs. Most of the best works are in the open-air garden, so I viewed them through the fence.


Returning Home


The next stop was the barren hilltop of ancient Lystra (here), a Roman colony built at the end of the Via Augusta. Nothing remains of the city, and excavations have not started. The 16C (heavily restored) Ottoman bridge entering town used some Roman inscriptions as spolia. The nearby town of Hatunsaray has a collection of ancient dressed stones and inscriptions in an open-air museum opposite the Jandarma entrance (here). I didn’t have time to visit Derbe (Kertihöyük, 2km north of Ekizönü, Karaman), a dirt mound with little of interest.

Ancient Lystra

On the way home, I stopped in Kilistra to visit Haç Kilise, a rare rock-cut church with external decoration. This Turkish village had Cappadocia-like rock-cut churches and should not be confused with ancient Lystra.

Kilistra

My route home went through Beysehir and Derebucak, stopping at the Kargıhan caravansary. The new highway on this route should be finished in 2023, making the Antalya–Konya trip much shorter. This route roughly follows an ancient route from Pamphylia into Galatia. Paul could have taken this eastern route, but more likely he took the western route along the Via Sebaste in Acts 13–14.

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