ISPARTA – Doğan News Agency
An ancient city now located in a hilly area in the southwestern province of Isparta was once the site of gladiatorial battles to the death, according to reliefs that were recently found on the site.
“The reliefs prove that fact that there was a gladiator school in the city,” Professor Mehmet Özhanlı, the head of the excavations at the ancient city of Pisidia Antiocheia, postulating that the reliefs revealed that all gladiator games had been played there at the time of the Roman Empire.
An ancient theater was unearthed in Pisidia during excavations initiated in 1980 by Professor Mehmet Taşlıalan and his team. Reliefs were also found on the walls of the theater. Examinations on these reliefs, which depict gladiators and are currently on display at the nearby Yalvaç Museum, revealed that the theater was an area for gladiator shows.
Özhanlı, an academic at Isparta Süleyman Demirel University Archaeology Department, said the reliefs in the ancient city, where two legion units were deployed, depicted warriors fighting to the death.
“The reliefs depict gladiators fighting each other and sometimes fighting against wild animals. After Pisidia Antiocheia was colonized by the Roman Emperor Augustus, two retired legion soldiers were deployed in the city. We think that the gladiator shows were related to these soldiers. The arrangements and reliefs in the theater show that gladiator shows were played there,” the professor said.
Özhanlı said that although the theater was small with a capacity of only 5,000 people, its orchestra walls were raised to the caveada, the sitting area in ancient-era theaters.
“It documents that the gladiators fought against each other as well as wild animals. When we look at these gladiator reliefs in the Yalvaç Museum, we can say that all gladiator games were played in this place in the Roman Empire. Or we can confirm the existence of gladiators who came from other cities to fight in the shows,” the professor said.
The ancient city of Pisidia has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Age, with settlements having been built from the eighth to third millennium BC. In the 11th century A.D., Pisidia was captured by the Seljuk Turks.
The ancient city frequently changed hands between the Byzantine Empire and the Turks until 1176, when the latter established permanent control.