Requiem for the Ancient Roman Spa of Allianoi, Turkey
Tragically, one of Europa Nostra’s main heritage in danger campaigns has been lost. Europa Nostra has campaigned tirelessly since 2004 together with our Turkish members and colleagues to save the ancient Roman thermal site of Allianoi. Public protests and legal battles demonstrate the measure of popular local support for Turkey’s rich cultural and archaeological heritage, and opposition to the government’s policy of making these subservient to energy and water needs. Europa Nostra has consistently pleaded in favour of developing the site’s great cultural tourism potential. We won delays but ultimately we could not prevent the flooding.
In the closing months of 2010, Europa Nostra wrote numerous letters to the highest Turkish authorities, including a personal appeal to the Prime Minister by our President Plácido Domingo. We initiated a One-Line letter writing campaign among our members and contacts, pleading for saving Allianoi. Our actions brought extensive Turkish and international media attention to the misguided plans to cover the site.
After more than ten years of archaeological digs which revealed stunning discoveries of architecture, mosaics, sculptures and artifacts, as well as new evidence of Roman lifestyle and healing practices, the Turkish authorities called a halt to the scientific and historical research and locked out the experts and the public from the site. From April until the autumn, they covered the site with sand and at the end of 2010 they started filling the reservoir behind the Yortanli dam. Allianoi will thus spend at least the next 50 years under 30m of water and a build-up of an estimated 18m of silt.
We may have lost this battle, but this campaign did bring gains. In the longer stride of campaigning to save Turkey’s exceptional cultural heritage, the authorities will have learned that archaeological explorations of a site must be made BEFORE locating potentially destructive engineering works. Secondly, the vigorous Allianoi campaign acted as a rallying factor for Turkey’s heritage community and it raised general public awareness of the issues involved. Thirdly, the protests and actions delayed the flooding of Allianoi, allowing archaeologists to continue their work of discovery, longer than originally thought. And lastly, when the authorities moved to commence the flooding, faced with so much public outcry, protective measures were put in place which will hopefully contribute to saving Allianoi for future, more “heritage-conscious” generations in Turkey.
Euronews - Preserving the Future
The Guardian - Turkish dam threatens town that dates back to the bronze age
Eurasianet.org - Turkey: Roman Ruins Lost amid Economic Development
The Art Newspaper - Why the Roman spa town of Allianoi must be saved
The Guardian - Roman remains at risk from Turkey's dam building
The Christian Science Monitor - Dams power Turkey's future, but drown its rich history
France 24 - Ancient Roman spa awaits flooding in Turkey
Hürriyet - Allianoi is our business