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Basilica Therma (Sarıkaya Roma Hamamı)

Date of Submission: 02/05/2018
Criteria: (iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Yozgat İli, Sarıkaya İlçesi, Kaplıca Mahallesi
Coordinates: N39 29 41 E35 22 34
Ref.: 6350

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Basilica Therma is situated in the centre of Sarıkaya town of Bozok Plateau in the north of central Anatolia. The   town was established on a large valley 1170 meter over sea level. The reason why the town was situated at this very certain point is the thermal and healing fountain which has been running from the ancient times till today. Basilica Therma is a bath building which was situated on the deepest part of the valley. This Roman Bath that was built in 2nd century A.D. has been used continuously and this gorgeous fountain still continues to be a source of healing with thermal waters.

In the Roman Period, the town on the way from Tavium to Caesarea was called Aquae Sarvenae in virtue of this thermal fountain here. After the spread of Christianity in the region, a church building was added to the northern part of the bath. Consequently the name of the town was changed to Basilica Therma. Until 451 A.D Basilica Therma was   a bishopric centre. The centre of the town was a Roman bath and the town was surrounded by a wall about three kilometres long. The latest information in literature about Basilica Therma is Byzantine General Phocas’s victory over rebel Bardas Sclerus’s army. After Malazgirt Victory in 1071, this area had gradually entered into Turkish sovereignty. After Seljuks and Anatolian Beyliks, Ottoman Empire dominated the region in 1521. During the excavations held between 2010 and 2015, many pieces belonging to Byzantine, Seljuks and Ottoman Imperial Periods were unearthed. Especially Ottomans made great benefits from the thermal. According to a document found recently, the salaries of the teachers in Boğazlıyan in 1905 were paid with the income of the thermals. In those years the town was called Hamam Köy (Bath Village). Thanks to Roman Bath the village had grown into a town.

First information in the modern literature about Roman Bath in the centre of Sarıkaya belongs to French traveller Chantre. Travelling around Anatolia, Chantre saw the front of the Roman Bath in his visits in 1893-1894 and draw a picture of it. At the same time he pointed that there would be new interesting discoveries here. First excavations in Roman Bath were performed by Richard C. Haines and his team. He was employed by Dr. Von Der Osten who was the manager of Alişar excavation held by Chicago University. The aim of the excavation was to measure the existing remains and determine the boundaries of building. As a result of the excavations, a plan was prepared with surroundings on and around the facade of Roman Bath and excellent drawings was prepared to reveal the facade layout of the building.

In Roman Bath building marble was used for facade and pools, limestone was used for the inner walls. Today as main parts of the structure; a western facade, a large thermal pool in front of it, an inner pool behind the facade and a third pool on the east of it can be seen. There are two little semi-circle planned pools on the northern and southern sides of the 30 meter-long facade. Behind the façade is an inner pool which is surrounded by stairs on both sides and by arches connected directly to the large pool in the front.

The facade of the Roman Bath was built in the Corinthian order. From the upper edge of the large pool at the front there is a grooved column on the plinthos on the Attik-ion column, and a Corinthian head on it. Up to the head of the Plinthosan, the front of the facade elements was decorated on the blocks forming the belt legs in high relief until halfway. Since the half-column drums from the bottom column to the head are made separately and mounted on the facade, these pieces have been spilled and cannot be reached today. The belt line starts with a cradle belt at the   bottom and continues with a straight cradle belt, a double cradle belt in the middle, and the last belt is finished as a cradle belt, creating a symmetrical appearance. The upper row of arches is the opposite of the lower row. The architrave on the head consists of two facials with their upper edges ending with a bead row and on top of them are a row of eggs, a bull head-girlant frieze, and a block of ornaments consisting of an egg row. Harvest blocks to be found on the architrave are not available today. Only one of them was found in front of the half-circle poolside in the north during the excavations. The columns to the north of the Roman Bath, which may have belonged to a possible gate structure, partly under the modern city, and their headings were found. These column headings are of Ion Type.

The large thermal pool measures 23,30 x12,80 meters and has a depth of 1.34 meters. Pool water is about 45 degrees centigrade. There is a baptise stone with two parts in a hexagonal form close to the oval, measuring 120x140 cm and having a thickness of 25 cm and a cruciform relief in the centre of a concave circle approximately in the middle of   the pool. There is an inner pool measuring 16.00x4.00 meters with symmetrical ladders on its both sides. The third pool with thermal water boiling from the floor is positioned perpendicular to the inner pool. The pool is 15.00x5.20 meters with a semi-circular shape on its short sides.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Basilica Therma has been a continuous supply of hot water since ancient times without any interruption. It is one of the most important Roman structures surviving in the Central Anatolian Region from the ancient eras. We can understand from the carving of a snake-like figure (represents the god of health Asclepius) that this building is not only for cleanliness but for the healing. After the banning of paganism during the reign of Emperor Theodosius, it became a bishopric centre thanks to the church which was built next to the Roman Baths. In this period, a marble baptismal stone with a crucifix on the centre of the large thermal pool was placed. Pagans were baptized on this stone in the pool of the Basilica Therma and passed on to the religion of Christianity. It was a sacred place for Christians because of this feature. After the Byzantine period, Turkish people also benefited from this healing fountain. In modern buildings built today, people still use water coming from Basilica Therma to regain their health.

Criterion (iv): Sarıkaya Roman Bath is the only protected thermal bath belongs to Roman architecture preserved in Anatolia. There isn’t any one similar to it in Asia Minor. Big thermal pool is outside the building but the inner pool and the third pool are inside the building. Basilica Therma has been a continuous supply of hot water since about 1900 without any interruption. The two-storey arches on the facade, semi-circular pools on both sides of the facade and the symmetry   in the inner pools are perfect. The structure is built directly on the thermal source. Thanks to its stable foundation in water it has been possible for it to survive for nearly 2000 years. This foundation is not installed on a stable ground like a pile that prevents the flow of water. It is placed on a thermal area where water comes out from everywhere. This shows the high level reached by Roman Architecture with a strong foundation on a weak ground.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Basilica Therma (Sarıkaya Roman Bath) has been under protection since 1987 under the Law on the Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets. In 2013, the protected area was converted into an archaeological site area status and expanded to prevent modernization. After the first excavation performed in 1932 in this building which belongs to Yozgat Governorate Special Provincial Administration archaeological excavations were restarted again. The excavations continued by Yozgat Museum on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism are supported by the Governorship of Yozgat. During the 6 years of work, 3 modern public buildings and 3 buildings expropriated with the funds provided by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism were demolished and thermal pools were uncovered in 2014. 9 buildings on the site were expropriated in 2018 and demolition work will be completed within the year and excavations will be continued. With the work to be done in 2018, it is planned to unearth the basilica in the north of the structure. A master plan was prepared by the Governorship of Yozgat planning the Roman Bath’s future. With this plan, the principles for the structural planning for the Roman Bath and its surroundings, the development and sustainability of the region's tourism have been set forthcoming period.

Comparison with other similar properties

The most resembling antique building to Basilica Therma is the Roman Baths on the UNESCO World Heritage List in the City of Bath in the United Kingdom. Both buildings have similar large thermal pools. However, the Basilica Therma is not developed with largely retrofitted inserts as in Roman Baths. The facades and pools maintain their original state in Roman Period. The extensions made in the Byzantine and Turkish eras have been left out of the main places and the features of the building have been come without any deterioration today.