Back in 2012, I posted my first blog about the city of Germenicia located some one hundred kilometers north of Gaziantep in eastern Turkey (see: Ever heard of Germenicia?).
Illegal digs carried out in 2007 had revealed the presence of the Roman city of Germenicia or Germenicia Caesarea named after Emperor Caligula (in full Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) which covered an area of
140 hectares. The
terrain has been divided in 50 parcels and after almost ten years the land of 30
of them has been expropriated. Works have been ongoing since in order to
register, excavate and preserve the many large Roman villas and their exquisite
[Mosaic from Germanicia, at the
. Kahramanmaraş Museum
It appeared that these villas belonged to the local elite and military leaders and it is estimated that there are approximately one hundred such residences built on the foothill of the mountain. The mostly intact mosaics that have been unearthed so far are of the highest quality and generally date from the 4th, 5th and 6th century AD. They feature sophisticated designs using a mix of colored glass, marble and limestone tesserae, deploying even three-dimensional effects. The quality of these mosaics is unusual because of their realism and their details ranging from architectural representations to scenes of daily life.
The Romans were not the first to occupy the region. Earlier settlers were the Urartians, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians and the Seleucids because the city was built on the crossroads of several ancient trade routes, like the
Silk Road. But the wear and
tear of repeated wars, landslides and fire buried the city into oblivion for
almost 1,500 years.
Kahramanmaraş, the modern version of Germenicia has a worthwhile museum of its own. It displays more than 30,000 artifacts from local excavations dating from prehistoric times, Hittite occupation, Roman and Byzantine era. Most spectacular are, of course, the mosaics recovered from the Roman villas of Germenicia but also from other nearby sites. An adjacent room is exhibiting a number of steles, sarcophagi and marble heads of the Roman elite; another room illustrates daily life through a rich collection of tools, jewelry, armory, pottery, bronze and glass artifacts as well as coins from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman eras.