It’s easy to forget that all of Turkey was once the heart of the Roman Empire after the far-sighted Emperor Constantine moved the Empire’s capital from Italy to Turkey (to Byzantium-Constantinople-Nova Roma-Istanbul).
Yet evidence of Rome’s presence in Turkey (not to mention Syria/Libya/Israel/Egypt/Algeria etc.) is everywhere, sitting patiently in the shadows, enduring benign and not so benign neglect by the country’s current government.
Hence this intriguing article. There seems to be a rebirth of interest in Turkey’s Roman past among academics and ordinary citizens, and a growing movement to preserve and promote that past. As you will see in the link below, the paper, Hurriyet, references what appears to be the last Roman church where traces (ruins) are still visible in the capital of modern Turkey, Ankara – far from Istanbul / Constantinople, wedged in between modern buildings, almost forgotten and rapidly disappearing.
The article speculates that the church known as Saint Clement’s was built as early as the 4th century, and the paper calls for the Roman building to be preserved. From a glimpse at the picture above, one cannot help but hope that the call to action is heeded. Saint Clement the man (and the structure) is described by Wikipedia as:
In 303, Ancyra was one of the towns where the co-Emperors Diocletian and his deputy Galerius launched their anti-Christian persecution. In Ancyra, their first target was the 38-year-old Bishop of the town, whose name was Clement. Clement’s life describes how he was taken to Rome, then sent back, and forced to undergo many interrogations and hardship before he, and his brother, and various companions were put to death. The remains of the church of St. Clement can be found today in a building just off Işıklar Caddesi in the Ulus district. Quite possibly this marks the site where Clement was originally buried.
Other Roman structures still exist in Ankara, including traces of the Roman Baths below. See this Wikipedia on Roman Ankara for more on Ankara’s Roman past.