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Byzantine Shops
Byzantine Shops.jpg

The streets of Late Roman Sardis were flanked by buildings that served a variety of residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. The row of small rooms located behind the north portico of the Roman avenue formed part of a lively commercial district in the 5th-6th centuries. The prominent street-side location and consistent, nearly modular construction along the south side of the Bath-Gymnasium Complex suggest these modest structures were developed by municipal authorities and leased to individual proprietors as a way of supporting the local economy and defraying the costs of civic maintenance. Individual shops were easily subdivided or combined to suit the changing needs of their occupants. Most of the spaces were occupied through the late 500s, but were abandoned after fire swept through the quarter in the early 7th century.
The long, uncertain history of this part of Sardis appears in the “Hellenistic Steps” about 3 m under shops E14-16. These may belong to a mausoleum of late Hellenistic or early Roman date, before the area was systematically developed. An earthquake demolished Sardis in 17 AD, and over the following two centuries, the Bath-Gymnasium Complex was constructed alongside the already ancient roadway, bringing increasing traffic and commercial interest to this part of Sardis. The area was eventually enclosed within the late Roman city wall.
The colonnade of the north portico was rebuilt in the early 5th century using pedestals, bases, shafts, and capitals of different sizes and styles, freely mixed to maintain a consistent height for the portico roof. The Roman avenue was paved with large blocks of marble, but most of the portico surface was covered with multi-colored mosaics arranged in complex decorative patterns. The mosaics were laid as a row of rectangular panels with different kinds of ornament filling the central fields and surrounding borders. Individual shop owners or residents may have been responsible for maintaining the mosaic panels that lay in front of their property. The mosaics have been covered with earth for protection.


Renovation of this part of the city in late antiquity included the construction of public latrines at the southwest corner of the Bath-Gymnasium Complex. The small size of the latrines and location of doorways to the north and east suggest that they served both users of the Bath as well as people walking along the marble avenue. The two long rectangular rooms were similarly arranged and may have served men and women separately, and may have accommodated as many as two dozen visitors at a time. The marble floor of the larger latrine includes a raised border with recessed channel that carried a continuous stream of water in front of the benches. A deep sewage canal located below the seats was periodically flushed with water from the bath. 

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