Aphrodisias was settled on the fertile plains of Eastern Caria just east of Aydın, the former Tralles, beneath the slopes of Baba Dağı mountain. Follow Route E-24 from Aydın to Kuyucak, then turn southward to reach the village of Geyre, the site of the ancient city’s ruins. Aphrodisias was famous throughout the ancient world for its Temple of Aphrodite, and enjoyed great prosperity during the Roman period. A great many of the city’s monuments remain standing for the visitor to
HISTORY OF APHRODISIAS
While the colonization of Aphrodisias Is vague, it is thought that Assyrians from Nlnevo were some of the earliest settlers. They came to establish an Ishtar cult. Excavations of the, site have exposed early Bronze Age pottery, as well. The city did not seem to take on the name Aphrodisias, however, until the third century B.C. One of the first mentions of the city was in the form of □ Delphic oracle inscription. The Roman Sülla sent gifts to the city named after Aphrodite in Carla. This was in 82 B.C. it is assumed that by the second century, the city of Aphrodisias had grown to large proportions, in 35 B.C., Aphrodisias was declared a free city with the same rights that had been accorded to Ephesus. The city became famous for its school of sculptors, and also as a great center for medicine and philosophy. Many coins depicting Aphrodite and Dyionisus have been found during the course of excavations, as well as many letters from Roman emperors and great numbers of statues and relifs. The spread of Christianity, though It reached Aphrodisias late, had the same effect on the pagan worshipers of Aphodite thot It had on all the other ancient cities. The city’s name was changed to Stavropolis, meaning the City of the Cross, and the temple was converted Into a church. Empsror Leo I, near the end of the fifth century, gave the city the title of Metropolis of Garia. Shortly after this, the area became the seat of a bishopric. The city was taken by the Seljuk Turks during the twelfth century, then retaken by the Byzantines at the end of the thirteenth century. By this time, the once great and prosperous city of Aphrodisias had started a rapid decline. There remains o great deal to see of the ruins of the ancient city, especially the Ionic Temple of Aphrodite. One of the best preserved structures of the site is the stadium, which is nearly 250 meters long. The remains of a theater, Roman baths and a gymnasium ore also of special interest.
Templa of Aphrodite : Little more than the colonnade remains from this famous temple that once stood surrounded by mors than forty Ionic columns. It consisted of a cella and forecourt, and Is thought to have been built in the early first century B.C. Some traces of Hellenistic mosaic work have been found during excavations of the temple to indicate the probability of an earlier temple at this site. When the temple was converted ta □ Christian church during the early Byzantine period, most of the original building was brought down with the exception of the colonnade. The apse of this church is still there at the eastern end of the temple. Today some dozen or so of the columns are still standing. few with the architrave in position. The inscriptions on a few of the columns represent names of their donors. The statue of Aphrodite is similar in appearance to that of Artemis at Ephesus. Her forearms were extended outward from a stiff upright position, and she was robed in the traditional long, flowing grown of the period.’The robe was adorned with various reliefs including the Sun god, thé Moon goddess, the Three Graces, cuplds, and Aphrodite herself mounted on a goat, holding a fish tail. Several copies of the cult statue have been found, though the original has not.
The Stadium : The stadium of Aphrodisias is very well preserved, perphaps the best of any remaining from the ancient world. It extends to a length of 228 meters, and has tunnel entrances at each of its semicircular ends. Stairways lead up through the stadlurrfô twenty-two rows of seats, and a wide portico-lined gallery was positioned in the upper sections. A royal box was built at the halfway point, on the north side The blocks which made up the starting line for foot races are lying around the arena. And other construction materials, including part of a column, a frieze and marble blocks, are lying at the western end of the stadium. These may have been part of a small structure within the arena. Many festivals and holiday celebrations of Aphrodisias were held in the stadium. These included foot races, boxing, wrestling, the Pentathlon, and a number of other competitions for the exhibition of athletic prowess. Still other competitions were held for sculptors, dramatists, orators and musicians, but the athletes always held the main spotlight.
The Baths Of Hadrian : While the baths have not been completely excavated, the general layout is comparable to that of other Roman baihs and similar to those of the modern Turkish baths. In the front area is a marble-paved forecourt. Opposite this is the & Frigidarium, normally the last room to be entered during the bathing process. Other rooms include the Tepidarium, the Saldarium, the Sudatorium or sweating room, and the Apodyterium or changirtg room. The normal procedure for a bath was to pass first fnto the slightly heated Tepidarium, then into the successively hotter rooms, and finish by gradually cooling down the body heat in the cold wading pool. Other rooms, as yet unexcavated, may have been the separate womens’ baths. The large area to the east of the bath complex is an excercise field or a palaestra. And beyond that is the Portico of Tiberius, which extended as far as the city agora. This was elaborately decorated with a frieze of masks, portraits and garlands. Most of these have been removed to the museums in Izmir and Istanbul.
The Theoter: The recently excavated theater on the east side of the acropolis Is In an excellent state of preservation Most of the seats remain in their original positions. The stage-building, orchestra pit and stage are also in good condition, as Is the five rqpier high north return wall. Beside this is a corridor which leads to a large room, possibly a prop room for the stage. This room contained a large number of letters and inscriptions that should be of great value to historians.
Other Ruins : The Agora or market place wos located between the temple and the theater, end is as yet unexcavated. Many of the column bases that made up the Agora’s enclosing colonnade are still in their original position. Very few of the complete columns remain standing. A well-preserved structure has been uncovered in the past few years just south of the temple. This Is an Odeion, used ds an assembly hall or council chamber. This was constructed in the second century A.D., and damages to the building, possibly caused by an earthquake, were later repaired. Near the Odeion is a circular tomb with steps leading up to a raised platform, whereon was placed a row of seats surrounding the central saroophogus, In addition to the funeral vault was a decorated altar for sacrificial offerings to the gods. Also near the Odeion is a structure thought to be the dwelling quarters of the Christian bishop because of its location with regard to the temple-church and its level of sophistication and richness; one of the courts included columns of blue marble in its layout. Also, a seal was found during the course of the excavations in this complex inscribed with the words «Metropolis of Caria». This discovery led the excavators to dub the structure The Bishop’s Palace . A large portion of the city wall, dating to around the fourth century A.D., is in good condition. Three of the gates remain standing and are inscribed with various edicts and praises. The North Gate is just east of the stadium. This one Is Inscribed with several lines concerning the restoration work that was done on the gate. The East Gate was designed with a triple arch. Many inscriptions and reliefs may be seen along the wall’s length. An inscription on the West Gate, called the Antiochian Gate since Antiochia on the Meander was off in this direction, records a tribute to Emperor Constantius II who ruled the empire between 321-61. It is concerned with his health, safety, fortune, victory and eternal survival. Another inscription on one of the wall blocks warns against littering, and states that the curse and wrath of the 318 fathers, the bishops of the Council of Nicaea of 325, will come down upon anyone dumping rubbish in this spot. Outside the city walls are scattered a large number of tombs and sarcophagai. Many of these funeral vaults are truly works of art. Most are inscribed with the occupant’s name and status in society, craft, etc. Some take the form of reminders to keep promises that were made before the deceased’s passing.