The City of Love, otherwise known as Aphrodisias, was a small Greek city about 100km from the west coast. It was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of luuuurve. Aphrodisias is one of the most important archaeological sites of the Greek and Roman periods in Turkey yet in comparison to sites such as Ephesus, not many people visit. Which is sad, yet it was great for me as my little group and I (three of us) practically had the site to ourselves.
Famous for its Temple of Aphrodite, the city’s patron goddess, Aphrodisias thrived from the 1st century BC until the 6th century BC. The city was built near a marble quarry that was extensively used, and marble sculpture from Aphrodisias became famous in the Roman world. There was even a school of sculpture that was very prolific; many pieces of their work can be seen as you wander around the site and museum.
Aphrodisias is in an earthquake zone and the most notable earthquake occurred in the 4th century AD – it actually shifted the water table in the area. New plumbing had to be built but flooding always remained a problem for the city. Today, you can still see that flooding! More major earthquakes happened in the 7th century, damaging Aphrodisias enough that it never fully recovered. The city soon fell into disrepair.
The first formal excavations started in 1904 and it was soon realized that the village of Geyre had developed on top of ancient Aphrodisias over the centuries. There is a small exhibit on site with interesting photographs documenting how people lived among the ruins, sometimes even incorporating them into their houses. Today, Geyre has been relocated a short distance away in order to allow the continuing excavations. These excavations are being done in conjunction with New York University. Makes me want to go back to school…NYU in particular…
What to See in Aphrodisias
Tetrapylon: Built in 3rd century AD, this structure looks like it was a temple itself but it was “only” a gate. You could imagine the awe people would have had passing through such a magnificent gate on their way to the Temple of Aphrodite!
Bouleuterion (council house): Near the North Agora, this is a semicircular auditorium with a shallow stage and nine rows of marble seats that are divided into five wedges by stairways. The upper part with more seating has long ago collapsed. The stage area is flooded today.
Baths: Built in the 2nd century BC. It features a naked statue with a chunk taken out of his butt.
Temple of Aphrodite: This temple formed the centre of the city when it was built about 1st century BC. However, all that is left are some columns and foundations. Lots of carved marble and stone scattered all over the place. One interesting fact about this temple is that it was converted into a church in the 5th century.
Theatre: Seats about 8000 people and used for things such as animal or gladiator fights. Along with the gate and stadium, this was my favorite part of the site as there was no one else around, allowing me to take as many photos as I pleased, many of them ridiculously dorky!
Stadium: Apparently, it is probably the best preserved and biggest of its type in Mediterranean. It was used mostly for athletic events but after the damage caused by the7th century earthquakes, it then also used for games, circuses, wild animal shows, and gladiatorial fights. The held about 30,000 spectators.
Museum: Many of these statues I’ve not seen before in any other museums I’ve visited. Nice to see SOMEONE managed to keep their artworks! Well worth a look.