Imagine coming upon a city of antiquity so rich in archeological treasure That choice sculptures roll off the sides of ditches, tumble from old walls, and lie jam-packed amid colonnaded ruins.” Those are the words of Turkish archeologist Professor Kenan Erim who directed the excavations at Aphrodisias under the auspices of the New York University. He is so closely associated with the site That he can suitably be accepted as the father of Aphrodisias and therefore fully deserved to be buried near the Tetrapylon. The name of the city has the same root as “aphrodisiac”. Both words derive from the Greek name for the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Aphrodisias was one of several ancient cities dedicated to the goddess of love. Within the borders of Caria, during the Roman period, Aphrodisias became an artistic center with a famous school of sculpture.The site has been systematically excavatsince 1961 by professor Kenan Erim and has yielded a wealth of art treasures to archaeologists.Names of many sculptors from Aphrodisias have been seen in lots of works in Italy, Greece and elsewhere. Fame of Aphrodisias is not only limited to arts. It also had a number of renowned scholars and writers as well as philosophers, of whom the most notable was Xenocrates
School of Sculpture
Statues were carved from the local white, grayish blue Carian marble, mostly from Babadag (Salbakos), 2,308 m / 7,572 ft high nearby mountain. Sculptors from other areas came to Aphrodisias for annual sculpture competitions. The eyes of the statues found here are full of expression and vitality and the bodies seem capable of moving. The public monuments in Aphrodisias were decorated with “peopled scrolls” which were one of the characteristics of stone carving produced by the school of sculpture in Aphrodisias.
History of Aphrodisias
Excavations in the 24-meter-high (78 ft) theater hill have revealed layers of settlement going back to the Bronze Age (c. 2800-2200 B.C.) It was founded in the 5C B.C. and flourished under the Roman Empire (1C BC-5C AD). Mark Antony recognized the autonomy of Aphrodisias in the 1C BC. In the Byzantine period it was first the seat of an archbishopric, then of the metropolitan of Caria. In the 6C AD the name of Aphrodisias was changed to Stavropolis, the city of the Cross, to erase the pagan goddess of love from people’s minds. As the capital of Caria Aphrodisias was finally called Caria which then became Geyre in Turkish. Later in the 13C it was abandoned.
The Tetrapylon is a monumental gateway which was probably built in the 2C AD during the reign of Hadrian. It had 4 rows of 4 columns. It is thought to have marked the intersection of a major street with a sacred way heading toward the sanctuary of Aphrodite. The Stadium is one of the best preserved stadia in Anatolia. It is 262 m / 286 yards long, 59 m / 64 yards wide with 22 rows of seats with a 30,000 spectator capacity. Originally it had a blind arcade on top of the highest row surrounding all the seats. The stadium was used for sporting, musical and dramatic events. The eastern part of the arena was for gladiatorial fights. The Temple of Aphrodite, a late Hellenistic building, was originally designed as an Ionic temple with 40 columns arranged in an 8 by 13 rectangle. It was converted into a church in the Byzantine period. The columns at each end were removed, an apse was built in the eastern section, and a baptistery and an atrium were added to the west.
The affinities between Aphrodite and Ishtar are generally well-recognized. In Mesopotamian mythology, Ishtar was the principal goddess of the Babylonians and Assyrians. She was both the compassionate mother of all life, who brought fertility and relief from sickness, and the lustful goddess of sexual love and war.
Life in the city was concentrated around the Temple of Aphrodite. The cult of Aphrodite was so popular That it took some time before Christianity was fully accepted by Aphrodisians.
The Bishop’s Residence consisted of halls and rooms, is thought to have been the residence of the bishop of Aphrodisias in early Byzantine times. Its large audience chamber was typical of a governor’s residence in Roman provinces. The Odeon is a semicircular building and has 12 tiered rows of seats with lions’ feet. It actually had more rows of seats and was once roofed. The seating capacity was 1,700. A corridor at the back of the stage led to a porticoed area which was adorned with the statues of important Aphrodisians and was connected to the agora. The south-west corner of the portico of Tiberius is a long and narrow 1C AD basilica, an administrative and an official building of importance. The Baths of Hadrian were built under Hadrian in the 2C AD. There were two pairs of large rooms on either side of a huge central hall called the caldarium.
Building of the Portico of Tiberius, whose Ionic colonnade has partially been restored, was started during the reign of Tiberius, 1C AD which explains why it was named after him. The central area of the portico is occupied by a huge basin or pool, 175 m / 574 ft long, 25 m / 82 ft wide and 1 m / 3.28 ft deep with two semicircular extremities at the north and east ends. The portico may well have been a gymnasium or a palaestra with an exercise area between the colonnade and the pool. The Theater was built in the late Hellenistic period and later restored in the 1C BC, and according to its inscription it was