The Gate – January 2001

Aphrodisias :
Where Love and Eternity Converge in Marble

“Imagine a city where a plethora of statues rolled about amidst broken columns, walls and excavated sites like so many stacked fish.” These words were uttered by Turkish archaeologist Kenan Erim years ago when he directeâ the excavation at Aphrodisias underthe auspices of New York University. From the statues and ornate marble strevvn about, visitors to Aphrodisias get the immediate impression it was a place vvhere the art was given lofty status. The name Aphrodisias was derived from Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love. This is one of several ancient cities named after the Goddess of Love. in order to erase paganism from the peo-ple’s minds, Christians changed the name Aphrodisias to Stravropolis. Later on, it took the name Caria and became the capital of the Carlan province. During Ottoman times, it became the Turkish village of Geyre.

As there were marble guarries situated just a few kilometers away, Aphrodisias became famous as a center of sculpture as well as philosophy.

Statues bear sculptors’ signatures.

A determlning feature of Aphrodisian scutpture were the signatures of local sculptors who from time to time were commissioned abroad; their names have been found on works erected in many Roman colonies. The finest exam-ples are the two horsemen found at the Hadrian Villa in Tivoli and the Severus VictoryArch in Carthage. Sculpture con-tests were held in Aphrodisias and artists from other regions would take part in these competitions. A vvorkshop found between the Consul building and the Temple ofAphrodite also attests to the importance afforded to sculpture. Many of the pieces uncovered during the Aphrodisias excavations are a myri-ad ofdecorations and reliefs along with statues ofgods, heroes, emperors, ora-tors, philosophers and boxers. Fine examples of Aphrodisian sculpture are displayed in the local Aphrodisias Museum and the istanbul Museum of Archaeology.

The Ruins of Aphrodisias

Besides the notable statues lying in the courtyard and in the Aphrodisias Museum, here is a list of ‘must see’ edifices.

Tetrapylon: The monumental entrance located on the sacred road leading to the Temple of Aphrodite. A fine example ofrestored work.

Stadium: Wlth a 30,000 seating capacity, this well-preserved stadiums was used for sports, concerts and dramat/c events; gladiator tournaments were held in the eastern section.

Temple of Aphrodite: This Hellenistic era structure was converted into a church during the Byzantine era. Life was focused upon the Temple of Aphrodite; her cult was so entrenched that it took longer to convert Aphro-disians to Christianity than those in other regions.

Odeion: An semi-circle building which was utilized as a type of theater.

The Hadrian Baths: With two large rooms on eitherside and the Caldarium in the center, it was built in the 2nd cen-turyA.D. during Hadrian’s reign.

Amphitheater: The orchestra pit and stage building were renovated in the 2nd century A.D. for holding animal vvrestling and gladiator tournaments. This Hellenistic era structure had a seating capacity of 8,000.