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Aphrodisias was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who had a unique cult image, the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias. The history of the city can be traced back to the early bronze age and there is even clear evidence of a chalcolithic culture prior to the 3rd millennium BC. The use of the name Aphrodisias began after the 3rd century BC. The spread of Christianity under the Byzantine Empire and the gradual adoption of Christianity as the state religion resulted in a marked change in the status of the city. The Temple of Aphrodite was a focal point of the town, but the character of the building was altered when it became a Christian basilica. The Aphrodisian sculptors became renowned and benefited from a plentiful supply of marble close at hand. The school of sculpture was very productive; much of their work can be seen around the site and in the museum. Many full-length statues were discovered in the region of the agora, and trial and unfinished pieces pointing to a true school are in evidence. Sarcophagi were recovered in various locations, most frequently decorated with designs consisting of garland and columns. Pilasters have been found showing what are described as "peopled scrolls" with figures of people, birds and animals entwined in acanthus leaves. The cult image that is particular to Aphrodisias was a distinctive local goddess who became identified with the Greek Aphrodite. Her canonical image, typical of Anatolian cult images, shows that she is related to the Lady of Ephesus. The surviving images, from contexts where they must have been more civic than ritual, are without exception from the late phase of the cult, in Hellenistic and Roman times. The Bouleuterion (Council House) is centered on the north side of the North Agora. As it stands today, it consists of a semicircular auditorium fronted by a shallow stage structure. The lower part of the auditorium survives intact. Seating capacity can be estimated at about 1750. The available evidence indicates a construction date in the Antonine or early Severan period (late second or early third century). It is likely that the present building replaced a smaller one contemporary with the laying out of the Agora in the late first century BC. The Bouleuterion at Aphrodisias remained in this form until the early fifth century, when a municipal official had it adapted as a palaestra, recording his achievement in an inscription on the upper molding of the stage. Numerous additional cuttings in the surviving seats, probably for poles supporting awnings, suggest that by this time the building had lost its roof. The orchestra was lowered and provided with a marble pavement. The Sebasteion, or Augusteum, was jointly dedicated, according to a first century inscription on its propylon, "To Aphrodite, the Divine Augusti and the People". A relief found in the ruins of the south portico represented a personification of the polis making sacrifice to the cult image of Aphrodite of Aphrodisias, venerated as ancestral mother. There are many other notable buildings, including the stadium, which is said to be probably the best preserved of its kind in the Mediterranean except, perhaps, for the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. It measured 262 by 59 m and was used for athletic events until the theatre was badly damaged by a 7th century earthquake, requiring part of the stadium to be converted for events previously staged in the theatre.
This is one of my favorite places. The day of my visit was one of the best for that trip to Turkey.
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