Aphrodisias, Covered with sparkling marbles, The City of Aphrodite, The Goddess of Love, The Pupil of the Unesco World Cultural Heritage List
Aphrodisias is the favorite city of the Roman emperors. The Roman emperors always paid special attention and love to the city because they thought that their ancestry came from the goddess Aphrodite. The city offered people a rich and spectacular life in the past… Hundreds of sculptures, which were preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Aphrodisias today, once adorned the streets, streets and buildings of the city. The city has the beauties that visitors can spend a full day which is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List with its 2 thousand years old ruins, statues, wonderful nature and a rich collection of museums.
The ancient city of Aphrodisias is located in Geyre neighborhood of the Karacasu district of Aydin.
The settlement history of Aphrodisias dates back to the middle of 5,000 BC. The importance of Aphrodisias comes from the exceptionally well preserved structures of marble and the associated reliefs and inscriptions, which reveal the intense exchange of ideas and values from the Hellenistic to the Roman and Byzantine periods.
Between 1-5. centuries BC, Aphrodisias which gained great fame in the whole Mediterranean world between the centuries, notably Rome grew up sculptors who had works of art all over the empire Due to the close proximity of the marble quarries to the city, Afrodisias has become a high-quality production center for marble sculpture. The Aphrodite Sanctuary have influenced a wide area in the Mediterranean Basin which gave the city its name and played an important role in the development of the city’s identity and the cult of the original Aphrodite in the city.
History of the City
Although there is less information about the people of Aphrodisias before the Roman period, it can be said that they are a native Anatolian people which is Caria. Aphrodisias, maintained this feature throughout the Roman Empire as in all Western Anatolia who appeared as a Greek-speaking people in the 2nd century BC.
Aphrodisias is a mid-sized city with antient time standards and the streets intersect each other (grid plan). It covers an area of 72 hectares. It has a population of approximately 10,000 people. But in terms of architectural design, it has a splendor generally seen in metropolises. It is famous for its sacred area and marble sculpture which is dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of the city. In fact, city artists created their own school of sculpture called “Mannerist Style” . The region continued to develop until the 4th century AD and maintained its importance.
During the Byzantine period, Aphrodisias became the Archbishop of Caria. The region lost its importance due to political, religious and economic problems and Visigoth and Arab invasions between 6-11. centuries AD.
After the 13. Century, Aphrodisias fell under Seljuk, Mentese Principality, Aydinogullari Principality and finally in 1413 under Ottoman Empire and it became a Turkish village firstly Caria, after with Geyre name.
The research history of Aphrodisias starts with the discovery of this ancient city by the famous photographer Ara Guler.
Ara Guler who goes to the region as a journalist for the opening of Kemer Dam in 1958, he loses his way and pass through a village and he sees that the villagers live in history. Roman columns and architectural fragments are still used by people living in the village. All kinds of architectural structures in the village contain the Roman works. Even the historical sarcophagi are used to filter the grape must and the village is full of historical artifacts.
Ara Guler, after looking at these beauties in astonishment, takes dozens of photos from various parts of the village and starts to explore this region after returning to Istanbul. But he can’t get any information. He sends his photos to various organizations but cannot find the attention he expects. He finally sends the photos to the Times magazine in America. The Times asks him to take color photos and Ara Guler goes back to the same village to take scolor photos. In this way, the photos distributed to the world press creates reactions. When archaeologists from the United States started to research in Geyre, they found out that this place dates back to the Roman Empire. The city of Aphrodisias dates back to the 500s BC and it takes its name from the goddess Aphrodite.
Dr. Kenan T. Erim, professor of Classical Age at the University of New York initiated a personal exploration and excavation program that he personally organized in Aphrodisias in 1961.
After he came to Aphrodisias and admired, he started digging Aphrodisias in 1961. And until his death there will be a Turkish archaeologist identified with the excavations of Aphrodisias, so that after his death he will want to be buried in the ancient city.
Professor Dr. Kenan Tevfik Erim has made the greatest contribution to the worldwide reputation of Aphrodisias through his travels, writings and speeches and especially in the financing of the USA. Again with his personal efforts, he contributed to the establishment of Aphrodisias Lovers Associations in New York, Paris, London, Izmir and Istanbul (Geyre Foundation).
Today, the Geyre Foundation has built an additional hall at the Aphrodisias Museum and financially supports the restoration of Sebasteion. The structures and finds unearthed during the excavations and especially the products of sculpture are dazzling. It is now being exhibited in the Geyre Museum and Aydın Museum, which will be renewed and enlarged with the support of the Geyre Foundation as it is no longer sufficient.
With the death of Professor Kenan Erim in 1990, project presidency transferred to the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism Cultural Assets and Museums General Directorate under the auspices of the New York University Institute of Fine Arts Professor R. R. R. Smith. And since 1995 it has been continuing with the cooperation of Oxford University.
The Aphrodisias excavation and research team consists of Turkish officials as well as experts and students from different countries. Studies are realized with the economic support of New York University, Oxford University, Geyre Foundation and various groups, organizations, companies and individuals.
In Aphrodisias Theater, the majority of the architecture is well preserved. It has a capacity of 7 thousand people in its original form. The Cavea was built in the late Hellenistic period to lean on the mound where the prehistoric settlement was located. The three-storey marble stage building, decorated with care and decorated with statues, was built by Zoilos who was one of the richest people of the city around 30 AD.
The stadium was built at the end of the 1st century AD, and the theater met the city’s need for high-capacity audience structures. Unlike traditional Greek stadiums, both sides of this stadium are closed. The building has a size of 270×60 meters and 30 marble seats have survived to the present day. With a capacity of approximately 30,000 people, the stadium could accommodate almost three times the city’s population in rows of seats. The stadium of Aphrodisias is the best preserved example of the Ancient Greek world and it is one of the largest stadiums.
The Agora is the main public square of the city and constitutes one of the first elements of the Late Hellenistic city plan made using marble architecture (30-20 BC). It is an area of approximately 202×72 meters surrounded by Ion-shaped porticos on all four sides. Agoras are not only commercial centers, but also public squares which are the heart of the city and are the most important meeting centers of social life.
Aphrodite Temple and Church
The remains of the Temple of Aphrodite to the present day are actually church structures that were transformed in Late Antient Time. The Sanctuary of Aphrodite is almost in the heart of the city. And in the center there is a large Greek temple (8.5×31 m.). which built entirely of marble in traditional Greek style. In the Ionic temple, there are eight columns on short sides and 13 columns on long sides, and the cult chamber (naos or cella) is surrounded by a wide corridor and columns (pseudodipteros). The temple was built by Zoilos who was one of the first rich people of the city in the 30s BC. In the 2nd century AD, it was covered with a fancy columned courtyard. The temple was converted into a church around 500 AD. This elaborate, detailed and economic transformation is also an enormous engineering initiative. The inside of the temple, which was turned upside down, was taken out. The side columns are left in place to form the inner naves; the columns were moved to extend the nave in the east and west directions. The cella walls were demolished and re-built outside the columns. Thus, the impressive exterior walls of the church were created which survived to the present day.
The Tetrapylon is the monumental entrance to the Sanctuary of Aphrodite. There are a total of 16 columns in four groups supporting the garish pediments on both sides. Built in the 2nd century AD, Tetrapylon is a monumental and prestigious building with plenty of ornamentation in style reflecting the fashion of the Antonine period. People walking on the main street of the city entered the Aphrodite Sanctuary through this gate. The inner side of the door facing the temple (west) is decorated with even more rich details.
Sebasteion is a magnificent temple complex dedicated to Aphrodite and the Julio – Claudius Dynasty of the Roman Empire which excavated between 1979 and 1981. The complex consists of a two-storey entrance (propylon) decorated with dozens of statues, a corinthian temple, a narrow ceremonial road (90×14 m.) and on both sides of this road, each in the Doric, Ionian and Corinthian order from below to the top placed there. It consists of two closed portico-like buildings with three floors (12 m in height). A new hall with Sebasteion reliefs was opened in 2008 within the Aphrodisias Museum.
Parliament Building (Bouleuterion)
The council building, alias Bouleuterion was rebuilt in the 2nd century AD in the form of a small covered theater with marble cladding. Inside this structure, there are marble seating rows with a capacity of 700 people and a two-storey columned marble stage facade. The building was used until the end of antient time and during this period a number of changes were made, including the removal of two rows of seats and the creation of an orchestra pit. In the museum, the statues of Dometeinos and Tatiana, along with their pedestals were found almost completely outside the Bouleuterion.
This building was built in the early 2nd century AD which is dedicated to Emperor Hadrianus (117-38 AD). It is the largest bath in Aphrodisias. The massive limestone walls have been standing since ancient times. Some of the finest quality sculptures found in Aphrodisias were found here, and their number is remarkable. Hadrian Bath was both a bathing facility, a social gathering center and a museum of sculpture.
Aphrodisias Museum is one of the few museums located within the ruins in Turkey. A very special selection of artifacts from the area is exhibited in the Aphrodisias Museum and its garden. Exploring this important cultural heritage on site is a great opportunity for both adults and children who want to learn about the history of their land and this wonderful ancient city completes the visit.
Visitors can easily reach the region with the Karacasu minibuses departing from Nazilli district of Aydin who will arrive by public transport. Visitors traveling by private car on the Izmir – Antalya route can take the Aphrodisias by turning from Kuyucak to Karacasu (in the other direction from Tavas to Karacasu), and they can both shorten their paths and take a relaxing cultural trip in archeology and nature.
It is open to visitors every day of the week between 08.30-17.00 in winter and 08.30-19.00 in summer. Museum card is valid in Afrodisias, but entrance fee is 20 TL for 2019 for those who do not have Museum card.
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