Aphrodisias, Geyre Tourist Attractions
Western Anatolia (Mentese highland)Village: Geyre (3km/2mi northwest)SituationThe ruins of ancient Aphrodisias lie 82km/51mi southwest of Denizli, where the heavily wooded southern foothills of Ak Dag border on the broad valley of the Kekre Çayi.
The site itself is located high in a side valley of the upper Dandalas Çayi (Vandalas Çayi), a tributary of the Büyük Menderes Nehri (Great Maeander River).HistoryChalcolithic finds show the area to have been settled in the fourth millennium B.C.; early Bronze Age pottery also suggests there was an Assyrian trading colony here during the Hittite period. There is a tradition that the settlement took its earliest recorded name, Ninoe, from the Assyrian King Ninos (Tukulti-Ninurta I, 1245-08 B.C.); a more likely derivation however is from Nin (Ishtar) the Old Oriental goddess of love and war, with whom Venus, the Roman goddess of love, later became identified. Nin, daughter of the moon god Sin, was sister of the sun god Shamash and wife of Anu god of heaven. Her attributes were bestowed by the Greeks upon Aphrodite, goddess not simply of beauty and love but also of the Morning and Evening Star. The town only took the name Aphrodisias in Hellenistic times, having been known previously as Lelegonpolis, Megalopolis and probably also Plarasa. Through its sanctuary it became the center of the wide-spread cult of Aphrodite, in addition to which it had famous schools of sculpture, medicine and philosophy. The pinnacle of its fortunes was reached under the Julian emperors when Aphrodisias enjoyed the patronage of Sulla, Caesar, Antony, and Augustus; it was Antony who granted sanctuary status to the temple. This is reflected in the fact that the surviving remains are almost all Roman, an exception being the town walls which are of later date (fourth century).In the Early Christian-Byzantine era the town was first a bishopric and then the seat of the Metropolitan Bishop of Caria; it was also rechristened Stavropolis. From 540 (in the reign of Justinian), as capital of the province of that name, it became known simply as Caria (of which the name of the present village, Geyre, is a corruption). Despite having its fortifications strengthened in the latter part of the seventh century, in the eighth and ninth centuries the town succumbed to the Arabs. Its decline was accelerated by Ottoman rule until, in 1402, Tamarlane found no more than a village in the shadow of the ruined city. Excavation has proceeded in several stages, at first under the Turks in 1904/05, 1913 and 1937, then since 1961 by U.S. archeologists led by Kenan Erim.
The sprawling ruins of Aphrodisias lie at the foot of the 2,308m/7,575ft Baba Dag (formerly Salbakos) to the south of the small modern village of Geyre (Geira, Gere; the old village was situated actually among the ruins). Finds from recent excavations are housed in a little museum built with American assistance. Modern research has transformed Aphrodisias from a place which few visited into one of the most important historic sites in Turkey. A partially excavated processional way equipped with a drainage system leads to the ruins.The Roman agora, 120m/131yds wide and 205m/224yds long, with Doric portico along the north side and Ionic portico along the south, was renovated under Tiberius (14-37). Some of the columns still have their architraves in place. Twelve columns also survive from the colonnaded Portico of Tiberius.To the south, on the far side of a large square, stand the ruins of the domed Byzantine Martyrs' Church (sixth century).
The so-called "acropolis" in Aphrodisias is actually a hüyük or settlement mound. Excavation has shown it to have been inhabited in prehistoric times (from the fourth millennium B.C.).
Temple of Aphrodite
The Temple of Aphrodite in Aphrodisias, an Ionic pseudo-dipteros of 8 x 13 columns, was built in about 100 B.C. over an earlier shrine (third century B.C.) from which mosaics have survived. The temple, with pronaos and cella only, boasted a huge statue of Aphrodite, more than 3m/10ft tall, of which parts have been recovered. Of the fourteen columns still standing, two have their architrave in place. Like other temples dedicated to Aphrodite, this one can be presumed to have fulfilled a therapeutic sexual role, prostitution being a feature of the Aphrodite cult practiced by priestesses and female temple slaves (hierodules). Following instructions from the Delphic Oracle, the patrons of the temple donated cult objects of various kinds: Sulla for instance gave a gold crown and double ax, Caesar a statue of Eros.In the fifth century the Byzantines converted the pagan temple into a three-aisle basilica. Two centuries later the town was renamed Stavropolis (City of the Cross), further severing the links with its pagan past.
Between the Temple to Aphrodite and the odeion are the remains of a sculptor's workshop - the school of sculpture at Aphrodisias contributed greatly to the cultural splendor of the city. Marble for use locally and almost certainly for export was quarried from the slopes of Baba Dag to the east of the town.
Excavation adjacent to the sculptors' workshop in Aphrodisias has uncovered a fifth century bishop's palace with a peristyle court with columns of blue marble, kitchen quarters with a fine dining-room, and an audience chamber with three conchas and marble intarsia floor.
On the west side of the agora in Aphrodisias are baths built at the time of Hadrian (117-138), with interesting basins, heating system, changing rooms and a latrine. Some fine sculptures were uncovered here during excavation.
In addition to small archeological finds the museum on the site of Aphrodisias mainly houses sculptures from the celebrated Aphrodisias school - heads of muses, statues of emperors, clothed figures etc. Particularly noteworthy are the Zoilos frieze, the portrait statue of the writer Pausanias, a reproduction of Polyclitus's famous discus thrower and a copy of the statue of Aphrodite from the temple.
The best preserved structure on the site of Aphrodisias is the Roman odeion to the south of the Temple of Aphrodite. The little concert hall almost certainly doubled as a buleuterion (council chamber) and was decorated with reliefs and statues. Today the orchestra with its mosaic floor is usually flooded, leaving frogs to croak their own chorus from among the water plants.
Not far from the museum in Aphrodisias are the remains of a shrine dedicated to the worship of the Roman emperors. The complex, built in A.D. 50, consisted of a podium temple reached via steps from the east end of an elongated court. Along the north and south sides of the court ran three-storyed porticos, the columns in each tier being of a different Classical Greek order - Doric (lower tier), Ionic (middle tier) and Corinthian (upper tier). Between the columns of the middle and upper tiers on the south side were reliefs depicting scenes from mythology and history.
The best preserved sections of the 3.5km/2mi of defensive walls at Aphrodisias are found along the northeast of the site. Erected at the time of Constantine the Great (306-37) they incorporate masonry from the ancient buildings. Above the northernmost of the three gateways is an inscription which originally read "May fortune favor the glorious metropolis of Aphrodisians". In the seventh century "Aphrodisians" was changed to "Stavropolitans".
Large enough to seat an audience of 10,000 the Late Hellenistic theater at Aphrodisias, with double proscenium, situated on the eastern slope of the "acropolis" mound, was restored and enlarged under Marcus Aurelius (161-80). The lower part of the stage and auditorium are well preserved. In a side entrance are carved transcriptions of imperial decrees and letters addressed to the city and its chief luminary and magistrate Zoilos. They include the so-called "Diocletian Price Edict" which, in an attempt to curb runaway inflation, introduced a regime of fixed prices. The large court in front of the theater was paved with marble slabs in the fourth century. Southeast of it lie the ruins of a columned, three-aisled basilica and a gymnasium; closer at hand are the remains of the theater baths.
Map of Aphrodisias Attractions