The sanctuary at Aphrodisias was famous in antiquity for its distinctive cult of the goddess Aphrodite. She originated in the Archaic period or earlier as a local Carian goddess, but by the Hellenistic era she was identified with the Greek Aphrodite and was given a completely new, canonical image. This image is well known from a series of representations found at Aphrodisias and other sites around the Mediterranean. It reflects a carefully designed, unified program that incorporated familiar Hellenstic iconographic vocabulary to make the Aphrodisian goddess a deity who would be recognizable throughout the Graeco-Roman world.
History of site
Two prehistoric settlement mounds mark the earliest habitation of the site, in the sixth or fifth millenium B.C. In spite of its long occupation, Aphrodisias remained a small village until the second century B.C., the date of the earliest coins and inscriptions recording the name of the city. In the late first century B.C., Aphrodisias came under the personal protection of the Roman emperor Augustus, and a long period of growth and good fortune ensued. The first several centuries A.D. were especially prosperous, and the cosmopolitan character of the age is demonstrated by the presence in this quintessentially pagan city of an active Jewish community, attested in a famous inscription listing benefactors of the local Synagogue. The continued vitality of the city in later antiquity is evident from the wholesale reconstruction of the Temple of Aphrodite as a Christian Basilica in the late fifth century. In the troubled times of the late sixth and early seventh centuries, Aphrodisias was reduced once again to the size of a village; it survived until the fourteenth century, when the site was finally abandoned.
The city was built near a marble quarry that was extensively exploited in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and sculpture in marble from Aphrodisias became famous in the Roman world. Many examples of statuary have been unearthed in Aphrodisias.
The Temple of Aphrodite was built in stages in the late first century B.C. and early first century A.D. As completed, it was a pseudodipteral structure, 8.5 X 31 m in dimensions, with eight columns along the front and back and thirteen on the sides. Inscriptions on some of the temple’s columns and door moldings record the contributions of various leading citizens to the construction of the building. One of Aphrodisias’s most important monuments, the temple emphasized the city’s links with the Julio-Claudian dynasty by providing an impressive home for the cult of their divine ancestress, Aphrodite. In the second century A.D, possibly during the reign of Hadrian, the temple was enclosed within an elaborate temenos structure, consisting of a two-storied aedicular facade on the east side, and porticos on the north, south, and west.
Aphrodisias was changed to Stayropolis then to Caria which became Geyre years after. The ruins which are worth seein in Aphrodisias are listed below:
- The Tetrapylon which is a monumental gateway built in the 2nd century AD during the time of Hadrian,
- The Stadium which could hold 30,000 people,
- The Temple of Aphrodite which was originally designed as an Ionic temple but then changed into a church during the Byzantines,
- The Bishop’s Residence which is said to have been the residence of the bishops during the Byzantines,
- The Odeon which had the seating capacity of 1700,
- The Baths of Hadrian which were built in the 2nd century during the reign of Hadrian,
- The building of the Portico of Tiberius which might have been a gymnasium with a training area,
- The Theatre which has the seating capacity of 8000,
- The Tetrastoon which used to be a meeting place surrounded by small shops,
- The Theatre Baths which have not been completely excavated,
- The Sebasteion which used to be a shrine where the king was worshipped.
In the museum of Aphrodisias one can see the busts, decorative and religious sculpture and ceramics and its is one of the greatest historical sites around this area.