Sunday, 12 May 2013


Aphrodisias was a Greek city which suffered from earthquakes, one of which altered the water table significantly creating problems with flooding which still exist today. From our perspective, initially we thought it had a lot of what we had seen elsewhere, but then it surprised us with two major buildings and a good museum. That is not of course to say that much of the rest is ordinary, quite to the contrary. There is a good website devoted to the city here.

Aphrodisias Tractor Taxi to siteAphrodisias entrance

The site is large and somewhat hilly. In an attempt to preserve the site, the bus park is some distance from the site and to get there you get into a tractor pulled trailer.

Aphrodisias Map

Immediately inside the entrance is a very large collection of sarcophagi. Having met these in every city we have been to, we have come to admire them not only for what they are but also for what they say about trade at the time. Aphrodisias Sarcophagus 1

Being interred in a sarcophagus was very popular amongst the wealthy classes and therefore there were “factories” mass producing them. The photograph above shows a sarcophagus straight out of the factory. They have taken a block of stone, cut off some to form the lid, carved out the insides and created a basic pattern / decoration on the front and one of the sides. Having done this, it was left in the yard awaiting a purchaser.

Aphrodisias Sarcophagus 2

The purchaser then specifies what sort of carvings they want put on to the sarcophagus and when this has been done, you get the result shown above. When we looked carefully at these two sarcophagi, we realised that they were the same design but one had been finished.

Aphrodisias Sarcophagus 8

Aphrodisias Sarcophagus 9

Here again we have the same design but the bottom one has a dedication carved into the plaque space on the front although they have stopped carving mid word.

Aphrodisias Sarcophagus

This sarcophagus was intended to rest in the corner of a mausoleum and hence they have not bothered to finish the stone face which is against the side wall since it would not be seen.

Aphrodisias Sarcophagus 3 Aphrodisias Sarcophagus 4 Aphrodisias Sarcophagus 5 Aphrodisias Sarcophagus 6 Aphrodisias Sarcophagus 7 Aphrodisias Sarcophagus 10 

All around the entrance area are numerous examples of finished and partly finished sarcophagi.

There are quite a few piles of bits of buildings around the site

Aphrodisias spare friezes

Aphrodisias plinths r Aphrodisias Plinths L

Aphrodisias Nice FriezeAphrodisias nice carving-001

including these friezes and carvings,

Aphrodisias Plinth head detailAphrodisias Bulls Head

Aphrodisias Frieze Heads

some of which have the most amazing faces.

Aphrodisias Stone carved jars

This large pot is an amazing piece of work because it has been carved out of a single block of stone. Its walls are not very thick and it is a great testament to the skills of the maker. 

Aphrodisias Theatre

The theatre is large and in the traditional shape and it shows clear signs of having been extended.

Aphrodisias area to left of theatre

Behind it is what used to be a large open

Aphrodisias Large public space baths at rear

space and behind that, possibly a temple.

Aphrodisias South Agora with pond

There are two Agora, above is the South Agora (170m long) which was built to incorporate a pond (and fountains)

Aphrodisias South Agora

which possibly would have been there in any case because of the problems with the water table brought about by earthquakes.

Aphrodisias South Agora pond edge under water

The edge of the pond can just be seen (under the water) between the centres of these two pillars. This pond was also fed with drainage water from the Hadrian Baths which are behind the camera position

Aphrodisias Baths drain evidence

and run down into the pond between the fence line (above is an uncovered section).

Aphrodisias Baths - drains under arches

As is often the case with Roman buildings, there was concern that the weight of the bath wall would cause the drains underneath it to collapse and therefore a weight relieving arch was constructed above the drains.

Aphrodisias Hadrian Baths

Part of the baths complex includes this rather nice pillared atrium with a water feature in the centre.

The Bouleuterion

Aphrodisias Odeon

The Bouleuterion is reasonably standard but behind it is evidence that it was covered,

Aphrodisias Odeon Roof Supports

these strong pillar foundations were used to take the weight of the supporting beams over the inner space.

The  Basilica

The Temple of Aphrodite built around zero AD was converted into

Aphrodisias Basilica-1

a Basilica around 500AD by taking the inner pillars of the temple and moving them to the

Aphrodisias Basilica

outside thus creating a large inner space with side aisles. Details can be found here.

The Stadium

You get to the stage when you think you cannot be surprised and you walk over a hill top and there in front of you is the largest preserved Roman Running Track in history

Aphrodisias Stadium

This stadium seats 30,000 people and is 270 metres end to end and 60 metres wide and one lap of the track is about 500m.

Aphrodisias Stadium Seating

The original seats are preserved all of the way around. It is an astonishing building and a privilege to be in.

The Tetraoylon

Aphrodisias North East Gate 1

Aphrodisias North East Gate 2 Then you come across the Tetrapylon which is a monumental gateway. Built around 200 AD, with four groups of four columns, it served as a gateway to the Temple of Aphrodite.Aphrodisias North East Gate 3

It is impressive in its size and the impact it would have made in 200AD is obvious.

Aphrodisias Game in floor

One can still see scratched into the pavement below the gate, the outlines of some Roman games.

Aphrodisias Game in floor-1

The Sebastion

The Sebastion was unearthed in 1979 and is a remarkable construction. It is a temple dedicated to the cult of the Emperor Augustus (Sebastos is the Greek equivalent of the Latin Augustus).

Aphrodisias Sebastieon

Originally it was a three storey building on both sides of a central courtyard with a

Aphrodisias Sebastieon towards temple

temple at one end. The second and third floor faces were in-filled with large friezes and sculptures, many of which have been recovered.

Aphrodisias Sebasteion 1

It has been reconstructed to some extent and the view from the altar shows the symmetry of the place and its grandeur.

Aphrodisias Sebastieon Drains under temple

Running underneath and across the temple area is a drain with a beautifully cut round manhole cover in the centre of a paving stone with a perfectly matching round hole in it.

In the museum are the original friezes from the Sebastion.

Aphrodisias Sebastieon Gallery


Aphrodisias Sebastieon Nero and Agrippina

Nero and Agrappina – Agrappina is crowing her son with a laurel wreath. She is carrying a cornucopia (a symbol of Fortune and Plenty) and he wears the armour and cloak of a Roman commander.

Augustus and Victory – a naked emperor carrying a spear. stands with a winged Victory. He is crowning a military trophy beneath which is a Barbarian Captive  with his hands tied behind his back.

Aphrodisias Sebastieon Augustus and Victory
Aphrodisias Sebastieon Claudius Bretannia

The naked warrior Claudius is about to deliver a death blow to a slumped figure of Britannia. Beneath the frieze is an inscription which reads “Tiberios Klaudios Kaisar – Bretannia”

A frieze dedicated to C Julius Zoilos dressed as Aion (Eternity) with his right hand raised to his head is a gesture of foreboding and future knowledge like a seer. Zoilos was an Aphrodisian slave freed by Octavian and by the 30s BC he had become wealthy and influential in his hometown and paid for public buildings like the theatre. Aphrodisias Sebastieon Monument of C Julius Zoilos 30 BC

Within the museum are numerous statues

Aphrodisias Monument to a leading citizen  Aphrodisias Statue Governor Flavius Palmatus  Aphrodisias Statue Boys Head

including a leading citizen wearing a priestly crown (left),  Governor Flavius Palmatus wearing a senatorial toga (centre) and a head of a Young Boy (right).

Aphrodisias Statue Aphrodite of City  Aphrodisias Statue Head

There is also a cult statue of Aphrodite as found in the Bouleuterion (left)  and a head of Aphrodite dedicated by Theodorus (right).

Parts of the site are remarkable and a lengthy visit is well worth while.

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