The ancient city of Aphrodisias is one of the most rewarding and atmospheric Greco-Roman archaeological sites in Turkey.
Aphrodisias lies in the Maeander river basin, near the modern village of Geyre in the South Western Turkish province of Aydin. Heavily influenced in antiquity by Hellenistic culture, the city’s patron deity was Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and fertility.
It is believed that the site was a sacred sanctuary to Aphrodite prior to it being founded as a Greek polis (city-state) during the Hellenistic period around 3rd century BC.
The city was celebrated in antiquity for its schools of sculpture and art. Its artwork was in demand, including sculptures, reliefs, portraits, sarcophagi and decorative elements. The city’s sculptors were commissioned for work all around the Mediterranean and several of its sculptors were appointed by Roman Emperor Hadrian to work at his Villa in Tivoli, Italy.
Aphrodisias’s prosperity did not suffer at the end of the Hellenistic period. The city continued to flourish under Roman control from the 1st century BC to the 4th century AD.
It was the favourite Asia minor city of Roman Emperor Augustus who reigned for 40 years between 27 BC – AD 14. However, the city was never the same after several disastrous earthquakes 4th and 7th centuries. Crumbling building and infrastructure and the continued Arab invasions forced the once glorious city to be abandoned.
The ancient site has many highlights, including the Ionic Temple of Aphrodite, the Tetrapylon ceremonial gate, the stadium, which rivals the stadium at Delphi as the best preserved in the ancient world, the theatre used by Romans for gladiatorial spectacles, the marble Sebasteion (Greek for Augusteum), complex and a vast number of superbly crafted reliefs depicting Greek myths and Roman themes.
In 2017, the ancient city was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.