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APHRODISIAS Caria, Turkey.

Generally reckoned among the cities of NE Caria though close to the confines of Lydia and Phrygia, the site is located in a well-watered tributary valley of the Maeander (Büyük Menderes) river system. It lies on a plateau ca. 600 m high by the W slopes of the Salbakos (Baba Dağ) range, in the vilayet of Aydin, near Karacasu, ca. 230 km SE of Izmir. The hamlet of Geyre situated in the SE part of the ancient city was resettled by governmental decree on a new site 2 km to the W a few years ago.

Recent discoveries have revealed a long prehistory for Aphrodisias, dating back at least to the Chalcolithic period (early 3d millennium B.C.) and ranging through all phases of the Bronze Age, with especially rich evidence for Early Bronze II and III. Textual sources provide little information about the city. Stephanos of Byzantium refers to it as Ninoe and by several other names. It is possible that Ninoe is to be connected with the Akkadian (Nm or Nina) names for the goddess Ishtar. In view of the fertility of the soil, a nature goddess cult probably developed here early and combined several native Anatolian with eastern traditions, culminating in the equation of the divinity with Aphrodite in the later Hellenistic period (hence the name Aphrodisias, a Greek version of Ninoe). Numismatic and epigraphic evidence suggests a sympolity with the neighboring town of Plarasa in the late 2d—early 1st c. B.C. Occasional references are encountered in Strabo, Pausanias, Tacitus, and Pliny the Elder. Extremely cordial relations with Rome started with Sulla (App. 1.97), continued with Julius Caesar and Octavian, who was involved in the grant of privileges (including the inviolability of its sanctuary) to the city. Most emperors maintained their benevolent support. It is, therefore, during the early centuries A.D. that Aphrodisias (eventually metropolis of Caria) reached great fame and prosperity both as a religious site and as a center of art and culture. Because of the popularity of Aphrodite, paganism remained strong in Early Christian times, even though the city became the seat of the bishops of Caria. Consequently, the name Stavropolis, and more simply Caria, began to be used to eradicate the memory of the goddess. Except for sporadic mentions of bishops, the history of Byzantine Aphrodisias is relatively obscure, though its role continued to be significant. Located in an area strategic in the 11th to 13th c., Caria (Aphrodisias) suffered at least four captures by the Seljuks, recorded by Nicetas Choniates and George Pachymeres between 1080 and 1260. The site was then virtually abandoned, though eventually the small Turkish village Geyre (etymologically derived from Caria) grew up among its ruins.

The evidence of some 30 signatures on many items found in Rome and elsewhere, bolstered by the discovery of much statuary and decorative sculpture of high quality, induced scholars to identify Aphrodisias as one of the major sculpture centers, as well as marble suppliers (quarries are located ca. 2 km E of the site in the mountains), of the Graeco-Roman world. New discoveries have more than confirmed the validity of this theory. Aphrodisias contributions to other fields also merit attention: Xenocrates was a medical writer of the late 1st c.; Chariton, an early novelist; and Alexander was an exponent of Aristotelian philosophy.

The core of the city is surrounded by a fortification system over 3.5 km long, begun in the A.D. 260s against the threat of Gothic invasion, repaired in the mid 4th c. (according to a dedication to Constantius over one of the gates) and in the Byzantine period. A great quantity of architectural blocks, inscriptions, and sculptural fragments was incorporated in the wall construction. The circuit is irregular in shape with several towers at intervals and at least six gates. The enclosed area is ca. 520 ha, though it does not represent the full extent of the Roman city. The ground is essentially flat with a gentle inclination towards the S, and a tributary of the Maeander (today, the Geyre, possibly ancient Morsynos). A conical hill ca. 15-20 m high rises in the S sector of the site. Though labeled an acropolis, this formation is actually a prehistoric mound. The remains of a series of mudbrick settlements of all phases of the Anatolian Bronze Age were brought to light on the W slope. Similar and even earlier (Chalcolithic) discoveries were made SE of the acropolis at Pekmez. The great number of artifacts recorded in both areas indicates that Aphrodisias was a significant prehistoric site connected with the Aegean, NW (Troy, Yortan, Kusura) and NE (Beycesultan) Anatolia, as well as the center (Kültepe) and the SE (Karataş) of the peninsula in the 3d and 2d millennia B.C.

The Temple of Aphrodite, chief sanctuary of the city, is located at about the center of the settlement; 14 columns of its peristyle are still standing. The building was transformed into a Christian basilica from the 6th c. onwards by removal of its cella, the shifting of its columns (to create a nave and two aisles) and the addition of an apse, including a presbyterion, prothesis, and diakonikon incorporated within an early temenos (?) wall to the E. A double narthex and an atrium were contrived to the W within the Roman temenos colonnade. The temple was Ionic, octostyle with 13 columns on the sides. Though generally dated to Hadrianic times, recent discoveries have suggested the 1st c. B.C. for the beginning of construction. The elaborate Corinthian temenos with naiskoi was, however, erected under Hadrian according to its epistyle inscription. The cella, destroyed by later transformations, consisted of a large chamber with a pronaos, but no opisthodomos. Testimonia of earlier structures, presumably sanctuaries, were also recorded, including a rough mosaic pavement of the 3d c. B.C. and some late archaic (6th c. B.C.) fragments, terracotta as well as architectural. Unfortunately, subsequent rebuilding activities have obliterated much of the earlier evidence, but the antiquity and sanctity of the area is secure since even prehistoric data were found here.

Though the Hadrianic temenos featured a central gate opening to the E towards an open area, the chief doorway lay farther E. A monumental tetrapylon was discovered and studied there. Built in the mid 2d c., it consisted of two pairs of four columns standing on high bases. The pairs farthest E, spirally fluted and double Corinthian, presented an elaborate facade with a central door and a broken arcuated pediment and marble screens. The temple side was decorated with handsome pedimental reliefs showing Eros and Nike figures among acanthus scrolls and elaborate acroteria. The space between the two column pairs was probably timber-roofed.

South of the temenos there is a well-preserved odeon; its lower cavea consisted of nine tiers of seats, but its summa cavea, once supported by 11 vaulted chambers, collapsed in late Roman-early Byzantine times and was never repaired. The orchestra was modified, as shown by its opus sectile mosaic, in order to create a conistra. Handsome statuary decorated the elaborate stage, which consisted of four naiskoi between five doors opening on a backstage corridor. At opposite ends of the corridor, staircases led to the upper cavea, whose seats reached over the vaults of the parodoi. Five other doors opened from the corridor onto a porticus post scaenam, part of the large agora complex and decorated with the portraits of prominent citizens. Large buttresses built at intervals along the exterior semicircle of the cavea were connected with the timber-roofing scheme of the building.

West of the Odeon, an elaborate complex of rooms and halls, including a triconch to the E and a peristyle court communicating with it, was probably begun in Late Roman times as a private residence and subsequently turned into a bishop's palace, to judge from a number of seals uncovered during the excavations.

The plan of the agora S of the odeon and bishop's palace was initiated in the 1st c. Its large dimensions, however, extended the period of its construction into the 2d c. Most of this marketplace remains to be investigated, but it consisted of two adjacent Ionic porticos (ca. 205 x 120 m each) with colonnades on at least three sides. A long row of the columns of the N portico is still standing. The N side of the S portico is shown by its epistyle inscription to have been dedicated under Tiberius. The most elegant feature of this portico was its frieze featuring a vast repertory of beribboned masks and heads (including identifiable dramatic types) joined by garlands of fruit and flowers. Recent excavations in the SW part produced an unusual number of fragments of Diocletian's Edict on Maximum Prices. This decree was probably exhibited here in a large basilica which lay S of the colonnade.

The S side of the Portico of Tiberius partly skirted the acropolis, but its W end communicated with imposing Baths of Hadrian. Many huge consoles, in the shape of Medusa, Minotaur, bull, or lion protomes were found here. Large pillars decorated with elaborate scroll motifs with figures formed large exedras and an unusual facade for the baths. Most of these decorative elements are today in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Their resemblance to finds made at Leptis Magna (especially in the Severan basilica) have led several scholars to suggest the involvement of Aphrodisian sculptors in the decoration of the forum of that North African city.

Newly excavated portions of the baths (dedicated to Aphrodite and Hadrian) have revealed that the core of the building was constructed of large, uneven tufa blocks, revetted with marble and colored stone. Five large galleries, parallel and intercommunicating, have so far been revealed. The central one, beyond a praefurnium, was a caldarium with shallow stepped pools at either end, and flanked by two tepidaria (?). On either side of the praefurnium, sudatoria with a central circular pool were located. To the N, an area with a rectangular stepped pool adorned, like the whole establishment, with much statuary (including Achilles-Penthesileia and Menelaus-Patroklos groups) may be the frigidarium. Intricate networks of underground corridors crisscrossed the whole area. The baths were used in Byzantine times but their size was modified, possibly after earthquake damage.

The large theater of Aphrodisias was located in the heart of the city, built against the E acropolis. When the hillock was turned into a Byzantine fortress, some of its features, as in Miletos, were incorporated into the defensive system. Recent operations have revealed a well-preserved monument with several unique characteristics. The summa cavea was heavily damaged, but below the N diazoma, 27 rows of seats were revealed in excellent condition. The theater was built in the 1st c. B.C. Its plan shows the horseshoe-shaped cavea typical of many theaters in Asia Minor. In the 2d c., modifications were undertaken to accommodate gladiatorial games, wrestling bouts, and animal baiting. Only half of the stage has so far been excavated, but a conistra and via venatorum arrangement are recognizable. Six vaulted rooms of the stage were used as storage areas for “props” at one time. The wall of the stage building facing the N parodos proved to be entirely covered with a long series of inscriptions cut in the 2d and 3d c. The documents include a senatus consultum and official letters, some dating back to Republican times and all relevant to the history of Asia Minor and the city. Many of the abundant sculptures found on or near the stage betray signs of ancient repair, probably due to earthquake damage in late Roman times. The ultimate destruction of the stage and the lower theater, however, occurred in Byzantine times (post 6th c. ?). Evidence indicates Early Christian occupation at several points.

No attempt seems to have been made to restore the theater after this date. Activities were transferred to the E half of the imposing stadium located in the N part of the city. This very well-preserved structure was incorporated in the fortifications in late antiquity. Both its extremities were semicircular, but its long sides bow out gently, giving it a roughly elliptical shape (ca. 262 x 59 m, with 30 tiers of seats). Byzantine transformations created an arena in the E end with a conistra and protective gates or booths.

Several other monuments require brief mention. North of the temple and E of the tetrapylon, two large early Byzantine houses with peristyle courts decorated with figurative mosaic pavements have been partly revealed. A triconch church (martyrion?) was investigated at the SW foot of the acropolis. Several columns of an area partly explored and labeled gymnasium were re-erected to the SE of the acropolis.

Though only a few streets and roads have so far been located, the plan of the city betrays essentially a grid system with chief arteries cutting one another at right angles. The scheme was probably initiated in late Hellenistic or early Imperial times since most of the known thoroughfares appear to be axially aligned with the agora porticos. Areas long occupied, however, like the Precinct of Aphrodite and the acropolis, fell outside the grid which grew organically around them.


Antiquities of Ionia, Society of Dilettanti (1840) II; C. Texier, Description de l'Asie Mineure (1849) III, 149ff.

Early excavations: CRAI (1904) 703-11, (1906) 178-84, (1914) 46ff; Th. Reinach, “Inscriptions d'Aphrodisias,” REG 19 (1906) 79-150 & 205-98; G. Jacopi, “Gli scavi della Missione Archeologica Italiana ad Afrodisiade” and L. Crema, “I monumenti architettonici afrodisiensi,” MonAnt 38 (1939-40); M. Squarciapino, La Scuola di Afrodisia (1943); J.M.C. Toynbee & J. B. Ward-Perkins, “Peopled Scrolls,” BSR 18 (1950) 1ff; J.M.R. Cormack, Notes on the History of the Inscribed Monuments of Aphrodisias (1955); J.M.R. Cormack in Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua, VIII: Monuments from Lycaonia, the Pisido-Phrygian Borderland, Aphrodisias (1962); L. Robert, “D'Aphrodisias á la Lycaonie,” Hellenica 13 (1965) 190ff; id., “Inscriptions d'Aphrodisias,” AntCl 35 (1966) 377ff; K. T. Erim, “The School of Aphrodisias,” Archaeology 20.1 (1967) 18-27.

Recent excavations: K. T. Erim in TüurkArkDerg (in vols. for 1961, 1962, 1964, 1967); id. in ILN, 13 Jan. 1962, 5 Jan. and 21 & 28 Dec. 1963, 20 & 27 Feb. 1965; id., “De Aphrodisiade,” AJA 71.3 (July 1967) 233-43; id., “Roman and Early Byzantine Portrait Sculpture in Asia Minor: Supplement I,” Belleten 32, 125 (1968) 4-18; id. in E. Akurgal, Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey (1969) 171-75; id. with Joyce Reynolds, “A Letter of Gordian III from Aphrodisias in Caria,” JRS 59 (1969) 56-86; id., “The Copy of Diocletian's Edict on Maximum Prices from Aphrodisias in Caria,” JRS 60 (1970) 120-41; Erim, “Aphrodisias, Awakened City of Ancient Art,” National Geographic 141, 6 (June 1972) 766-91; id. et al. “Diocletian's Currency Reform: a New Inscription,” JRS 61 (1971) 171-77; Erim, “The ‘Acropolis’ of Aphrodisias: Investigations of the Theater and the Prehistoric Mounds, 1966-1967,” National Geographic Society Research Reports (1973) 89-112; id. & Joyce Reynolds, “The Aphrodisias Copy of Diocletian's Edict on Maximum Prices,” JRS 63 (1973) 99-110; Erim, “A Portrait Statue of Domitian from Aphrodisias,” Opuscula Romana 9, 15 (1973) 135-42; id., “The Satyr and Young Dionysus Group from Aphrodisias,” Melanges Mansel (1974) 767-75; id., “Il teatro di Afrodisia” in D. De Bernardi Ferrero, I Teatri Classici in Asia Minore, IV (1974).


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