Aphrodisias: The Theater and Its Artifacts

Like any respectable Greco-Roman City, Aphrodisias had a theater.  It is very well preserved because the “modern” village of Geyre was built on the theater and the acropolis and preserved what was underneath the village.  Geyre was moved to a different location around 1960 and some 120 ft. of debris under it was excavated away to reveal the theater.

View looking southeast at the interior of the theater at Aphrodisias, and beyond that, in the upper left of the image the Theater Agora.

In the theater, note that the seating area is slightly larger than a perfect semicircle.  This was characteristic of Greek, as opposed to Roman, theaters.  The brown semicircle is where the orchestra was located.  Note the high wall ringing it.  The orchestra was remodeled during the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161–180) and turned into a venue for animal and gladiatorial contests.  Left of the center of the image the remains of the stage area and behind it, the first of the three levels of the skene are visible—with the Doric columns.

Originally the theater could hold 10,000 people.  The lower portion of the cavea is preserved.  Note the staircases that the divide the cavea into sections (cunei).

The theater was originally built by Ioulos Zoilos, a slave that was freed by Octavian who became a benefactor of the city— in the first century BC.  An inscription on the stage wall describes this.

Although it is well-known that theaters were filled with statues, at Aphrodisias some well-preserved statues were found in the theater.  Some samples follow:

This is a larger than “life-size” statue of a marble Muse holding a theatrical mask.

Muses were thought of as inspirational goddesses of poetry, lyric songs, and myths—a fitting piece to be installed in the theater of Aphrodisias.

This is a statue of one of the leading citizens of Aphrodisias.

Leading citizens were always on the alert to promote their, and their family’s, status—so what better place than the frequently-visited theater to remind the people of the town of your beneficence!   The statue dates to the second century A.D.

This statue is of a “life-size” Diadumenos (diadem-bearer).  It is a copy of an original bronze statue by Polyclitus in the 5th century BC.

The theme is that of an athlete who is tying the ribbon on his head that marks the winner of athletic contests (a diadem).  The figure is contrapposto with his weight on his right leg and the left leg slightly flexed.  His head is slightly inclined to his right in a contemplative mood.  This marble statue of a young athlete was found in the theater of Aphrodisias and dates to around AD 200.  Some original color survives in his eyes and hair.

A photograph of a large statue of Nike, the goddess of victory that was found by the skene in the theater of Aphrodisias.

And of course, all of the theaters would have been adorned with statues of gods and goddesses.  This Nike dates to the late first century BC and is one of the earliest marble statues produced at Aphrodisias.


So now we can begin to visualize how the one theater mentioned in the New Testament might have been “decorated.”

2 responses to “Aphrodisias: The Theater and Its Artifacts

  1. I am always amazed at the accumulation of debris (120 ft) that can cover a place in 2000 years. What an amazingly preserved theater!

  2. Beautiful preservation of the theatre.

    Love the foot of Nike in the statues. So delicate and like the Nike “swish” insignia today.

    Marcia

    *Getting organized is the fastest way to save time and accomplish more with less effort.*

    On Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 9:14 AM HolyLandPhotos’ Blog wrote:

    > holylandphotos posted: “Like any respectable Greco-Roman City, Aphrodisias > had a theater. It is very well preserved because the “modern” village of > Geyre was built on the theater and the acropolis and preserved what was > underneath the village. Geyre was moved to a different lo” >

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