Category Archives: Deity

Aphrodisias — City of Love and City of Marble

Aphrodisias — One of the most beautiful antiquity sites in Turkey.

The Monumental Gate (tetrapylon) at Aphrodisias. Click on images to Enlarge and/or Download.

Many groups that have visited Turkey have visited Laodicea, one of the seven churches of Revleation (chaps. 1-3).  While in the area they visit nearby Hierapolis and sometimes unexcavated Colossae.  However, because of time constraints, rarely is Aphrodisias visited.

Aphrodisias is an extensively excavated and beautifully restored Greco-Roman city that is located about 25 miles west southwest of Laodicea/Denizli in Turkey.  It was named after its patron deity—Aphrodite (= Venus, the goddess of love).  Because of its wonderful marble quarries, it was a center of sculpture carving for the Roman Empire.  Because of these things, it is sometimes called “the city of Love” and/or “the city of Marble.”  It was excavated in 1904-1905 and continuously from 1962 until the present.  The main excavator, Kenan Erim died and is buried at the site.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.   Over the next few posts, I would like to share with you some of the wonders of this site, as well as some insights that we can gain from it.

First of all, the city of Aphrodite must have a temple to the goddess of love—Aphrodite!

The Tetrapylon was a monumental gateway to the Sanctuary of Aphrodite built ca. AD 200.  This gateway led from a main north-south street into a large forecourt in front of the Temple.  Its decoration has a richness typical of the second century AD.  A complete scientific reconstruction (anastylosis) of the monument was completed in 1991.  It was made possible by the extraordinary preservation of the structure — 85% of its original marble blocks survive.

View looking northwest at the Monumental Gateway ( = tetrapylon) that was the main entrance into the Temple of Aphrodite Complex from the east.

The above image is a view of the exterior of the Tetrapylon.  The stone pavement in the foreground was the main north-south street that ran in front of the gate.  On the left, behind the gateway, where the person is standing, was the forecourt of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite.  Note the variety of columns on plinths: plain columns, spiral columns, and fluted columns.

The Temple of Aphrodite was the main temple of Aphrodisias and was begun in the late first century BC.  Zoilos, a leading citizen of Aphrodisias who also sponsored the construction of the Agora and Theater, paid for the initial construction.  In the second century AD, the temple was enclosed in an elaborate colonnaded court, framed by a two-storied columnar façade on the east, and by porticos on the north, west, and south.

View looking north northwest at the south side of a large Byzantine Church that was built over the former temple of Aphrodite.

The church was built around AD 500.  The church was constructed by reusing many materials from the temple of Aphrodite.  All the columns that are visible are from their position in the church.  In the lower-left foreground, the stubs of columns are from the portico that surrounded the church.  The church remained in use until the Seljuk conquest of the region around Aphrodisias in about AD 1200.

This larger-than-life statue of Aphrodite was found in the Bouleuterion (Council House).  It dates to the second century AD.

The head of Aphrodite was veiled and she wears a heavy casing (ependytes) on which are, from top to bottom, the Three Graces, the Moon and the Sun, Aphrodite on a sea-goat, and Eros figures sacrificing at an incense altar.

Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and fertility (= Roman Venus). The original Aphrodite was done by Praxiteles for the city of Knidos in the fourth century B.C.  A much more common presentation of the deity is illustrated below.

Statue of Aphrodite with an inscribed shield.

This statue of Aphrodite is from Perga and is made of marble and is about 6.4 ft. high fand dates to the second century A.D. If you click the “Download” button the Greek inscription on the shield is clearly visible.

This “type” of Aphrodite is also found at Aphrodisias as the example from the Sculptor’s Workshop below shows.

This is an unfinished statue in marble of a naked Aphrodite seated on a rock.

This unfinished piece dates to the second or third century AD.

Previously, I have written briefly about the significance of the Temple of Aphrodite at Corinth in relationship to the Corinth that Paul visited—see Here.

For additional images of the Temple of Aphrodite and the Byzantine Church at Aphrodisias see Here. 

Hercules Farnese of Perge and . . . .

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Hercules Farnese From the Baths at Perge
Second Century A.D. — Antalya Museum

A beautiful second century A.D. statue of Hercules was found in the baths of Perge.  The Boston Museum of Fine Arts returned the top portion of the statue to Turkey in September 2011.  Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erogan personally brought the important portion to Turkey himself.  Portions of over 60 such statues are known and are called the “Hercules Farnese” (named after a famous Italian collection now housed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum).  This is a Roman copy of a bronze original.  Note the positioning of the head, arms, and legs, and especially the body muscles.  The skin of conquered Nemean Lion flows down on his left side as it tumbles to the ground.

Below is THE Hercules Farnese that is displayed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Below is a five (5) in. high image of a “Hercules Farnese” found at Pergamum and displayed in the museum in Bergama.

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A Bronze Five (5!) Inch High “statue” of Hercules
From Pergamum — In the Museum at Bergama

Heracles was the son of the god Zeus and a mortal Alcmene. Although originally a mortal, he eventually attained divine status and was widely worshiped throughout Greece. As punishment for killing six of his children he had to perform 12 “labors” (= very difficult tasks). The first of which was to kill the Nemean Lion. He wrestled with the lion, strangled it, and subsequently used its pelt as a cloak. (Nemea is a site in the Peloponnese region of Greece).

Very Rare Ancient Bronze Statues — 2 Bronze Statues of Artemis — Part 1 of 2 Parts

Most of the statuary from the classical times that grace the museums of the western world are Roman marble copies of bronze statues from earlier periods.  Bronze statues are relatively rare because most of them were melted down (recycled) and the bronze was reused for industrial, agricultural, and/or military purposes!  On a recent trip to Athens we (Mary and I) visited the Piraeus Archaeological Museum—one that I had never visited before (it is a bit difficult to get to, and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and the newly opened Acropolis Museum, with their “world-class holdings” rightfully get top billing!).

However, upon entering the Piraeus Archaeological Museum I was very excited to see the four large bronze statues that were on display there.

Artemis "B" — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Artemis “B” — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

This bronze(!) statue of Artemis is smaller than life-size— 5 ft. 1 in. [1.55 m.] tall. In her right hand she held an offering bowl and in her left a bow (missing). It dates to about 200 B.C. The garment that she is wearing is called a peplos—the folds of which area clearly visible. Note the quiver on her back and her hairstyle  (to view a detail of her quiver and her back Click Here).

Her weight is resting on her left foot and her right leg is slightly flexed. This statue, along with three others, was found in 1959 during building excavations in Piraeus. They were found as a group and although deposited at the same time, they were crafted at different periods. They were probably deposited in the first century B.C.

Artemis "A" — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Artemis “A” — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

This bronze(!) statue of Artemis dates to the fourth century B.C.!  It is larger than life size— 6.4 ft. [1.94 m.] tall.  In her right hand she held an offering bowl and in her left a bow (missing).  It dates to the fourth century B.C.  The garment that she is wearing is called a peplos—the folds of which area clearly visible.   Even the marble and chestnut irises of her eyes are preserved!

Her weight is resting on her right foot and the left leg is flexed—in a contrapposto stance.  The statue is attributed to the sculptor Euphranor.

To view (and/or download) additional images of these two statues Click Here.