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