Aphrodisias

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Aphrodisias (Ἀφροδισιάς), a small city in western Anatolia, Turkey, was an ancient Greek Hellenistic settlement located in the Caria region. It was named after the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, who was worshipped there with a unique cult image, known as the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias. It served as the provincial capital or metropolis of the Caria region and Roman province.

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Overview

The city had three previous names before it became known as Aphrodisias in the third century BCE; Lelégōn Pólis (City of the Leleges), Megálē Pólis (Great City), Ninóē. Sometime before 640 CE, in the Late Antique period when it was within the Byzantine Empire, the city was renamed Stauropolis (Σταυρούπολις, "City of the Cross").

The unique cult image of Aphrodite, known as the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias, was likely originally located in the Temple of Aphrodite in Aphrodisias. This goddess was originally a local deity who, through interpretatio graeca, was later associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite. The iconic image of the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias, which is similar to other Anatolian cult images, suggests a connection to the Lady of Ephesus, who was widely worshipped as Artemis of Ephesus in the Greco-Roman world.

Notable Structures

circa 20 BCE

Sebasteion
The Sebasteion was an extravagant complex of buildings dedicated for the worship of early Roman Emperors, built by two local Aphrodisian families between 20 and 60 CE. Its main components were a temple and a ninty-meters long processional avenue fanked by colonnaded buildings, both with three storeys in total. The second and third storeys carried life-sized relief panels with carvings of myths and heroes. During excavations in the late 1970s, more than 80 of the original 200 relief panels were found lying around where they fell when the buildings collapsed.

These panels depicted scenes from the Greek mythology in the middle storey and the exploits of the Roman Emperors in the top storey. One of the panels shows a relief of the emperor Claudius's conquest of Britannia (circa 43 CE). The restored part of the southern building uses the original architectural blocks with copies of the reliefs. The original reliefs are displayed in the Aphrodisias Museum. The entire complex represented strong veneration of the ruling imperial family.

circa 60 BCE

Theatre
The theatre was used for both; the dramatic performances and for public assemblies. It had an estimated seating capacity for 7,000 spectators. The two main components of the building are the auditorium, built up against a pre-historic settlement mound, and an elaborate three-storied marble stage building. The first storey of the stage building has been reconstructed, together with the dedicatory inscription carved on the architrave (lintel course).

The inscription records the name of the building patron, Gaius Julius Zoilos, and identifies him as a freed slave of Octavian Augustus, the first Roman emperor. Zoilos was presumable a native of Aphrodisias who had been enslaved, possibly by pirates, then purchased or inherited by Octavian. Eventually freed, he returned home a wealthy man with powerful connections in the capital. In addition to the theatre of Aphrodisias, he also financed the construction of the northern portico of the North Agora (the main public squae) and the temple of Aphrodite.

During excavations of the theatre in the 1970s, much of the statuary that decorated the stage building was recovered in an excellent state of preservation, including figures of Apollo, two Muses, Demos (a personification of the people), two boxers, several Victories, and a Polykleitan athlete, all now on display in the Aphrodisias Museum.

circa 60 CE

Monument of Julius Zoilos
Nothing of the monumental building remains, but recent research has shown that one of the frieze discovered may have decorated the sides of a square mausoleum belonging to Julius Zoilos. The decoration presents an allegorical account of Zoilos's life and virtues.

The best preserved frieze is composed of two groups of three figures, all identified by inscriptions. Zoilos himself is seen in two different costumes in the centre of each group.

In one group; Zoilos wears a Roman toga and is flanked by Andreia and Time. Andreia (bravery) presents a shield to Zoilos, while Time (honour) crowns him from the right. The scene celebrates Zoilos' military courage and his status as a Roman citizen.

The second group depicts Zoilos wearing a long cloak and travelling capand is flanked by Demos and Polis. Demos (personification of the people ) stretches out his hand to greet Zoilos, while Polis (the city) crowns him from behind. The scene is an elevated representation of Zoilos' return home from Rome.

Subjects represented in other surviving panels include; Eternity (Aion), Rome (Roma), Remembrance (Mneme), judgement by Minos in the underworld (Meinos), Excellence (Arete), and Loyalty (PISTIS).

circa 60 CE

Temple of Aphrodite
The construction on the Temple of Aphrodite started in the late first century BCE. The initial stages of the building project was funded by Zoilos, a leading citizen who also sponsored the construction of the agora and the theatre. In the second century CE, the temple was enclosed in an elaborate colonnaded court, framed by a two-storied columnar facade on the east and by porticos on the north, west and south.

Around 500 CE, the temple was converted in to a Christian church. The conversion was an enormous undertaking, in which the columns of the eastern and western ends of the temple were moved from their original positions and used to extend the north and south colonnades. The interior of the temple was also dismantled, and the stone was reused in the construction of new walls enclosing the building on all sides. In this way, the building was converted in toa church of basilical-plan, much larger than the pagan temple it replaced. The church remained in use until the Seljuk conquest of the region around Aphrodisias in circa 1200 CE.

circa 100 CE

The Basilica of the Price Edict
Basilica was a group of public halls used in antiquity for administration, business, and justice. The basilica at Aphrodisias, completed around 100 CE, had a spacious three aisled interior (approx. 145x30 meters) that was entered from the urban park situated to its north. The marble-panelled facade waslater inscribed with the famous edict of maximum prices issued by the emperor Dioletian in 301 CE.

The edict listed, in Latin, some fourteen hundred goods and services from all over the Roman world, with their maximum permitted prices. These ranged from staples such as grain, wool, and wine to more expensive items - for example slaves, chariot horses, and wild animals for the games.

In the mid-fourth century CE, the side aisles of the building were re-floored in patterned mosaic, and the statue group of Troilos and his grey-marble horse (now displayed in the Aphrodisias Museum) was installed at the northern end of the central hall. A current project is focused on the restoration of the Basilica facade and the presentation of Dioletian's price edict.

circa 130 CE

Hadrianic Baths
The baths of emperor Hadrian were built on the western side of the city centre, and were dedicated to the emperor Hadrian (ruled 117-138 CE). Remains of the Hadrianic Baths consist of two main parts; a series of barrel-vaulted bathing chambers and a great colonnaded forecourt. The building, which originally extended further to the west, now measures 85x 65 meters.

The vaulted rooms were built off massive limestone blocks, once faced with marble veneer attached in the many visible holes; the floors and pools were also lined with marble; and the hot rooms have floors raised on hypocausts. The massice limestone walls have been standing since antiquity. The forecourt and the inside of the chambers were excavated in 1904-5, 1913, 1937 and 1963-70 CE.

The central caulted chamber was the main hot room (caldarium), flanked by two warm rooms (tepidarium). The colonnaded forecourt was the main excersice ground (palaestra). A narrow space contained the furnace of praefumium, which was supplied with fuel carted in through the underground service tunnels. Recent research has shown that the main fuel was the fir wood.

circa 200 CE

Tetrapylon
The tetrapylon of Aphrodisias was a monumental gateway to the sanctuary of Aphrodite constructed circa 200 CE.It led from a main north-south street in to a large forecourt in front of the temple of Aphrodite. Ite decoration has a richness typical of the second century CE. The inner (western) facade is meant to surprise the visitor with its "broken" pediment design andcarved decoration that is even more extravagant than that of the outer (street-side) facade. A complete reconstruction (anastylosis) of the monument was completed in 1991 CE. It was made possible due to the fact that parts (about 85% of its original marble blocks) of the structure survived and were found in extraordinary state of preservation.

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References

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