Aphrodisias (/æfrəˈdɪsiəs/; Ancient Greek:
Ἀφροδισιάς, translit. Aphrodisiás) was a small
Hellenistic city in the historic
Caria cultural region
of western Anatolia, Turkey. It is located near the modern village of
Geyre, about 100 km (62 mi) east/inland from the coast of
the Aegean Sea, and 230 km (140 mi) southeast of İzmir.
Aphrodisias was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who
had here her unique cult image, the
Aphrodite of Aphrodisias.
According to the Suda, a Byzantine encyclopedic compilation, before
the city became known as
Aphrodisias (c.3rd century BCE) it had three
previous names: Lelégōn Pólis (Λελέγων πόλις, "City of
the Leleges"), Megálē Pólis (Μεγάλη Πόλις, "Great
City"), and Ninóē (Νινόη).
Sometime before 640, in the
Late Antiquity period when it was within
the Byzantine Empire, the city was renamed Stauroúpolis
(Σταυρούπολις, "City of the Cross").
In 2017 it was inscribed on the
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site list.
1.1 Geological history
1.2 Ecclesiastical history
2 Buildings and other structures
2.1 Temple of Aphrodite
2.2 Monumental gateway
3 Other finds
Aphrodite of Aphrodisias
6 See also
7 References and sources
8 Further reading
9 External links
Aphrodisias was the metropolis (provincial capital) of the region and
Roman province of Caria.
White and blue grey Carian marble was extensively quarried from
adjacent slopes in the
Hellenistic and Roman periods, for building
facades and sculptures.
Marble sculptures and sculptors from
Aphrodisias became famous in the Roman world. Many examples of
statuary have been unearthed in Aphrodisias, and some representations
Aphrodisias also survive from other parts of the
Roman world, as far afield as Pax Julia in Lusitania.
The city had notable schools for sculpture, as well as philosophy,
remaining a centre of paganism until the end of the 5th century.
The city was destroyed by earthquake in the early 7th century, and
never recovered its former prosperity, being reduced to a small
fortified settlement on the site of the ancient theatre. Around the
same time, it was also renamed to Stauropolis (Greek:
Σταυροῡπολις, "city of the Cross") to remove pagan
connotations, but already by the 8th century it was known as Caria
after the region, which later gave rise to its modern Turkish name,
Geyre. In Byzantine times, the city was the seat of a fiscal
administrative unit (dioikesis).
The city was sacked again by the rebel
Theodore Mankaphas in 1188, and
then by the
Seljuk Turks in 1197. It finally fell under Turkish
control towards the end of the 13th century.
The site is in an earthquake zone and has suffered a great deal of
damage at various times, especially in severe tremors of the 4th and
7th centuries. An added complication was that one of the 4th century
earthquakes altered the water table, making parts of the town prone to
flooding. Evidence can be seen of emergency plumbing installed to
combat this problem.
Aphrodisias never fully recovered from the 7th century earthquake, and
fell into disrepair. Part of the town was covered by the modern
village of Geyre; some of the cottages were removed in the 20th
century to reveal the older city. A new
Geyre has been built a short
Le Quien (Oriens christianus, I, 899–904) mentions twenty bishops of
this see, among whom were:
Ammonius at the
First Council of Nicæa
First Council of Nicæa in 325
Eumenius at the
First Council of Constantinople
First Council of Constantinople in 381
Cyrus at the
First Council of Ephesus
First Council of Ephesus in 431
Critonianus at the
Council of Chalcedon
Council of Chalcedon in 451
Severianus at the
Second Council of Constantinople
Second Council of Constantinople in 553
Ephraem of Caria, a liturgical poet, etc.
Another bishop, Theopropios, is mentioned by an inscription (Revue des
études grecques, XIX, 298). Bishops are known from the Notitia
Episcopatuum of pseudo-Epiphanius (about 640AD). The town was also
home to the martyrs
Diodorus and Rodopiano during the persecution of
In the 7th century Stauropolis had twenty-eight suffragan bishops and
twenty-six at the beginning of the 10th century. Surviving acta record
that between 1356 and 1368 it was without a metropolitan, but was
under the administration of the metropolitan of Bizye. In 1369
metropolitan reappears as the recipient of the churches of
Antioch on the Maeander, and another is mentioned in 1399. Isaias
of Stauropolis attended the
Council of Florence
Council of Florence (1439) and fled to
avoid signing the decree of union.
Stauropolis remains a Roman Catholic titular metropolitan see of the
Roman province of Caria, under the name Stauropoli (Latin:
Buildings and other structures
The Temple of Aphrodite.
The monumental gateway or tetrapylon.
Temple of Aphrodite
The Temple of
Aphrodite was a focal point of the town, but the
character of the building was altered when it became a Christian
basilica. The Aphrodisian sculptors became renowned and benefited from
a plentiful supply of marble close at hand. The school of sculpture
was very productive; much of their work can be seen around the
site and in the museum. Many full-length statues were discovered in
the region of the agora, and trial and unfinished pieces pointing to a
true school are in evidence.
Sarcophagi were recovered in various
locations, most frequently decorated with designs consisting of
garland and columns. Pilasters have been found showing what are
described as "peopled scrolls" with figures of people, birds and
animals entwined in acanthus leaves.
A monumental gateway, or tetrapylon, leads from the main north-south
street of the town into a large forecourt in front of the Temple or
Sanctuary of Aphrodite. The gateway was built ca. A.D. 200.
The bouleuterion (council house), or odeon, is centered on the north
side of the North Agora. As it stands today, it consists of a
semicircular auditorium fronted by a shallow stage structure about
46 m wide. The lower part of the auditorium survives intact, with
nine rows of marble seats divided into five wedges by radial
stairways. The seating of the upper part, amounting to an additional
twelve rows, has collapsed together with its supporting vaults. The
plan is an extremely open one, with numerous entrances at ground level
and several stairways giving access to the upper rows of seats. A
system of massive parallel buttresses shows that the building was
originally vaulted. The auditorium would have been lighted by a series
of tall, arched windows in the curved outer wall.
Seating capacity can
be estimated at about 1750.
The available evidence indicates a construction date in the Antonine
or early Severan period (late 2nd or early 3rd century AD). The
scaenae frons (stage front) was certainly put up at this time, as the
style of both sculpture and architectural ornament suggest. Statue
bases terminating the retaining walls of the auditorium bore the names
of two brothers, senators in the early Severan period, and two
inscribed bases placed symmetrically against the exterior facade held
statues of Aphrodisian benefactors, Claudia Antonia Tatiana and her
uncle Lucius Antonius Dometinus, who were active at the end of the 2nd
century. Tatiana is known to have had close ties with Ephesus, and
it is possible that the striking similarities between this building
and the bouleuterion on the civic agora there, dated by inscription to
the mid-2nd century, are due to some initiative on her part. We do not
know what stood here before the 2nd century AD, but it is likely that
the present building replaced a smaller one contemporary with the
laying out of the agora in the late 1st century BC.
The bouleuterion at
Aphrodisias remained in this form until the early
5th century, when a municipal official had it adapted as a palaestra,
recording his achievement in an inscription on the upper molding of
the pulpitum (stage).
Palaestra usually refers to a wrestling ground,
but in the 5th century it could be used to describe a hall for
lectures, performances, and various kinds of competitive displays, as
suggested by a number of factional inscriptions carved on the seats.
Numerous additional cuttings in the surviving seats, probably for
poles supporting awnings, suggest that by this time the building had
lost its roof. The orchestra was lowered and provided with a marble
pavement, reused, perhaps, from the earlier phase.
The Sebasteion, or Augusteum, was jointly dedicated, according to
a 1st-century inscription on its propylon, "To Aphrodite, the Divine
Augusti and the People". A relief found in the ruins of the south
portico represented a personification of the polis making sacrifice to
the cult image of
Aphrodite of Aphrodisias, venerated as promētōr,
"foremother" or "ancestral mother". "
Aphrodite represents the cosmic
force that integrates imperial power with the power of local elites,"
a reader of
Chariton romance has noted. This connection between
the goddess and the imperial house was also a particularly politic one
at the time, as the
Gens Julia - the family of Julius Caesar, Octavian
Augustus, and their immediate successors - claimed divine descent from
The stadium was used for athletic events until the theatre was badly
damaged by a 7th-century earthquake, requiring part of the stadium to
be converted for events previously staged in the theatre.
The stadium measures approximately 270 m (890 ft) by
60 m (200 ft). With 30 rows of seats on each side, and
around each end, it would have had a maximum capacity for around
30,000 spectators. The track measures approximately 225 m
(738 ft) by 30 m (98 ft).
As the stadium is considerably larger and structurally more extensive
than even the stadium at the Sanctuary of
Apollo at Delphi, it is
probably one of the best preserved structures of its kind in the
The quality of the marble in
Aphrodisias has resulted in an unusually
large number of inscribed items surviving in the city. As many pieces
of monumental quarried stone were reused in the Late Antique city
walls, many inscriptions could and can be easily read without any
excavation; the city has therefore been visited and its inscriptions
recorded repeatedly in modern times, starting from the early 18th
Upwards of 2000 inscriptions have been recorded by excavators under
the aegis of New York University. Many of these inscriptions had been
re-used in the city walls. Most inscriptions are from the Imperial
period, with funerary and honorary texts being particularly well
represented, but there are a handful of texts from all periods from
Hellenistic to Byzantine.
Aphrodisias have also uncovered an important Jewish
inscription whose context is unclear. The inscription, in Greek, lists
donations made by numerous individuals, of whom several are classed as
'theosebeis', or Godfearers. It seems clear through comparative
evidence from the inscriptions in the
Sardis synagogue and from the
New Testament that such
Godfearers were probably interested gentiles
who attached themselves to the Jewish community, supporting and
perhaps frequenting the synagogue. The geographical spread of the
evidence suggests this was a widespread phenomenon in Asia Minor
during the Roman period.
A frieze discovered in 1980 showing a bare breasted and helmeted
female warrior labelled BRITANNIA writhing in agony under the knee of
a Roman soldier with to the left and below the inscription TIBERIUS
CLAUDIUS CAESAR is assumed to depict Britain subjugated by Rome.
Aphrodite of Aphrodisias
Aphrodite of Aphrodisias
The cult image that is particular to Aphrodisias, the
Aphrodisias, doubtless was once housed in the Temple of Aphrodite.
She was a distinctive local goddess who became, by interpretatio
graeca, identified with the Greek Aphrodite. Her canonical image,
typical of Anatolian cult images, shows that she is related to the
Lady of Ephesus, widely venerated in the Greco-Roman world as
Artemis of Ephesus. The surviving images, from contexts where they
must have been more civic than ritual, are without exception from the
late phase of the cult, in
Hellenistic and Roman times. They are
rendered in the naturalistic style common to their culture, which gave
the local goddess more universal appeal. Like the Lady of Ephesus,
the "Aphrodite" of Aphrodisia wears a thick, form-disguising tunic,
encasing her as if in a columnar box, always with four registers of
standardized imagery. Her feet are of necessity close together, her
forearms stretched forward, to receive and to give. She is adorned
with necklaces and wears a mural crown together with a diadem and
a wreath of myrtle, draped with a long veil that frames her face and
extends to the ground. Beneath her overtunic she wears a floor-length
chiton. The bands of decoration on the tunic, rendered in bas-relief,
evoke the Goddess's cosmic powers: the Charites, the Three Graces that
are the closest attendants of Aphrodite; heads of a married pair (the
woman is veiled), identified by Lisa Brody as Gaia and Uranos, Earth
and the Heavens, over which this goddess reigns, rather than as Zeus
Selene separated by a pillar; the marine
Aphrodite, riding a sea-goat, and at the base a group of Erotes
performing cult rituals.
The first formal excavations were undertaken in 1904-5, by a French
railroad engineer, Paul Augustin Gaudin. Some of the architectural
finds (mostly friezes, pilasters and capitals) he discovered at the
site are now in the British Museum.
The most recent, ongoing excavations were begun by
Kenan Erim under
the aegis of
New York University
New York University in 1962 and are currently led by
Professor R. R. R. Smith (at Oxford University) and Professor
Katharine Welch of the NYU Institute of Fine Arts. The findings reveal
that the lavish building programme in the city's civic center was
initiated and largely funded by one Gaius Julius Zoilus, a local who
was a slave of Gaius Julius Caesar, set free by Octavian. When
Zoilus returned as a freedman to his native city, endowed with
prestige and rich rewards for his service, he shrewdly directed it to
Octavian in his power struggle against Mark Antony. This
ensured Octavian's lasting favor in the form of financial privileges
that allowed the city to prosper.
In September 2014, drones weighing about 0.5 kg were used to 3D
map the above-ground ruins of Aphrodisias. The data is being analysed
by the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Vienna.
In March 2018, an ancient tomb has been unearthed in an area where
illegal excavations were carried out. The tomb was taken to the
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Chariton, whose novel Chaereas and Callirhoe reflects the power
Aphrodisias in the 1st-2nd century
References and sources
^ "Aphrodisias". Oxford Dictionaries.
Oxford University Press.
^ For Greeks, "Leleges" denoted an ancient pre-Greek people.
Suda Online s.v. Ninoe,  (accessed 25-12-2006); the elite of
Aphrodisias linked their founding to the Assyrian ruler called in
Greek Ninus, the eponymous founder also of Nineveh.
^ Siméon Vailhé, "Stauropolis" The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912 full
text, citing Heinrich Gelzer, Ungedruckte ... Texte der Notitiæ
episcopatuum, 534. The name Tauropolis, said to have been borne by the
town prior to that of Stauropolis, is an error of several scholars,
e.g. Revue des études grecques 19:228-30; the error 'Tauropolis'
derives from inscription IAph 42: see discussion by Roueché at ALA
UNESCO 2017 inscriptions
^ a b c d e Foss, Clive (1991). "Aphrodisias". In Kazhdan, Alexander.
The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford and New York: Oxford
University Press. p. 128. ISBN 0-19-504652-8.
^ Peter Noelke, "Zwei unbekännte Repliken der
Aphrodite von Aphrosias
in Köln" Arkäologischer Anzeiger 98.1:107-31.
^ a b Nesbitt, John W.; Oikonomides, Nicolas, eds. (1994).
"Karia/Stauropolis". Catalogue of Byzantine Seals at Dumbarton Oaks
and in the Fogg Museum of Art, Volume 2: South of the Balkans, the
Islands, South of Asia Minor. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research
Library and Collection. pp. 167–169.
^ Speros Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and
the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth
Century (Berkeley: University of California, 1971), p. 296
^ "Stauropolis". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21
^ Kenan T. Erim, "The school of Aphrodisias, " Archaeology 20.1:18-27.
^ Sculptures of the Bouleuterion.
^ The architecture of the
Bouleuterion is examined by Lionel Bier,
Bouleuterion at Aphrodisias,"
Aphrodisias Papers 4
^ Sebastós is the Greek equivalent of Latin Augustus.
^ Douglas R. Edwards notes in, "Defining the Web of Power in Asia
Minor: The Novelist
Chariton and His City Aphrodisias" Journal of the
American Academy of Religion 62.3 (Autumn 1994:699-718) p. 711.
^ "New York University,
Aphrodisias Excavations website". Stadium.
^ Published by J. M. Reynolds and R. F. Tannenbaum, Jews and
Godfearers at Aphrodisias, Cambridge Philological Society
Supplementary Volume 12, (Cambridge, 1987)
^ Roman Britain By Timothy W. Potter and Catherine Johns, University
of California Press, 1992 p. 40
^ This section follows the dissertation by Lisa R. Brody, under the
direction of Christopher Ratté, "The Iconography and Cult of the
Aphrodite of Aphrodisias"; her upcoming book will present a catalogue
of all surviving images.
^ Lisa Brody notes other images of similar formula: the Artemis of
Perge, the Artemis of Claros, the Kore of Sardis,
and Jupiter Heliopolitanus of Baalbek.
^ Lisa Brody suggests the refounding of Artemisias as a Greek polis
about the second century BCE as a possible context for the recreation
Hellenistic terms of a postulated archaic image.
^ In the third century BCE, artists began to place a mural crown on
images of the goddess Cybele, who had been represented since Hittite
times with a cylindrical polos. The Artemis of
Ephesus also wears a
mural crown in Hellenistic-Roman images; such a substitution is likely
also for the reinterpretation of the Lady of Aphrodisias.
^ The marine Aphrodite, known to
Aphrodite Pelagia, to
Romans as Venus Marina, is not elsewhere represented riding the
British Museum Collection
^ R. R. R. Smith, "The Monument of C. Julius Zoilos" Aphrodisias
Papers 2 R. R. R. Smith, K. T. Erim (eds) 1993.
^ Hudson, Hal (24 September 2014). "Air-chaeological drones search for
ancient treasures" (2988). New Scientist. Retrieved 2 October
^ Ancient tomb found in illegal excavations in Aydın
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Stauropolis".
Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.  (Late
Antique and Ecclesiastical History)
Foss, C., S. Mitchell, et al. (2007), 'Aphrodisias/Ninoe',
Erim, Kenan T., "Aphrodisias, Awakened City Of Ancient Art", National
Geographic Magazine, 1972, June.
Erim, Kenan T., "Aphrodisias", Net Turistik Yayinlar A.S. (Istanbul,
Erim, Kenan T., Aphrodisias: City of Venus
Aphrodite (New York: Facts
on File, 1986).
Joukowsky, Martha Sharp, Pre-Historic
Catholique de Louvain 1996) available at
L. Herbert, "Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Aphrodisias," in
Calvin B. Kendall, Oliver Nicholson, William D. Phillips, Jr.,
Marguerite Ragnow (eds.), Conversion to Christianity from Late
Antiquity to the Modern Age: Considering the Process in Europe, Asia,
and the Americas (Minneapolis: Center for Early Modern History, 2009)
(Minnesota Studies in Early Modern History).
MacDonald, David, The Coinage of
Aphrodisias (London: Royal Numismatic
New York University,
Aphrodisias Excavations website, available:
Ratté, Christopher, "Archaeological Computing at Aphrodisias,
Turkey", Connect, Humanities Computing, New York University, Summer
Ratté, Christopher and R. R. R. Smith (eds),
Aphrodisias papers 4:
new research on the city and its monuments (Portsmouth, RI: Journal of
Roman Archaeology, 2008) (JRA supplementary series, 70).
Charlotte Roueché and Gabriel Bodard (2007),
Inscriptions of Aphrodisias, available
http://insaph.kcl.ac.uk/iaph2007, ISBN 978-1-897747-19-3
Roueché, Charlotte (2004),
Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity: The Late
Roman and Byzantine Inscriptions, revised second edition, available:
http://insaph.kcl.ac.uk/ala2004, ISBN 1-897747-17-9
Roueche, Charlotte, Erim, Kenan T. (edd.) (1991),
Recent Work on Architecture and Sculpture, Journal of Roman
Archaeology Supplementary Series.
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