Aphrodisias is one of the best preserved ancient cities in Turkey. Aphrodisias mentioned in Suda, a massive Byzantine encyclopedia.
It is named after Aphrodite because she has a sanctuary in this city. The city, being lose to a marble quarry, owned a famous sculpture school many sculptures unearthed in Aphrodisias.
It is also famous with renowned scholars and philosophers. Xenocrates, who had been a student of Plato, is believed to live in Aphrodisias.
Two prehistoric mounds found in this settlement, date back to 6th or 5th millennium BC, indicates long habitation in this area but the settlement remained as a small village until 2nd century BC. The earliest coins and inscriptions dates back 2nd century BC. The most glorious times of city came in late 1st century BC when city came under the personal protection of Roman Emperor Augustus. First several centuries AD was the most prosperous times of the city. There was an active pagan and Jewish community in the city. Also the sculpture school made it prosper more . In 4th century an earthquake altered the water table and as a result some parts of city became vulnerable to flooding. An emergency plumbing installed to fix this problem. But after the earthquake in 7th century Aphrodisias never be able to recover. Additionaly in the late 6th and early 7th centuries because of the troubles in Roman world Aphrodisias reduced to size of a village again. It is completely abandoned in 14th century.
The important buildings in this city are:
Temple of Aphrodite: Although it is dated back earlier centuries, the temple we see today is dated back 1st century BC. It is built in stages. The temple finished in 2nd century. There are 8 columns on the front and back and 13 columns on each sides. On the columns and door moldings the contributions of some leading citizens inscribed.
It has been altered and became a Christian Basilica around 500 AD then it served as city’s cathedral. The temple has been through major undertaking. It’s been converted into a large basilica much larger than the pagan temple it converted from.
Aphrodisian sculptures renowned using plenty of marble supply in quarry. Today, the full length sculptures can be seen in the museum. Also many unfinished unearthened and they are prof of the sculpture school in Aphrodisas.
In antiquity the sanctuary in Aphrodisias was distinctive with its cult of Ahprodite. The cult image of Aphrodite was a mixture of her Carian origins and several Anatolian deities.
Monumental Getaway (Tetraphylon): This monumental getaway or tetrapylon, was the gate greeted the pilgrims coming to Aphrodisias. Tetraphylon leads from main North-south Street to the Temple or Sanctuary of Aphrodisias as a connection between Major Street and sacred way leading the temple of Aphrodite.
Bouleuterion: It is on the North side of the north agora. With approximately 1750 seat capacity, the building was open plan building with numerous entrances on the ground floor and several stairways leading to upper floors. The massive parallel buttresses found indicate that it was originally a roofed building. It is remained in its original structure until the 5th century but later on it’s been adapted to palaestra, wrestling area, by a municipal official.
Stadium: It is the best preserved and biggest stadium in Mediterranean. It is in shape of ellipse. The seats built in an order for spectators not block each other’s views and be able to see the whole arena. It is originally designed for athletic contests but after the theater damaged in an earthquake in 7th century, it was used as a theater as well. In Roman period it is used for large number of athletic competitions and festivals.
Odeon: It was the concert hall. It is in semicircular shape with 12 tiered rows of seats. The stage and orchestra are decorated with mosaics. The roof has been damaged by an earthquake in 4th century.
Baths Of Hadrian: It has built in 2nd century, these baths has two large galleries with underground service corridors and water channels.
Theater: It was built in 1st century BC and dedicated to Aphrodite and the people of the city. Its capacity is 8000 people. The stage building has 6 dressing rooms and a number of storage rooms. In 2nd century AD orchestra and stage buildings were restored to make it more suitable for animals and gladiator fights. The building has damaged in earthquakes in 4th century AD.
Portico of Tiberius: It is the South portico at the Agora and known as Portico of Tiberius because the construction started during the reign of Tiberius. Italian archaeologists found a large number of friezes and dedicatory inscriptions honoring the emperor. Also there is a huge pool at the center of portico.
Sebasteion: Sebasteion is basicaly was a grand temple complex edicated to Aphrodite and the Julio-Claudian emperors. It is the most important archaeological discovery of latest years. There is a 14 meter wide courtyard in Sebasteion. There was four main architectural items in Sebasteion. At the wast there was a Propylon which is an entrance for sacred places, on the north and south two buildings that frame a paved sanctuary or processional space and on the east side there was a temple which was the focus of the whole structure. The construction of the Sebastieon interrupped by a major eartquake and it took two generation to built it completely.
Agora: The agora was a large public square located betwen Sebasteion and Aphrodite Temple. It also contains a market area. It is mostly used for musical events, public speeches and literature competitions. There were two porticoes in agora. Southern portico is called Portico of Tiberius and the northern portico is stil unexplored.