Aphrodisias (Greek: Ἀφροδισιάς, Aphrodisiás) was a small city in Caria, on the southwest coast of Asia Minor. Its site is located near the modern village of Geyre, Turkey, about 230 km from İzmir. Aphrodisias was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who had here her unique cult image, the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias.
The city was built near a marble quarry that was extensively exploited in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and sculpture in marble from Aphrodisias became famous in the Roman world. Many examples of statuary have been unearthed in Aphrodisias, and some representations of the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias also survive from other parts of the Roman world.
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 century.
The first formal excavations were undertaken in 1904-5, by a French railroad engineer, Paul Augustin Gaudin. The most recent, ongoing excavations are under the aegis of New York University. 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 directed it to align with Octavian in his power struggle against Mark Antony. This ensured Octavian Augustus's lasting favor in the form of financial privileges that allowed the city to prosper.
The site is in an earthquake zone and has suffered a great deal of damage at various times, especially in severe temblors 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 distance away.
Flora and fauna
The easiest option is to hire a tour from Pamukkale for 30-40 TL. Or, from Denizli, you can patch together minibuses to Nazilli and on to Aphrodisias (buses going from Nazilli to Geyre or Tavas will pass by Aphrodisias). However, there may be direct buses from Denizli.
To drive, you will first have to arrive at the city of Nazilli to the northwest or Tavas to the southeast. From these cities, take road D585 and you will see signs showing the way to arrive. From Denizli, it is fastest to arrive from Tavas.
Hitchhiking into Aphrodisias is not difficult. Starting early, it is entirely possible to start from Fethiye and hitch to Aphrodisias via Muğla and Tavas and have a few hours to see Aphrodisias before it closes. Aphrodisias is just off of the road, and you can leave your bags with the security in the museum. If you chat with the security guards for a bit, they will make sure you have a place to pitch your tent.
It costs 8 TL for entrance to Aphrodisias.
There is parking just outside of the entrance. The area can only be explored on foot, but it is mostly flat and wearing sandals would not be a problem. You can see the whole area in 2 hours, but it is best to go slow and take 3 or more hours.
Aphrodisias Museum - On site, entrance free with entrance to park. Showcasing an incredibly wide range of sculptures, reliefs, and other artifacts recovered from the area. You can easily spend an hour in here admiring the sculptures from the renowned Aphrodisias school.
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.
Sarcophagi - Sarcophagi were recovered in various locations, most frequently decorated with designs consisting of garland and columns.
Bouleuterion - The Bouleuterion (Council House) 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.
Sebasteion - Currently under active restoration/replication by NYU, located close to the museum. 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". 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 Venus/Aphrodite.
Stadium - Probably the best preserved of its kind in the Mediterranean except, perhaps, for the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. It measured 262 by 59 m and 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.
Bathhouse - A nicely preserved building showing different room for changing and bathing. An important civic center and place of leisure for the denizens of the city.