Aphrodisias

Aphrodisias (sometimes Afrodisias) is located inland in the Southern Aegean region of Turkey, in Aydin province, about 30 km west of Denizli (but with no direct road connection). As an archaeological site listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it contains some of the most impressive Roman ruins in Turkey, and has perhaps offers a greater value than Ephesus. The nearby village is named Geyre, less than 10 km south of Karacasu.

Tetrapylon, the monumental entrance gate to Aphrodisias

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Aphrodisias (Greek: Ἀφροδισιάς, Aphrodisiás) was a small city in Caria, near 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.

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