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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Aphrodisias

Aphrodisias Archaeology Aphrodisiac

Afrodisias Aphrodisiac
Afrodisias Aphrodisiac
Aphrodisias should not be missed as it is probably the best archaeology site in Turkey – even better than Ephesus and without the crowds. You will be amazed by the complete monumental gate, stadium, Roman bath, agora and theatre. It is truly a must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS).  This city was dedicated to the Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, but today it is a tourist aphrodisiac. 
 
Day 11: We did not arrive at Aphrodisias until noon after driving about 2:15 hours (124 km) east from Selçuk. Aphrodisias is a compact area that can be done in a couple of hours. Best of all, a few minutes after getting off the free mini-bus from the parking lot to the entrance, the last tour group left the stadium. From this point on we were practically all alone. It was totally silent except for the birds. Very few people and very few groups come here. That alone is worth the price of admission (TRY 15), which is a fraction of the cost of Ephesus. The problem is that it is hard to get here without having a rental car or going on a tour. 
 

Tetrapylon

 
Afrodisias Aphrodisiac
Tetrapylon Towers - Look Way Up
From the entrance square and museum, we took the road to the right (NW direction). We would recommend you do the same as you get to see the most important sight right away – a monumental gate and I mean very high. This cannot be still standing since 200 CE? No, it isn't. But it was reconstructed from the actual materials; i.e. it’s a real, complete monument. What a surprise that Turkey actually repaired and re-erected it in 1990. Wow, that's not what they do in Rome.  
 
We had never seen or heard of a tetrapylon when we lived in Italy. Tetrapylon means four (tetra) gates (pylon) in Greek, and is modelled after a triumphal arch. It is built when there is a major crossroad.  One set of Corinthian columns has unusual spiral fluting.
 

Tetrapylon Lintel Erotes
Lintel of Love
Use your zoom lens or binoculars to view the amazing bas relief sculptures. The columns are topped by a lintel with relief figures of Nike and Erotes amid acanthus leaves or in the process of hunting.  Erotes, the plural of Eros ("Love, Desire"), are a set of winged gods associated with love and sex in Greek mythology. They are part of the retinue of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite.

Stadium

 
Afrodisias Stadium
Stadium for One
We took the path continuing NW and then turned sharply to the right and came to an amazing sight – a complete, intact 270 m stadium. Most of the seats are still there, enough seats for around 30,000 spectators.  It is one of the largest and best preserved stadiums in the Ancient Mediterranean. Oh well, there is only one spectator today. 

 
Afrodisias Stadium
Stadium for 30,000
Leaving the stadium on the same side (left) as we entered but taking the right path, we headed due south toward the Temple of Aphrodite. 
 

Why is Such a Beautiful City Here?

 
The question is why was this magnificent place built this far inland? Most major cities in ancient times were built along the coast or major rivers because boats were the main and fastest means of transportation in ancient times. 
 
Aphrodisias was constructed here because of the quarries of beautiful white and blue-gray marble. The marble sculptures made in Aphrodisias became famous and were exported as far as North Africa and Rome. It became a cultural and artistic hub as well as a centre for medicine and philosophy. The city was laid out following urban planning concepts begun by Hippodamus of Miletus.
 

Temple of Aphrodite

 

Aphrodisias Temple of Aphrodite
Temple of Aphrodite
The site of Aphrodisias has been sacred since as early as 5800 BC, when Neolithic farmers came here to worship the Mother Goddess of fertility and crops. Notice the preoccupation with reproduction. It followed that the Greeks named Aphrodisias after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and origin of our word aphrodisiac. During Persian rule, this site was dedicated to their equivalent goddess, Ishtar. A part of the Ishtar processional tiles from Babylon can be seen in the Istanbul Archaeological Museums.
 

Aphrodisias Temple of Aphrodite
Love Flower
This similarity between goddesses is not accidental. What is interesting is that Hinduism, Ancient Greek, Ancient Roman and Viking religions all share a similar pantheon of gods and goddesses. That is because these deities are related to the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) people (formerly called Aryans) who migrated from the Caspian Sea area east to India, west to Turkey, and north to Slavic Europe and Scandinavia. BTW, this is now backed by DNA research with a particular genetic pattern (R1a1a).
 
It is also demonstrated by the fact that European and Indian languages belong to the Indo-European language group, which is related to and descended from Sanskrit. So the English word deity, Latin deus, Greek dios and god Zeus, and the Hindi word deva are derived from Sanskrit deva.  So it follows that the Greek Aphrodite was similar to Anatolian cult images. While the name was different, a deity often had the same set of powers associated with the Hindu deity.
 

Hadrianic Baths

Hadrianic Baths
Lone Statue, Dry Baths
 
On the right, just south of the Temple of Aphrodite were remnants of a Roman bath. Most of floor, now exposed to the outside, is still paved with black and white tiles. A lone statue gives an idea of what Afrodisias looked like with classical sculpture decorating all the public places. It must have been delightful. This statue decorated a pool.  
 

Agora with Water Park

 
Wow, the archaeological wonders continue.  Turning east after the baths, the path parallels alongside the large South Agora (Greek for market place and origin of our word agoraphobia, fear of open spaces), colonnaded pools included. 
 
Afrodisias Agora
Agora Aphrodisiac
The agora was enclosed by colonnaded stoa. This would give any of our present day shopping centres a run for their money. 
 
The path then climbs a steep hill, the acropolis. Along the way, there are more great views of the "water park". They continue to work on this area. In fact, the gate was left open. So I went inside for a closer view of some columns sitting beside the water-filled pool.
 

Theatre

 
Afrodisias Theatre
Your Own Private Theatre
On the side of the acropolis hill is a complete theatre with a stage from 1st century BC. There is no skene building (Greek skene, Latin scaenae,  origin of English word scene) behind it. The scaenae was damaged in the 7th century earthquake. There would have been architectural ornament and statues of senators and benefactors. It was a great place to have lunch with a view (if you planned ahead). 
 

Fall of Afrodisias

 
Afrodisias Sebasteion
Afrodisias Sebasteion
Aphrodisias never fully recovered from Arab raids and from the 7th century earthquake, and fell into disrepair. On the way out we saw the Sebasteion building covered in bas relief then went into the museum. This building was dedicated to the goddess and the imperial family of Julius Caesar.  That is because Gens Julia claimed divine descent from Venus (Aphrodite).
 

Afrodisias Museum
Sculpture Serpentinata
Unfortunately, the museum is totally under-lit making photography difficult. But there are some interesting sculptures. You can almost feel the delicate folds of the dress in this sculpture. The photo shows one of the most important art concepts, serpentinata or spiral "S"-shaped form.  It was the rediscovery of serpentinata and perspective in the 1400s that led to more realistic art and sculpture of the Renaissance. A supreme example of serpentinata is the Laocoön statue – original made in Pergamon and discovered in Rome in 1506  was one of the biggest influences. 

 
Pamukkale



Afrodisias Museum
Sculpture Aphrodisiac
We were the last ones to leave the site along with an American who asked for a ride. He came much later than us and had to rush through the site. At the end of the day, it was empty so there were no cars or dolmuş (shared mini-buses) departing. He asked if we were going to Denizli so he could get the bus to Antalya, where he would later fly out to Istanbul. He got to Afrodisias late in the afternoon because it took him half a day to go from Denizli by dolmuş (shared mini-bus). Good for him that he came here; but not so good arranging his itinerary.
 
So driving him to the bus station was our good deed for the day as there were no local dolmuş to be seen. There were some nice mountains on our way to Denizli, if the weather had been clearer. Afrodisias to Pamukkale takes about two hours (98 km) going east to Tavas then north on the D330.  

We arrived at Pamukkale but the road was closed and there was a clear sign to veer left but after a while it seemed we were leaving the small town. We doubled back and eventually found our delightful hotel, Melrose House.