Aphrodisias is well of the main highway between İzmir and Denizli, about 35 km from the turn near Kuyucuk. It is in the pretty valley of a small tributary of the Menderes River near the town of Geyre which used to be located on top of it.
Temples, a bishop’s palace, a theater, a huge stadium, baths, a council chamber and, above all of these spectacular finds, a great quantity of beautiful statuary distinguish Aphrodisias as one of the most attractive ancient cities in Anatolia. The earliest finds go back to about 5800 BC. During the Roman Period there was a major school of sculptuors at Aphrodisias producing masterpieces of white and blue-gray marble that were sent throught the Roman world. The artist’s workshop with their unfinished sculptures has been uncovered and some of their work put on display. Aphrodite, the city’s patron goddess who symbolized fertility in the Greek and Roman Periods, was related through the city’s first known Akkadian name, Ninoe, to the Assyrian goddess Astarte, the symbol of motherhood. The connection seems to be that Ninoe was the same goddes of love and war. Ninus was the legendary founder of Assyria. As a symbol of fertility, Aphrodite bore a similarity also to Cybele and to Artemis.
Aphrodisias flourished as an important religious and agricultural city, but it was also known as a center for the arts, letters and other intellectual and scientific pursits.
One of the unique and most interesting buildings in Aphrodisias is the Sebasteion, a complex dedicated here to Aphrodite, but also a place where the Roman emperors were worshipped as deties. The structure, built in the first part of 1st century AD, memorialized the Emperors Octavian, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius and Nero. Scenes from mythology (Bellerophon and Pegasus, the Three Graces) were interspersed with statues of members of the imperial family (for instance, one of Nero’s mother as Tyche in the act crowning him).
The Temple to Aphrodite, dating from as far back at least as the 7th century BC, was converted into a Christian basilica n the mid5th century AD. At that time a large statue of the goddess was mutilated to fit into part of the new wall. The church ceased to be used after the 12th century when the Selçuks took over the region.
A modern, airy museum at Aphrodisias is a fitting tribute to the work of Professor Kenan Erim who conducted the excavations here from 1969 until his death in 1990. As a tribute to him, he was buried next to the Tetrapylon, the monumental gateway to the Temple to Aphrodite. Generously supported by National Geographic Society, he was given its Centennial Award in 1990 for his lifetime of work in this city.