Sunday, 7 December 2014

Aphrodisias - Jewel of Antiquity

Aphrodisias lies in the upper reaches of the Meander Valley, the most fertile area on the Turkish west coast. The marble quarries situated in the region gave rise to a flourishing industry extensively exploited during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The sculpture school in Aphrodisias became famous in the Roman world, and it is where many fine examples of exquisite statuary have been unearthed. Aphrodisias was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, a pagan Temple dedicated to her stood at the heart of the city.
Tetrapylon, the entrance gate to Aphrodisias
The Stadium at Aphrodisias is 270 meters long and has 30 tiers of seating with space for 30,000 people. It is not only the best preserved ancient stadium in the world but also the largest. Built in the first century AD to house traditional Greek athletic contests such as running, jumping, wrestling, discus, and javelin throwing.
During the Roman period the stadium was used for gladiatorial combats and wild beast fights. Numerous inscriptions carved on the seats of the stadium provide information about the spectators. Some reserve spaces for groups of associations - The Tanners and The Goldsmiths, and others are reserved for specific individuals. Men and women from Aphrodisias and also nearby Antioch would attend the stadium 
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The ionic order of the Temple of Aphrodite was begun in the late first century BC and completed during the reign of Augustus. In the second century AD, the temple was enclosed in an elaborate colonnaded court framed by a two storied columnar façade on the east, and by porticos on the north, west, and south
Around 500 AD the temple was converted into a Christian church. The conversion was an enormous undertaking in which many of the columns were removed from their original positions and used to extend the northern and southern colonnades. It changed the proportions of the pagan temple into an enormous church which remained in use until the Seljuk conquest in 1200 AD.
The Bath of Hadrian at Aphrodisias was originally richly decorated with marble ornamentation
It is difficult today to appreciate the splendour of the building from the surviving unadorned sandstone and marble blocks
The South Agora was a park like public square with Ionic marble colonnades that surrounded an ornamental pool. The double wall of the pool housed pipes that carried water under pressure to feed several fountains. The north portico of the square carried characteristic mythological masks and garland friezes dedicated to emperor Tiberius AD 14-37. The west end was enclosed by the Hadrianic Baths.
This unique pool and its fountains which measures 170m has recently received funding to excavate the remaining earth fill and research its function and water system with the hope of eventually restoring it.
Antonius Claudius Dometeinos - was a local magnate, honoured by the city with a public statue at the entrance to the Bouleuterion. He wears civic dress and a heavy priestly crown, decorated with busts of Aphrodite and Roman emperors

The best preserved version of the cult statue of Aphrodite from her temple. Her head was veiled and she wears a heavy casing on which are (a) Three Graces, (b) Moon and Sun (c) Aphrodite on a sea-goat, and (d) Eros figures sacrificing
The Three Graces stand in their familiar hellenistic composition. They were handmaids of Aphrodite and appeared in this form on the decoration of her cult statue above. Their names evoke their character: Euphrosynē - Joy, Aglaia - Splendour and Thaleia - Bloom
Meleager sits on a rock tying his sandal. Below him lies a fierce hunting dog with a broad collar. On the left side a god or another hero crowning Meleager (arm missing). On the other side stands the huntress Atalante, Meleager's lover: she wears a short dress and quiver, and lifts her cloak at the shoulder in a gesture of modesty and flirtation
The two princes stand like statues, naked, wearing cloaks. The left figure holds the orb of the world in one hand, a symbol of world rule that indicates he is the imperial heir, and in the other an ornament from a ship's stern, a symbol of naval victory. They are probably Gaius and Lucius, the grandsons of Augustus, or Nero and Britannicus, Claudius' heirs
The swaddled baby Dionysos is handed from one nymph to another for suckling. A bearded Slienos gestures excitedly with his arms and taps his foot as though singing or about to dance. The scene is set at nearby Mysa in the Meander valley, where Zeus had his gifted child Dionysos, born to him by Semele, brought up in the wilds out of view of his wife Hera
Bellerophon was a Lykian hero, and was claimed as a founder at Aphrodisias. He holds his winged horse Pegasus. The carving is considered poor: the sculptor apparently learning his craft
The on site museum at Aphrodisias is exceptional with several very large rooms filled with wonderful marble statuary found at Aphrodisias - this is just a brief glimpse. The statuary gives an indication of the magnificence that was Aphrodisias.
Aphrodisias was a special city beloved by Augustus. Due to this it was exempted from paying taxes - Zoilos a good friend and a former slave of Augustus was from the city - Aphrodisias, was an artisan city whose Sculptors made statues for emperors and commanders from all over the Roman Empire
A letter written by Emperor Augustus to Stephanus - Governor of Laodicea
"Greetings.
You know my affection for my friend Zoilos.
I have freed his native city and recommended it to Antonius.
Since Antonius is absent, take care that. No burden falls upon them.
This one city, I have taken for my own out of all Asia.
I wish this people to be protected as my own townsmen.
I shall be watching to see that you carry out my recommendation to the full."

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This is the last post from Turkey 2014, but I am including one final image. This is for Gina at the lovely blog Art and Alfalfa who noticed it in a collage and asked if I would show it in full
Early morning in Antalya

28 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Jean - I have found my visits to Turkey have put ancient history into a much better context for me.

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  2. I enjoyed this series, Aphrodisias is so impressive. In my imagination I see this Temple dedicated to the Goddess of Love in better times, long, long ago.
    However, the early morning picture of modern swimming pool in Antalya is wonderful too.

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    1. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to turn the clock back and see this beautiful city in all of its splendour during antiquity. However, as you mention, even today it is possible to use your imagination and see it lying in this wonderful fertile valley surrounded by mountains.

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  3. It is lovely to see that last image in full, it is beautiful. As you say, it is difficult to imagine the temple in all its original splendour and glory, but it is not hard to see that it must have been magnificent, because the remains today are so incredibly, it must have been truly wonderful when it was first built mustn't it. The carvings are so intricate and the way that the columns and their capitals are worked is just so fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed all your posts, and this was a wonderful way to end this series! xx

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    1. Thank you Amy for all of your very appreciative comments throughout this series from Turkey. This was my third visit to Turkey, which includes Istanbul, and each one has been a real eye opener giving me a greater understanding of the history in that area from antiquity.

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  4. Great history for sure. The pillars look good and I wonder what it all looked like in it's former glory!

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    1. It must have been a beautiful city Margaret.

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  5. I would love to have seen this beautiful city when it was in its prime, and I like the idea of entering a city through a beautiful gate — it sure beats billboards! The size of the stadium is amazing! One can only imagine that there must have been many three-ring events.

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    1. The Tetrapylon is a beautiful piece of classical architecture - and I must admit that we were blown away by the size and scale of the stadium which was far larger than anticipated.

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  6. Hello Rosemary, How these carvings all bring the various ancient myths and history to life, incidentally revealing their co-relationships and evolution. I once mentioned to Mark concerning Pompeii that there are a number of then-and-now books showing ancient ruins with plastic overlays that add an artist's conception of the original appearance, in color and detail. They are not photo-realistic, but do aid a mental reconstruction of what these places must have been like.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - there were various boards around Aphrodisias giving impressions of how the city might have looked in its prime - I wonder if there is one of the books you mentioned showing Aphrodisias?

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  7. Dear Rosemary, Oh, the beautiful and magical places you have visited! This series of your visit to Turkey has been the most magical. And this last group of photographs, in particular, are absolutely outstanding. Except for the breezes blowing around me I can actually pretend that I am there. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.
    Thank you also for the gift of the last photograph. ox, Gina

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    1. Dear Gina - I am pleased that you were happy to see the last image, I suddenly remembered that you had asked to see it in a larger size.
      I feel as if I have now been on another trip whilst writing these posts, but it is a good way of absorbing the experience and getting to grips with what you have visited.

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  8. Have enjoyed all your photos of Turkey, bring back such good memories.

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    1. I am very pleased that you have enjoyed a little stroll down memory lane and thank you for your kind comment

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  9. I wonder if those who visit the Temple of Aphrodite even today receive extra blessings in love?

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  10. Very nice to meet you Rosemary... I could only dream of visiting such places! Your photography is amazing. What a treasured vacation this must have been for you.
    Rosemary :)

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    1. Hello Rosemary - thank you for visiting. Aphrodisias was a memorable place to wander around and see under lovely skies.

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  11. Aphrodisias must have been stunningly beautiful, Rosemary. The entrance gate is superb, and the stadium incredible - even bigger than the one on which the Piazza Navona now stands in Rome, which we thought very large. How exciting to see all the marble statuary, you must have enjoyed visiting this. Thank you for the outstanding series on Turkey. I have loved it!

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    1. Dear Patricia - I do appreciate your kind comments and I am pleased that you have enjoyed these Turkish posts. Turkey has been a real eye opener for us, we have seen so many memorable places and absorbed so much of their history, however, next year it is time to move on to destinations new!!!

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  12. This post has taken my breath away. You have shown the magnificence of the Grego Romano empire in all its glory .. What amazing craftsmen .. One can only imagine life there in Aphrodisias! Augustus had something to be proud of.
    From the Roman /Greek ruins.. these look amazing.. covered over a vast area. The arene is unbelievable.
    I so enjoyed reading about your trip to Turkey Rosemary, and that a sprinkle of love dust fell upon you both from Aphrodite's hand.
    Thank you for this exciting post.
    Happy week
    val x

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    1. Dear Val - Thank you for such a lovely comment on several counts. I am delighted that you enjoyed the post and also that you found our trip to Turkey made interesting reading. I also like the idea that we received a sprinkle of love dust falling from the hand of Aphrodite, what a lovely thought♡

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  13. You always amaze me with the places you visited, Rosemary. Aphrodisias must have been grandeur in its scale, beauty, and glory. There are something I can’t tell apart among Roman, Greek, and Turkish things as they look alike and then different. And I was reminded that on the continent migration, invasion, merging of cultures, rising and falling kingdoms happened one after another in the long but in fact short history. The perfect mirror reflection of the last image tells us one day of mild weather of your trip.

    Yoko

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    1. Hello Yoko - because Turkey sits on the cross road between Asia and Europe its architecture mirrors many different cultures. The bones of its ruins from classical antiquity are Hellenistic which have then been built on and added to by the Romans.
      As you suggest the weather was extremely mild, and in fact resembled summer for us, perfect days every day.

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  14. Rosemary, thank you for such an informative tour of an ancient city I'd never heard of. The buildings are magnificent and their scale almost mind-boggling, when one thinks that the Britons of the time were living in simple round houses.

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    1. A wonderful place in a beautiful setting - really memorable Perpetua

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