General Information

Aphrodisias was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. An ancient city of Caria, Aphrodisias was already settled during the Neolithic Age, about 8000 years ago. The city was particularly important during the Classical Age, having been founded around the marble quarry near Baba Dag (ancient Salbakos). This area was extensively exploited during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and the sculptors from Aphrodisias became famous in the Roman world.

The city was the capital of the Caria province of the Roman Empire during the 3rd century. However, due to its important role in providing statues and sculptures of pre-Christian gods and deities, the city saw constant change throughout history as different religions became dominant in the area. During the Christian period, the city was renamed as Stavropolis (City of the Cross).

Culture and History

The city is especially known for its sculpture workshops, with items ranging from finished masterpieces to unfinished sculptures. Famous structures to display the marble craftsmanship were erected in the city, ranging from the Temple of Aphrodite, the Monumental gateway (tetrapylon), Bouleuterion (Council House), the Sebasteion (Augusteum), and the famous athletic stadium, that is still the best preserved sporting arena of its kind in the Mediterranean.

With the arrival of Christianity, the Temple of Aphrodite was converted into a cathedral. Most of the ancient sculptures depicting ancient deities were vandalised, with crosses etched onto the figures. Some structures were taken apart for the marble building blocks to be used in the building of defensive walls around the city. The arrival of Islam caused similar damage to these figures. Despite all this, thousands of pieces are still intact and displayed at the local museum, right next to the open air museum.

Standing on an earthquake zone, the city was shook numerous times, destroying the city and the subsequent villages built on top for centuries. The city was abandoned in the 12th century, but the village of Geyre sprang up on the site some time later.

The city was discovered when in 1958, the famous Turkish photographer Ara Guler lost his way at night and stopped at a nearby village, where he noticed an ancient-looking marble block being used as a coffee table stand. He took its pictures, along with other “recycled” marble blocks. These were eventually seen by Prof. Kenan Erim of NYU, who directed excavation efforts to the site. Due to his dedication to Aphrodisias, his burial site is within this ancient city.