Friezes and base reliefs from a monument to C. Julius Zoilus are found in a special section within the museum. The monument dates to about 28 BC and were restored between 1993 and 1994. Zoilus was a slave of possibly first Julius Caesar and then Octavian. He came from Afrodisias originally and possibly ended up as a slave as a result of being captured by pirates. As a hardworking and trusted agent of Octavian, he was freed and given money and honor. Returning to Afrodisias, Zoilus made sure the city aligned itself with Octavian in the late Civil War against Mark Anthony. Being on the winning side made Zoilus even more esteemed and the city, as a whole, was able to reap the benefits. Zoilus’ money helped to build the Sebasteion, a colonnaded courtyard for the agora, and a new stage building for the city theater. He was the leading man of the city and a priest of Aphrodite. When he died, the proud city erected this monument to demonstrate Zoilus’ life and his virtues.
Another important piece on display is a pillar that once stood in front of the synagogue here in Afrodisias – the synagogue has yet to be identified. On that pillar – dated to the late 4th Century – there is a list of donors who contributed to the synagogue with 110 names on the front and another 25 names on the left side. At the top are Jewish names with room for more below those listed. Then, below is a much larger number of names who were known as the
theosebeis – go worshipper/fearers. Several of the names were members of the City Council – boya. This is direct evidence that there was a significant number of Gentiles that had become attracted to the Jewish faith to some degree, though not to the point of circumcision – full converts were listed in the Jewish section. It is the theosebeis that Paul was most interested in on his missionary trips in the eastern Mediterranean world. Paul offered full community without the need for circumcision, something that many Gentiles must have found as a much easier route to travel. By ‘stealing’ away some of the god worshipers from the local synagogues, he set himself up for confrontation with the Jewish authorities who would eventually get back at Paul when he was visited Jerusalem in the late 50’s – Acts 21: 17-28.
… Sebasteion. These statue reliefs used to be mounted on the three-storied Sebasteion. One would enter from the agora to the west, walking through a large monumental gateway, and then walk down between the two sets of facing relief groups with a temple devoted to the worship of the imperial cult at the eastern end. The reliefs used to cover the faces of the upper two stories of the Sebasteion. They had been found in fragments – 10 to 20 pieces – which were originally reassembled between 1979 and 1981. Later – 1999 to 2007 – the reassembled reliefs were totally disassembled, restored further and then reassembled once more.
The reliefs on the middle story of the south building dealt with heroes and gods of local, Greek and Roman lore: love stories showed the power of Aphrodite; heroes worked for the good of mankind – world rule is secured by partnership with the Olympioi – Olympian gods. Then on the upper story of the south building are the new gods – the Roman emperors, Augustus through Nero with Caligula missing. Again, world rule is secured by human partnership with both the old gods and the new gods – the Theoi Sebastoi Olympioi or the Olympian Emperor Gods. Stories are shown showing the emperors victorious in wars against barbarians: Claudius is spearing a prostrate and naked Britannia, Nero is triumphant over a naked and defeated Armenia.
Part of the south section of the Sebasteion was reassembled between 2000 and 2011 and a few of the reliefs were copied and placed in the original position so as to give a visitor a better idea of what the complex once looked like.
Fewer reliefs survived from the northern structure, which collapsed in the mid 4th century. The second story showed the ethne – various peoples – who had been brought into the Roman Empire by Augustus. Peoples – 50 were originally displayed – from Spain to Mesopotamia were displayed – the idea and the list of ethne being copied from a monument in Rome.
The amount and quality of stonework that has been recovered at Afrodisias is incredible. To try and ensure the ancient art stays around for awhile yet a museum has been built across from the ticket office. Interesting aside is that that large open area is what used to be the main public square of the town of Geyre – the modern day successor to Afrodisias. Out in front of the museum are some glorious sarcophagi. Inside, wonders wait. The first hall has Philosopher’s Row with Pythagoras, Sokrates, Alexander and Pindaros as some of those looking back at us from the wall. My group took a quick glance and then headed directly to the back of the museum where a new section has been added specially to exhibit the base reliefs from the …
The theater is thought to have had room for some 7,000 people. Dramas and public assemblies took place here. It was built up against a prehistoric settlement mound. The stage building was built with money from Zoilus. Statuary has been removed to the museum while the mask friezes that used to adorn the theater are on display attached to a building just next to the Sebasteion.
Earthquakes in the 4th and 7th Centuries damaged the city severely. The 4th Century trembler altered the local water table – emergency plumbing measures from this time have been identified. The plumbing measures have, however, not been very successful in the long run as much of the South Agora is under water – the water laps as far as the west end of the Sebasteion. The South Agora was added to the scene in the early to mid 1st Century CE in the same project that added the Sebasteion. Later, the Hadrian Baths, the new Bouleuterion and the tetrapylon gateway to the Temple of Aphrodite would be developed. The agora was dedicated to the Emperor Tiberius and featured a large ornamental pool which ran down the middle – the pool has vastly over flown today.
Next to the Bishop’s House just south of the Temple of Aphrodite is the City Council House – Bouleuterion. The lower part survives today – some nine rows. An additional upper twelve rows with supporting vaults and arched windows has long since collapsed. The building dates to the late 2nd or early 3rd Century and probably replaced a smaller bouleuterion which was built along with the north agora in the late 1st Century BC.
This housing complex on the south side of the Temple of Aphrodite was originally built for some local, well-to-do, possibly the Roman governor. With the coming of Christianity, it became the palace of the local bishop. Afrodisias had several names during its long life. With the collapse of paganism, the town was renamed Stauropolis – City of the Cross – in the mid 7th Century. Many bishops from here are noted as having attended various Ecumenical Councils. The see was abandoned by the bishop in the mid 14th Century though Stauropolis remains a Roman Catholic see even today.
Aphrodite was the Greek incarnation of an earlier local goddess similar to the case of Artemis at Ephesus. The temple was a focal point for the town and continued in another incarnation as a basilica with the coming of Christianity. Christian grafitti is carved into the stone pillars at the entrance.
Built in about 200 CE, this magnificent gateway was erected leading off a main street in the ancient city into a forecourt in front of the Temple of Aphrodite. Nearby is the grave of Kenan Erim, the Turkish-American archeologist from New York University who was responsible for the 1962 excavatory beginnings.
Sebasteion in Greek or Augusteum in Latin, this magnificent three-storied monumental gateway is in the slow process of being put partly back together – anastylosis. The many statues – base-reliefs – that used to fill the monument’s niches are now on display in the local museum with a few plaster copies on display in the restored Sebasteion in order to give a modern visitor some idea of how the monument used to appear.
The 1st Century CE dedicatory inscription notes the Sebasteion was built “to Aphrodite, the Divine Augusti and the People.” Aphrodite was the Greek interpretation of an earlier local goddess – not unlike the case of Artemis at Ephesus. What is important about Aphrodite however is that the family of Gaius Julius Caesar – Gens Julia – claimed to have been directly descended from Venus/Aphrodite. The monuments here raise the early emperors to the levels of the gods themselves. For more, see the entry for the museum and the Travelogue on the Sebasteion sculptures in detail.
visit of site follows an itinerary arrowed :it's rather difficult to deviate from the area where excavations go on.
so,the first site you meet is the theater.(1st cent.BC)
covered with buildings,recently excavated.
The stadium here is one of the best preserved from ancient times even damaged as it was by a 7th Century earthquake. It is thought that the stadium could hold up to 30.000 people for athletic events.
The ruins of the ancient city of Aphrodisias are substantial and extensive. Among other things, they include one of the best preserved, if not the best preserved, Roman circus/race track anywhere.
one of the more original buildings in the whole site!
destroyed by an earthquake (4th cent.AC),fully rebuilt,with original stones and ornamentation found on the spot.