Saturday, 20 December 2008


From Selcuk we went to Aphrodisias – about 175 Kilometres from Ephesus. It’s a lot further inland and much higher up, (about 1,900 feet above sea level) which meant it was much colder, although most of the day was bright and sunny we definitely needed coats!
The city is on plateau in the hills so there are stunning views in all directions, and it was almost deserted.

If Ephesus is impressive, Aphrodisias is utterly mind-blowing. It covers an even larger area (and there are huge areas which haven’t yet been excavated.
Historically, it was named for Aphrodite and as it was sited near several marble quarries it became famous for sculpture. The temple of Aphrodite was turned into a Christian church in the 5th century, by moving walls and pillars to almost turn it inside out.

The gates / portico from one end is still standing, together with quite a few pillars – it must have been an immense building. They know, from inscriptions, that the temple, and the theatre, were paid for by a leading citizen named Zoilos, who is believed to have been a freed slave – possibly a slave to the Emperor.

Most of the ruins date back to the 1st & 2nd Centuries AD, and most are still in situ although some of the carvings have been moved into the museum or to Istanbul.

These are the original masks from a frieze above the stage in the theatre, which have been moved under cover

There is a stadium, which could seat around 30,000 and is one of the largest and best preserved in the world –

It still has the original entrances through which the participants would enter – one of these has been excavated so you can see the original ground level, several feet below the current level.

The whole structure is huge, and so well preserved you can still see the carvings on some of the seats saying who they were reserved for, and the places where ropes were fixed (for awnings?)

There are the remains of the agora (market places) and Baths, and houses.

And there was another Amphitheatre – even better preserved than the one at Ephesus. As it was almost deserted I gave in to my inner drama queen and took the opportunity to give it my best Shakespearean soliloquy (To be or not to be, since you ask. It’s the only one I know well enough to do without prompting)
I doubt that it would score highly in terms of acting ability but it’s an amazing feeling, and the acoustics, even without the rear wall, are amazing!

It's too small and far away to see properly, but that is me on stage (wearing my ‘Graveyard Book’ Neverwear shirt!)

There were pomegranate trees among the ruins – they had shed all their leaves, but the fruit were still on the trees, burst open like flowers.

And there were, of course, more archaeological cats.

We also went into the museum, where some of the more delicate statues and carvings have been moved, including most of the originals from the Sebasteion (Temple of Deified Emperors) which included one of Claudius (who I always think of as Derek Jacobi) conquering Britain.
On a few of them you could see traces of colour, where the stautes were originally painted (very garishly, if the research is to be believe

Apparently, builders in the 1st century were no more reliable than they are today – there is archaeological evidence that some of the statues were put up in the wrong place, so they have the wrong ‘captions’!

This entire place is stunning - I found it more so than even Rome or Athens - perhaps because it is less familiar. The really amazing part is how little of the site this represents. There were various ditches and other holes in the ground which (to the untrained eye) seemed to be natural rather than man made; you'd just look down and see half a classical pillar sticking out - there were also a group of 6 or 7 pillars standing amidst a clump of trees and brambles, which didn't seem to be important enough to be fenced off or labelled...

This (below) is the Sebasteion - the reliefs on the building to the left are copies (the originals are in the museaum, but the rest of the building is original. And roughly 2000 years old.

1 comment:

Dragonsally said...

I have been sitting here reading and looking at the photos with my mouth hanging open, the place and the history is just mind blowing.

Oh, I so have to get to Turkey one day