Size 22nd largest city
Altitude 57 m / 187 ft
Industry Olive oil, soap, textiles and cement
Agriculture Olives, figs, oranges, tangerines, cotton, tobacco and sunflowers
Animal husbandry Very little; sheep and goats
History Ionian, Lydian, Persian, Alexander the Great, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Aydin’s Principality, Ottoman and Turkish Republic

The ancient name was Tralles. The modern name, Aydin was derived from the name of a leader of the Beyliks Period. It was the birthplace of Anthemius who was one of the two architects of the Hagia Sophia.

Anthemius of Tralles (c. 6C AD)

He was an architect, mathematician and engineer. Anthemius, with Isidorus of Miletus, built the great church of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the remarkably brief span of five years (532-37 AD). Although Anthemius was not an architect or master mason by training, he wrote a treatise on the geometry of conical sections, had a knowledge of projective geometry and was familiar with the mechanical inventions of Archimedes.

The Church of the Hagia Sophia is still standing and still one of the most astonishing buildings in architectural history encapsulating a number of daring engineering and structural innovations.

The longest river in the Aegean region with a length of 584 km / 363 miles. The main tributaries are the Banaz, Cine, Akcay and Curuksu. Due to the alluviums brought by the river, the bay where it flowed was filled and thus was formed Bafa Lake. For the same reason the harbor city Miletus is today 10 km / 6 miles further from the sea.The river itself has so many turns and curves that its name contributed to international terminology; the word “meander” is now used to describe the winding, acute and frequent turns of streams and rivers, or zigzag movement.

“Imagine coming upon a city of antiquity so rich in archeological treasure that choice sculptures roll off the sides of ditches, tumble from old walls, and lie jam-packed amid colonnaded ruins.” Those are the words of Turkish archeologist Professor Kenan Erim who directed the excavations at Aphrodisias under the auspices of the New York University. He is so closely associated with the site that he can suitably be accepted as the father of Aphrodisias and therefore fully deserved to be buried near the Tetrapylon.The name of the city has the same root as “aphrodisiac”. Both words derive from the Greek name for the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Aphrodisias was one of several ancient cities dedicated to the goddess of love. Within the borders of Caria, during the Roman period, Aphrodisias became an artistic center with a famous school of sculpture.

The site has been systematically excavated since 1961 by professor Kenan Erim and has yielded a wealth of art treasures to archaeologists.

Names of many sculptors from Aphrodisias have been seen in lots of works in Italy, Greece and elsewhere. Fame of Aphrodisias is not only limited to arts. It also had a number of renowned scholars and writers as well as philosophers, of whom the most notable was Xenocrates.

School of Sculpture
Statues were carved from the local white, grayish blue Carian marble, mostly from Babadag (Salbakos), 2,308 m / 7,572 ft high nearby mountain. Sculptors from other areas came to Aphrodisias for annual sculpture competitions. The eyes of the statues found here are full of expression and vitality and the bodies seem capable of moving. The public monuments in Aphrodisias were decorated with “peopled scrolls” which were one of the characteristics of stone carving produced by the school of sculpture in Aphrodisias.

History of Aphrodisias
Excavations in the 24-meter-high (78 ft) theater hill have revealed layers of settlement going back to the Bronze Age (c. 2800-2200 BC).

It was founded in the 5C BC and flourished under the Roman Empire (1C BC-5C AD). Mark Antony recognized the autonomy of Aphrodisias in the 1C BC. In the Byzantine period it was first the seat of an archbishopric, then of the metropolitan of Caria. In the 6C AD the name of Aphrodisias was changed to Stavropolis, the city of the Cross, to erase the pagan goddess of love from people’s minds. As the capital of Caria Aphrodisias was finally called Caria which then became Geyre in Turkish. Later in the 13C it was abandoned.

The Site
The Tetrapylon is a monumental gateway which was probably built in the 2C AD during the reign of Hadrian. It had 4 rows of 4 columns. It is thought to have marked the intersection of a major street with a sacred way heading toward the sanctuary of Aphrodite.

The Stadium is one of the best preserved stadia in Anatolia. It is 262 m / 286 yards long, 59 m / 64 yards wide with 22 rows of seats with a 30,000 spectator capacity. Originally it had a blind arcade on top of the highest row surrounding all the seats. The stadium was used for sporting, musical and dramatic events. The eastern part of the arena was for gladiatorial fights.

The Temple of Aphrodite, a late Hellenistic building, was originally designed as an Ionic temple with 40 columns arranged in an 8 by 13 rectangle. It was converted into a church in the Byzantine period. The columns at each end were removed, an apse was built in the eastern section, and a baptistery and an atrium were added to the west.

The affinities between Aphrodite and Ishtar are generally well-recognized. In Mesopotamian mythology, Ishtar was the principal goddess of the Babylonians and Assyrians. She was both the compassionate mother of all life, who brought fertility and relief from sickness, and the lustful goddess of sexual love and war.

Life in the city was concentrated around the Temple of Aphrodite. The cult of Aphrodite was so popular that it took some time before Christianity was fully accepted by Aphrodisians.

The Bishop’s Residence consisted of halls and rooms, is thought to have been the residence of the bishop of Aphrodisias in early Byzantine times. Its large audience chamber was typical of a governor’s residence in Roman provinces.

The Odeon is a semicircular building and has 12 tiered rows of seats with lions’ feet. It actually had more rows of seats and was once roofed. The seating capacity was 1,700. A corridor at the back of the stage led to a porticoed area which was adorned with the statues of important Aphrodisians and was connected to the agora. The south-west corner of the portico of Tiberius is a long and narrow 1C AD basilica, an administrative and an official building of importance.

The Baths of Hadrian were built under Hadrian in the 2C AD. There were two pairs of large rooms on either side of a huge central hall called the caldarium.

Building of the Portico of Tiberius, whose Ionic colonnade has partially been restored, was started during the reign of Tiberius, 1C AD which explains why it was named after him. The central area of the portico is occupied by a huge basin or pool, 175 m / 574 ft long, 25 m / 82 ft wide and 1 m / 3.28 ft deep with two semicircular extremities at the north and east ends. The portico may well have been a gymnasium or a palaestra with an exercise area between the colonnade and the pool.

The Theater was built in the late Hellenistic period and later restored in the 1C BC, and according to its inscription it was dedicated to Aphrodite and the people of the city by Julius Zoilos, a former slave of Octavian. The seating capacity was 8,000. The stage building consisted of six vaulted dressing or storage rooms out of which four opened into the corridor behind the proskene. The stage building wall in the north parados had Greek inscriptions of important documents related to the history of the city such as letters of emperors to the city or senatorial decrees. The orchestra and the stage building were restored in the 2C AD in order to make the building more suitable for animal or gladiatorial fights. The theater was seriously damaged in the 7C, and the Byzantines built houses on top of the cavea and converted the hill into a fortress by circling it with walls and towers.

The Tetrastoon, originally surrounded by four (tetra) colonnades on all sides with a round fountain in the center, had several functions in the Roman and Byzantine city. First it was a meeting place for the citizens and also by having surrounding small shops served as a market place. Finally it gave access to the theater. To the south of the tetrastoon was the Imperial Hall with Theater baths which have not been completely excavated. Among very unusual discoveries of archeology is the Sebasteion. It was a 1C AD shrine in which the emperor was worshipped. Sebasteion derived from the Greek “Sebastos”, which is the Greek equivalent of “Augustus”. It consisted of a 14-meter-wide (46 ft) courtyard and two parallel three-storied porticoes with a length of 80 m / 263 ft, of half-columns on both sides. The south portico had three different column orders on each story, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian.

The Museum
The exhibits in the museum are not arranged in chronological order but thematically. There are galleries for busts, decorative sculpture and religious sculpture as well as ceramics and other objects. The museum should be visited in an anti-clockwise direction. The names of the halls in turn are as follows: The Imperial hall, corridor of Zoilos, hall of Melpomene, odeon hall, display cases gallery, hall of Penthesilea, hall of Aphrodite and courtyard.