Temple of Aphrodite

The Temple of Aphrodite is located in ancient Aphrodisias about 70 miles east of Kusadasi and comprises one of the oldest groupings of archeological ruins in all of Turkey. Although the once magnificent Temple of Aphrodite is now in ruins, the ruins themselves are quite breathtaking, rivaling those found at Knossos on the island of Crete and Ephesus, which is not far away. It is possible to get here from both Izmir and Kusadasi using a number of buses and taxis, but guided tours are the most practical.

Like the Knossos Temple in Greece, some of this temple in Aphrodisias has been restored. Many portions are very well-preserved, and it is quite easy to imagine what it looked like when intact in all its glory. The stadium, a structure similar to the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, a theater, bathhouse, agora (market) and many other structures are nearly intact and provide a glimpse into what the grand sacred temple once looked like. Romans actually used the stadium for gladiator contests. The theater is quite well preserved, and is similar to that found at Delphi where the oracular Temple of Apollo is located.

Aphrodisias was a sacred site as long ago as nearly 6,000 years before the Christian Era, as it was thought to be the home of the mother goddess. The ancient Greeks dedicated the site to Aphrodite, goddess of love and fertility. The Temple of Aphrodite was actually built in the first century AD. Around this time, there was a noted academy of sculpture here and a marble quarry was nearby. Students came from Rome, Cairo, Athens, and other parts of the known world to study. Excavations in the 1960s uncovered sculpting tools, half-finished statues, and carved models, many of which are displayed in the Aphrodisias Museum. Also in the museum is the statue of the goddess Aphrodite that once stood in the main part of the temple.

A Christian basilica was built on the site during the Byzantine era in the fifth century, and much of the original architecture of the pagan temple was used in its construction. This was quite unusual for the time, and is one of the reasons that the original temple in Aphrodisias remains so well preserved today.

The site of Aphrodisias is quite extensive, and is set picturesquely on a hill amid cypress groves, and looking down onto fertile fields. It is the fertility of these fields that makes this area agriculturally important today and caused the ancients to believe it was the home of the mother goddess. You enter the site a graceful second-century gateway with four groups of four columns. This brings you directly to the actual Temple of Aphrodite and its 42 columns. Nearby is the expansive agora and the baths, which were constructed from the same volcanic tufa rock found in the Cappadocia churches. The beautiful sculptures that once decorated the baths are now in the Istanbul Archeological Museum.

It is possible to visit the temple in Aphrodisias as a day trip from Kusadasi. These can be booked in the town, and many Kusadasi hotels will make the bookings for you. Many vacation packages include Aphrodisias as a stop on tours that also include the ruins at Hierapolis and the thermal pools of Pamukkale.

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