This morning we were treated to the fairly recent (1955) and accidental discovery of the old city of Aphrodisias built in the second century AD to honor Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Thanks to the continuing excavation and reconstruction provided by New York University, we can now see clearly much of the impressive amphitheater which could seat 15,000 and stage performing arts of all kinds. The agora or marketplace, which is still being restored, features an elongated pool down the center as long as a football field. The stadium is massive, able to seat over 30,000 people, and hosted gladiator games and multiple sports activities.
We stood within the grounds of the exquisite gates of the temple of Aphrodite which, four centuries later, was converted to a church with the growth of Christianity in the area and renamed the City of the Cross. Many structures are being uncovered including Hadrian’s Bath with the black and white tiled floor still intact under 2000 years of shifting landscape and mounds of dirt! Incredible!
We learned Aphrodisias was home to a renowned school of sculpture, the Sebasteion, whose students and patrons created works of art in marble that can be found, by inscription, all over the then known world. Images of gods and goddesses, emperors and philosophers, scenes of battle and legend, busts and statues bigger than life are displayed in the Aphrodisias Museum.
There is still much work to be done. There are sculptured pieces and broken chunks and partially exposed layers throughout the site yet to be explored and placed. Another 30 years should prove thrilling as the old city continues to take shape.
We were greeted at the entrance to the Anatolia Restaurant by a beglama-strumming troubadour (think elongated mandolin). Soup, salad, hot bread from the clay oven, four choices of entrees and dessert later, we were inspired to clap and dance to the continued performance, adding drum and tambourine. We felt truly welcome and blessed!
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