Aphrodite’s City

No wonder Aphrodisias was the Emperor Augustus’s favourite city in Asia. Famed for its exquisite sculpture and unsullied surroundings, for Patricia Daunt it is the most beautiful site in the classical world

  • The head of an elite Aphrodisian of the 1st century AD (right), unearthed in 2005. The great sculpture discovery of 2016 was a head of Aemilia Lepida (left), daughter of Marcus Lepidus. Married to a son of Germanicus, she was a famed beauty, here seen with a ‘melon’ hairstyle. A victim of Palatine politics, Aemilia took her life in AD36 after being accused of having an affair with one of her slaves

Aphrodisias is, they claim, the most beautiful of all the archaeological sites in western Turkey – arguably of the whole classical world. Lying some 230 kilometres east of Izmir in a valley watered by a tributary of the Upper Menderes (or Maeander, ancient Maiandros), it is still relatively remote, though widening of roads, quarrying for marble and construction of new dams are changing the surrounding country.

Spectacular Graeco-Roman monuments adorn the city centre, some that have survived two millennia, others unearthed since excavations were begun in 1961, and yet others reassembled from the debris left by earthquakes. Nearly 60 years of continuous excavation is revealing the full extent of the grandeur of an inland city in the Eastern Roman Empire with a surprisingly long post-classical life which lingered into Ottoman times. Excavation beneath the Acropolis mound during the 1960s unearthed settlements stretching back into the mists of time: Bronze Age, Chalcolithic, Neolithic.

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Issue 56, October 2017 Brave Old World
£12.00 / $16.73 / 68.45 TL
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