The ancient city of Aphrodisias
is known for its rich history, archaeological remains, and its association with the goddess Aphrodite.
Aphrodisias was initially settled in the 5th millennium BCE, prominence during the Hellenistic period. It was named after the goddess Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. The city became a center of worship for Aphrodite, which contributed to its significance and popularity.
The city’s golden age came during the Roman period. It became part of the Roman Empire in the 1st century BCE and flourished under Roman rule. During this time, it grew into a major cultural and artistic center. The city was home to renowned sculptors and artists, and its school of sculpture gained recognition throughout the Roman world.
One of the most famous features of Aphrodisias is its well-preserved theater, which could accommodate thousands of spectators. The city also boasted a stadium, an odeon (small theater), temples, public baths, and various other structures, showcasing the grandeur of Roman urban planning and architecture.
Late Antiquity and Byzantine Period:
During the Late Antiquity period and the Byzantine era, the city continued to thrive as a center of culture and education. It became an important Christian center with several churches and religious establishments.
Decline and Abandonment:
Aphrodisias faced a decline after the 6th century due to various factors, including earthquakes, changing trade routes, and shifts in political power. Over time, the city gradually declined and was eventually abandoned.
The ancient city of Aphrodisias remained mostly forgotten until the 20th century when archaeological excavations brought its rich history to light. Starting in the mid-20th century, systematic excavations uncovered its well-preserved structures, sculptures, inscriptions, and artifacts. Many of these findings are now on display in the on-site museum and provide insights into the city’s artistic, architectural, and cultural achievements. We first heard of Aphrodisias from a Turkish friend who had worked on the site in grad school.
Aphrodisias is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
During one of our visits, we had an unique lunch at the Mantar restaurant in Denizli, which specializes in mushrooms : Mushroom Meze, Mushroom chicken guvec (baked with chicken & cheese in pottery bowls) followed by mushroom dessert (set in sweet sauce with cinnamon & allspice).
Foundation and Hellenistic Period (around 260 BCE):
Laodicea was founded by Antiochus II Theos, a Seleucid king, in honor of his wife Laodice around 260 BCE. It was strategically located on major trade routes and quickly developed into a prosperous city known for its textiles and wool industry.
Roman Period (around 190 BCE):
The city came under Roman control during the 2nd century BCE after the defeat of Antiochus the Great by the Romans. Laodicea thrived during the Roman era and became an important center of commerce, trade, and finance. Its wealth allowed the city to construct impressive buildings and monuments.
Economic and Cultural Flourishing (1st century CE):
Laodicea was known for its textile industry, especially its black wool, which was highly valued in the Roman world. The city’s prosperity led to the construction of grand structures, including a stadium, an amphitheater, temples, public baths, and an elaborate water supply system.
Christianity and the Epistle to the Colossians:
In the Epistle to the Colossians, likely written by Paul’s disciple Timothy, there is a reference to early Christian communities in the nearby cities of Colossae and Laodicea.
Decline and Earthquakes (Late Antiquity):
Laodicea faced several destructive earthquakes over the centuries, including in 494 CE and 60 CE. The city was rebuilt after each earthquake due to its economic significance, but the constant rebuilding efforts eventually led to a decline in the city’s prominence.
Byzantine and Ottoman Periods:
Laodicea continued to exist during the Byzantine period but gradually lost its importance. It was eventually abandoned in the medieval era due to the ongoing seismic activity and shifting trade routes. The ruins of the city were later used for building materials by nearby settlements.
Laodicea is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts visitors interested in exploring its well-preserved remains, including its theater, stadium, and other structures.