the City of Aphrodite, Goddess of
Love, about two hours east of Selçuk (Ephesus)
and 2.5 hours west of Pamukkale (map), is one of the Aegean
region's most interesting archeological
tours from İzmir, Ephesus/Kuşadası and Antalya often
stop here on their way to Pamukkale.
Nestled in the broad, fertile Meander
River valley, this city
has been here for millennia. At its
heart is an acropolis on
a hill formed of the detritus of
settlements dating back at least
to the Early
Bronze Age (as old as 2800 BC).
By the 8th century BC, Aphrodisias
was famous as the City of Aphrodite,
and pilgrims came to pay homage to
the Goddess of Love at
The goddess was called Venus by
and it's easy to imagine ancient fertility
rites such as the belly
dance being performed in her temple
With the coming of Christianity her
temple, site of who knows what other
rites in worship of love, was converted
into a chaste church.
Without the flow of pilgrim money
the city declined.
In 1402 the fledgling Ottoman
Empire and Aphrodisias were attacked
by Tamerlane. The
empire recovered. This city did not.
Today the ruins, set amid fertile
fields of cotton and groves of spindly
cypresses, include an elaborate Tetrapylon,
or monumental gate (in
the photo to the right), the foundations
of the Temple of Aphrodite,
the Christian bishop's palace,
a beautiful marble odeon (small
theater) in excellent condition, and
a stadium still
capable of seating nearly its original
of 30,000 spectators.
The white marble theater built
into the side of the acropolis is also
in excellent condition:
Next to it
is a colonnaded palaestra,
or playing field, and the great Portico
Aphrodisias had a famous sculpture
academy in Roman times,
probably because of the high-grade
marble quarried only a few kilometers
away at Babadağ. The museum at
the site thus has an especially
good collection of Roman sculpture.
Take a look at the Faces
Aphrodisias is best
seen on the way to or from Pamukkale.
For example, you might drive from Selçuk (Ephesus)
or Kusadasi eastward
up the Meander valley for about two
hours, turn south at Nazilli,
and proceed via Karacasu to Geyre,
the village next to the site. More...
After touring the museum and exploring
the ruins at Aphrodisias, continue
eastward to Pamukkale,
where you can spend the night or, if
you want to do it all in one long day,
have a swim, then return westward to
your base in Selçuk or Kuşadası.
(I recommend staying the night at Pamukkale.)
By the way: yes, the Meander
River (Menderes Nehri in
Turkish) is where we get the English
word meander, meaning
"to follow a winding course." If
you visit Priene,
south of Kusadasi on
the way to Miletus,
you'll see why: the river
wanders all over the broad,
flat flood plain on its way to the Aegean
If you don't have your own car, or
take a tour, Aphrodisias can be a bit
tricky to get to by public bus. Here's
how to do it.
—by Tom Brosnahan
the Tetrapylon (monumental
gate) at Aphrodisias,
City of the Goddess of Love.