Classical Ruins Special Continued! Aphrodisias

Doubtless one of the most spectacular aspects of Roman urban life was the public theater or stadium. These monumental structures were key ideological institutions as well as places where people could congregate for entertainment, socialization, and even devotion to certain cults. Bacchus, for instance, is always associated with the theatre, which therefore had a sacred aspect. A glance at Greek sculpture demonstrates that they had an idealized picture of the fit male body, so it seems natural that macho physical exertion was such compelling spectacle.

Aphrodisiac used to lie under a town called Geyre, which authorities relocated in order to allow excavation work in the late 20th century. As a result of that work, the site has a plethora of beautiful old structures, including one that provoked quite enthusiastic reactions:


“Well, what could this be?”

Ah, just a colossal Roman stadium. Not a hippodrome for racing horses, but an athletics stadium.

Ah, just a colossal Roman stadium. Not a hippodrome for racing horses, but an athletics stadium.

Photographs fail to capture the sheer size of the stadium, whose interior used to host tobacco fields until the relocation of the town. It seated many thousands of patrons and featured no doubt brutal and impressive feats of strength. As evidenced by the pictures, the weather verged on cold and certainly brought a foggy gloom to the proceedings. I also had an incident where I slipped on a stone and came close to breaking my camera, but luckily only my ankle received a minor bruise.


As usual, there was a contingency of people who came to the games out of sour obligation but who would rather play this porto-backgammon game instead. Reminds me of some of my experiences at sporting events.

Impressive, too, is the state of preservation for the stadium despite its destruction by––yes––an earthquake in the seventh century. Other than the stadium, the large-scale site hosts a number of other classical constructions. Most notable of these is a theatre cut into the side of the hill that looms over the rest of the site. That hill also hosts some evidence of much earlier settlement patterns in the area, stretching far past antiquity. In the present, however, it’s sheer size, as usual, which leaves the biggest impression.


Though this site is fairly isolated from modern settlement––albeit fairly close to a few smaller towns and of course the town the archaeologists and the state displaced––like all excavation projects there are two layers of sites to see. First are the finds themselves, sometimes original, sometimes at least partially reconstructed. Second is the industrial apparatus of the dig itself, often featuring marble cutting, large covered areas full of new artifacts, cranes, and other tokens of the modern culture and tourism industry. This means your mind has to work on two levels, remembering that your temporal perspective is far removed from that of Greeks and Romans. Still, I did catch myself wondering whether the Greek playwrights would put out their worst works in January to make sure that no one saw them.


2 responses to “Classical Ruins Special Continued! Aphrodisias

  1. Another epic day Jon! Fantastic photos and exceptional explanations of what we are seeing. Indeed a work of art. Thank you again for sharing your experiences.


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