On a beautiful spring day, my tour guide picks me up with a van for my tour to Pamukkale (Cotton Castle). I am excited to have a nice drive from Kusadasi (near Ephesus) to Pamukkale. There are two other passengers, and luckily, they have arranged for a tour of Aphrodisias, almost the midpoint of our travel. I always wanted to see Aphrodisias which is very famous for its temple (Temple of Aphrodite), well-preserved structures, a great museum filled with marble statues, one of the best preserved stadiums (with a capacity of 30,000 [people) and magnificent marble sculptures.
The city of Aphrodisias, obviously, was named after Aphrodite (Roman: Venus) in the second century BCE. Aphrodite is the Greek Goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. Some resources say the Aphrodite worshipped in Aphrodisias was not the goddess of love, but more like the goddess of earth and prosperity like Cybele.
The city existed prior to its name change and had three previous names: Lelegon Polis (City of Lelegians), Megale Polis (Great City), and Ninoe (derived from Ninos, a mythical founder of the Assyro-Babylonian Empire and the husband of famous Semiramis). The city was later renamed as Stauropolis (City of the Cross) in the Christian Era.
Being near an ancient marble quarry, the city became an important center with its sculpture school and marvelous sculptures that adorned the structures.
My favorite ones are the “peopled scrolls” with figures of people and animals adorned with garlands.
Can you imagine your teacher telling you to create a facial expression by carving a marble piece? And there are hundreds of students who go through this class every year. You then stack them up. Thousands of years later, you then have a marvelous display of facial expressions to look at.
Note: A little bit of mythology about Aphrodite
Mother Earth fell in love with Uranus, the god of the sky and heavens. They had many children. However, Uranus hated his children and feared them. He hid most of them under earth. But Mother Earth helped his children to rebel against their father. The youngest one, Titan Cronus, cut his father’s genitals and threw them into sea. From the foam, Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, love and fertility, emerged. Some say, she washed ashore in Cyprus. Romans later renamed her Venus.
Although she was married to Hephaestus (Vulcan), the god of metalworking, she had numerous affairs with other gods including Ares, Hermes, Poseidon, and Dionysus. She had many children including Deimos (terror) ad Phobos (Fear).
Aphrodite plays an important role in the Trojan War. (link to my blog). She promised Helen, who was the most beautiful woman on earth and the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, to Paris if he chose her as the fairest goddess as compared to Hera and Athena. Paris took Helen to Troy with him which was the spark big enough to start the Trojan War.