| In the Field

Monuments of Aphrodisias

The Sebasteion

The Sebasteion, or imperial cult temple, was built in the first century CD and was dedicated to both Aphrodite and the Roman emperors (Sebastos is the Greek equivalent of Augustus). The complex consists of a long processional avenue with three-storied porticoes on each side, and a monumental propylon entryway on the west side, which faced one of the city’s major north-south avenues. At the east end of the colonnade stood the temple itself, which does not survive today. The porticoes which define the avenue carried marble reliefs along the entire length of their upper two stories, some 200 individual panels in all. More than 80 have been recovered in excavation.

The remains of the North portico were removed after its collapse, and so much less survives. The upper storey had imperial and allegorical subjects, while the lower storey carried a series of conquered peoples and places of the Roman Empire, each depicted as a female personification standing on an inscribed base. The South portico was never substantially cleared after its final collapse, and more than sixty of its reliefs survive. The top-storey reliefs feature emperors and gods, while those below have scenes from Greek mythology. The heroes of myth represent the past; the Roman emperors above, on the same plane as the Olympian gods, represent the present. The sequence of the reliefs can be reconstructed from their find-places in the excavation.
Part of the Sebasteion’s south building is restored in its original position on the site. This is a precise stone-for-stone reconstruction, or anastylosis, that places each marble component of the facade in its original ancient position. It shows the scale and effect of the building and the position of the reliefs in the architecture -- cast replicas of the reliefs are used. Theoretical study and documentation of the 1,800 architectural elements of the south building began in 2000, and physical anastylosis began in 2005 and will be completed in 2011.