Monuments of Aphrodisias
The Stadium is one of Aphrodisias' most remarkable surviving buildings. Located at the northern edge of the site, at some distance from the ancient civic center, its imposing marble auditorium is 270 meters in length and had 30 tiers of seating with space for 30,000 people. It is the single best preserved ancient stadium and also one of the largest.
The seats of the Stadium are covered with cuttings for awnings, masons' marks, as well as inscriptions which reserve seats for particular groups and individuals. These seating inscriptions are an important source of information about the composition of the stadium-attending populace and social stratification at Aphrodisias. Most notably, the presence of women's names on some of the seats indicates that the Stadium was used not only for Greek-style athletic festivals (which involved male nudity and from which women were therefore barred) but also for the yearly imperial cult festival, which comprised Roman-style gladiatorial games and wild animal hunts.
The Stadium is part of a small group known as “amphitheatrical” stadia. This style of construction is unusual in that the stadium has two curved ends rather than one curved and one flat end, like the standard type of stadium. The long sides of the Stadium at Aphrodisias also bowed out, forming a shape more like an ellipse. The unique benefit to this type of layout is that every person had an unobstructed view of the entire field below.
The Stadium at Aphrodisias can be seen, then, as a marriage between the standard U-shaped Hellenistic stadium and the oval Roman amphitheater. A combination of stylistic and historical evidence suggests that the Stadium was part of the monumental building program undertaken in Aphrodisias in the first century of the Empire. In the mid-4th century, the west, north, and east sides of the Stadium were enveloped by the Late Antique fortification walls. In addition, the eastern end of the Stadium was converted into a small oval amphitheater. Other Roman stadia also have small amphitheaters at one end, but the Aphrodisian example is unusually well preserved and its chronology is better understood than any of the other examples, making it very important for the investigation stadium architecture in the Late Antique period.