Monuments of Aphrodisias

The Temple of Aphrodite

The Temple of Aphrodite was built in stages in the late first century BCE and early first century CE. As completed, it had eight columns running along the front and back and thirteen on the sides, forming a single peristyle around the cella. Inscriptions on some of the temple's columns and door moldings record the contributions of various leading citizens to the construction of the building. One of Aphrodisias's most important monuments, the temple emphasized the city's links with the Julio-Claudian dynasty by providing an impressive home for the cult of their divine ancestress, Aphrodite. In the second century A.D., possibly during the reign of Hadrian, the temple was enclosed within a large sanctuary, consisting of a two-storied monumental columnar façade on the east side, which included a large gateway known as the Tetrapylon, and porticos on the north, south, and west.

Around 500 CE, the temple was converted into a Christian cathedral. The conversion was an enormous undertaking, in which the columns of the front and back of the temple were moved from their original positions and used to extend the side colonnades, creating two long rows of 19 columns each. The cella of the temple was also dismantled, and the stone reused in the construction of new walls enclosing the building on all sides. The building was thus converted into a church of basilical plan, and was much larger than the pagan temple it replaced. The manner in which this change was effected -- the temple was essentially turned inside out -- is unique among all known temple-to-church conversions.

The church was provided with an apse and a synthronon (a stepped bank of clergy benches) at the east end, and at the west, with a pair of nartheces (porches) fronted by a colonnaded courtyard or atrium. Surviving from a Middle Byzantine renovation are wall paintings running under the synthronon and showing Christ and various saints, as well as parts of a marble floor, and much of an elaborately carved templon barrier. At some later date, possibly in the Seljuk raids of the late twelfth century, the church was damaged or destroyed, and not repaired again until modern times.

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