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, making
it the single best preserved ancient stadium and also one of the largest.
In aesthetic terms, the building exhibits a striking combination of
both grandeur and austerity.
In 1993 a thorough architectural and archaeological documentation of
the Stadium was begun by myself and my collaborator, Andrew Leung of
the University of Pennsylvania. We have produced a plan of the building,
and are now generating a series of detailed drawings, including a state
plan (at a scale of 1:50) of the cavea which comprises 40 wedges of
The state plan is deignd to capture a permanent record of the seats
of the Stadium which are covered with cuttings for awnings, masons'
marks, as well as inscriptions which reserve space in the building for
particular groups and individuals. These seating inscriptions are thus
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 for the
yearly imperial cult festival, which comprised Roman-style gladiatorial
games and venationes.
The Stadium has a peculiar architectural form in that it has two curved
ends rather than one curved and one flat end (the standard type of stadium).
The Stadium at Aphrodisias is one of a small group of such stadia in
the Greek world which epigraphical evidence suggests had a specific
name: "amphitheatral stadium". This group of stadia was distinctive
in plan in that their short ends that were curved and their long sides
that bowed outplanning devicesthat imparted something of the visually
dynamic shape of an ellipse to the standard elongated stadium structure.
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 Late Antiquity the west, north,
and part of the east sides of the Stadium were enveloped by the northern
circuit of the Late Antique fortification walls (mid-fourth century).
In addition, the eastern sphendone of the Stadium was converted into
a small oval amphitheater. Other Roman stadia 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 important for the investigation of this important feature
of stadium architecture in the Late Antique period.
The Stadium is being studied by Katherine Welch, Associate Professor,
Fine Arts, New York University, Andrew Leung, a graduate student
at the University of Pennsylvania and Peter De Staebler, a graduate
student at the Institute of Fine Arts.