Aphrodisias:

Stadium

stadium

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 seating.

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 out—planning 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, Institute of 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.

Panorama of Stadium