The Temple of Aphrodite was built in stages in the late first century
B.C. and early first century A.D. As completed, it was a pseudodipteral
structure, 8.5 X 31 m in dimensions, with eight columns along the front
and back and thirteen on the sides. 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 an elaborate temenos structure, consisting
of a two-storied aedicular facade on the east side, and porticos on the
north, south, and west.
Around A.D. 500, the temple was converted for use as the city's 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, 60 X
28 m in size, and so 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.
The conversion of the Temple of Aphrodite into a Christian church is being
studied by Dr. Laura Hebert, a graduate of the Institute of Fine Arts,
New York University.
Cult-image of Aphrodite of Aphrodisias