I was in the 4th grade the first time I really learned anything about Greek and Roman history, mythology, architecture, and art. And I fell in love. Over the next few years of my schooling, I fell more in love. I was fascinated by the photos I had seen in books of the ancient ruins. And I dreamt of the day, that I would get to see for myself any ancient Greek and Roman ruins.
Imagine my surprise to learn while living in Turkey, that the country is home to some spectacular Roman and Greek ruins! Who knew?? Not me!
We lived in Turkey for 2 years. And in that time, we explored some of the Greek, Roman and Christian history the country had to offer as well as the Turkish history. So much to marvel at, there in Turkey.
In April 1997, for our boy’s spring break, we took a road trip across Turkey to visit the ancient city of Ephesus, among other sites. And it was on that trip that we found some unexpected gems—ruins dating back to the Ancient Roman Empire and prior to that time. I was ecstatic.
On this trip we visited many sites. The first to delight my soul was the Ancient city of Aphrodisias. We were staying in Pamukkale, Turkey, for the first couple of nights of our trip. The guidebook I was using, talked about Aphrodisias, so we thought, okay, lets go check it out. We had no idea what to expect.
And this was what greeted us—
The Tetrapylon. Extraordinary! I was in awe. I stood there, looking at it. Marveling at the architecture of what was once an entrance to this city. I could see, in my minds eye, how it looked all those many years ago. And I could see myself, walking through those gates into the thriving city of Aphrodisias! Simply stunning!!
We had learned that earthquakes had toppled the city and it was then abandoned and forgotten until the 1960’s when National Geographic and New York University began excavations. And then in the 1980’s, archaeologists worked to reconstruct the Tetrapylon from the pieces found there on the ground.
The Tetrapylon was and still is my favorite part of Aphrodisias.
As we roamed the ruins we discovered the Temple of Aphrodite, around which the city had been built. This temple is considered a sacred site. The columns standing (most were reconstructed from pieces found there) were incredible to see. At one time the Temple of Aphrodite was turned into a Christian Basilica. Standing there, in the ruins, I could just imagine how spectacular this Temple was at one time. Stunning!
We spent time walking around the Baths of Hadrian and the Odeon which had been used for small performances and was well preserved. And then we found the Theater and explored the stage, behind the stage, and the seating. I imagined, while standing on the stage what it must have been like to perform here, looking out at the spectators. I could almost hear the voices of the performances held so very long ago.
And then we walked into what became my husband’s favorite part of Aphrodisias—the Stadium. Wow! Excavations were still taking place when we were there in the stadium, but we could tell from what was uncovered that it was immense. This stadium once held 30,000 people. Amazing! The boys and my husband explored the sports field portion of the stadium and found at the far end that a huge hole had been dug in the dirt, showing visitors just how much further down the field would go.
We learned that the stadium had been originally built for gymnastics and other athletic events and competitions. And later it was used as an arena for circuses and other forms of entertainment. We were thrilled spending time in this massive stadium. Sitting on the bench seats, I could almost hear the roar of the crowd…. A stunning display of life in ancient times.
Walking through these ruins took me back to my youth and reminded me how much I love ancient history, architecture, and art. The ancient city of Aphrodisias made my soul dance.
I may have to add the UNESCO World Heritage sites to my bucket list, along with the National Parks already on my list.