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temple ruins
temple at Aphrodisias

Aphroisias, Turkey
and the Goddess of Love

by Rebecca Rochat

Rising up out of the fertile valley of Buyuk Menderes (River Meander) near the central Aegean coast in Turkey is the Greco-Roman city of Aphrodisias dedicated to Aphrodite, goddess of love. Our group is touring Turkey for two weeks and we make a stop here on our way to the coast towards another ancient Roman city, Ephesus.  Aphrodisias is second only to Ephesus of all archaeological digs in Turkey. Before entering the site itself, we have a guided tour of the museum which houses Roman sculpture from the site.  Exiting the museum we walk past ornately carved sarcophagi into a large open plain.  The first object that comes into view a few hundred yards away is the temple of Aphrodite, a marble skeleton now, two pediments holding fourteen columns.  For some reason, I am drawn to the temple.   As I approach the ruin, a powerful feeling comes over me - one of intense feminine energy.  Have I been here before in another life?  Did I worship here?  Is Aphrodite speaking to me? 

shopping and bathing
Agora and bath at Aphrodisias

Now, the only sounds are birds singing and a gentle wind blowing through the tall grasses that blanket the ground around the ruins.  As I would later discover, Ephesus would be overwhelming for its sheer size.  Roman strength, power and mass are evident there, but Aphrodisias is more graceful, peaceful - Ying and Yang, masculine and feminine, the two ancient cities.  Our next stop is the 30,000 seat, oval shaped Greco-Roman stadium, a Greek theater converted by the Romans for gladiatorial events.  It is quiet there, too, and practically empty.  It is tempting to close our eyes and imagine the sounds of clashing swords against metal breastplates and the roaring masses.  Leaving the stadium we pass the agora (marketplace) and the Baths of Hadrian with its black and white marble exercise ground.  Climbing a small man made hill which nestles a theater below, a panorama of columns rises from buildings that have long ago collapsed. Lombardy poplars and cypress trees sway in the wind; trees, valley, and ruins all surrounded by distant mountains.  Once again, I close my eyes and try to envision the bustling city that was once Aphrodisias, but now the only sounds on the great plain are the birds circling above and the wind moving through the poplars and cypress.
more ruins
Ruins of Aphrodisias

As we make our way down the hill our guide warns us of poisonous snakes in the area; interesting, as snakes are a symbol of feminine energy.  That feminine energy pulls at me once again as we walk past Aphrodite’s temple, a symbol of Greek perfection of line, symmetry and form.  As we leave the site, I reach down and pick up a rough hewn rock with a pink cast and take it with me.  I am hoping some of Aphrodite’s energy will follow me home.

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