Authors: Lenagham, Julia - R.R.R. Smith
Title: Aphrodisias. City & Sculpture in Roman Asia. Architecture, Monuments & Sculpture
Publisher: Ertug & Kocabiyik Publications
Aphrodisias. City & Sculpture: Introduction
A Aphrodisias was a free and autonomous city within the Roman
province of Asia (approximately, western Turkey). It was
best known for the sanctuary of its patron goddess, Aphrodite,
and for its marble sculptors. The community prospered under the
early and middle Roman empire (ﬁrst-second centuries AD), when
it built the complete set of marble buildings that made the town
a proper city in ancient eyes. In the later third century,
Aphrodisias was chosen to be the capital, the metropolis, of a new
Roman province of Caria, and was able in the late antique period
(fourth-sixth centuries) to maintain its classical life and fabric
until the general urban collapse of the seventh century.
The Aphrodisians were fortunate in their history:they created a spectacular marble city and an astonishing abundance of high- quality marble sculpture and statuary to decorate it.The settlement was fortunate too in its relative isolation from the main through- roads of medieval and modern Anatolia: it is due to this circum- stance that the city and its sculpture are uniquely well preserved. Aphrodisias is the best place to study the distinctive marble culture of the Roman period in Asia.
Aphrodisias was,in ancient terms,a medium-sized town (90 hectares, with a population of maybe 15,000 inhabitants), but one with a typically metropolitan grandeur of architectural design. Its monuments and marble sculpture deﬁne a distinctive period of ancient city life. After the international political turmoil in the Mediterranean (the Roman Revolution) of the ﬁrst century BC, the city’s engagements with outside events were few. We have an archaeological and epigraphic history of a thriving local community, whose inscriptions, statues, and buildings were their history. In this period,civic benefaction and honoriﬁc rewards (statues,tombs) were the stuff of local politics.
The monuments of the city are documented in great detail by texts inscribed on them. They tell us who paid for the monu- ments,what they were for,and what those honoured had done for the community. Public writing was a major feature of the ancient cityscape in this period. This documentation allows a ﬁne-grained chronology of the city’s evolution, in terms of both its building history and its social history. We can see how monuments and images deﬁne the particular character of distinct periods within the city’s long life: late hellenistic (second-ﬁrst century BC), early democratic city life and the realities of local power and control. On the one hand there was a massive symbolic ediﬁce of demo- cratic appearances (council, people, laws, accountability, published documents) which the buildings,spaces,and monuments expressed, and on the other hand there was the reality of local elite control by a few wealthy landowning families backed by the power of Rome. This power was all the more effective because so rarely used, at least visibly. The long road from a hellenistic-style polis community of the second century BC to the authoritarian power of direct Roman rule through a provincial governor in the fourth century is represented, negotiated, and camouﬂaged in the rich appearance ofa handsome marble city and its astonishing sculpture.
Exploration and excavation
The site has been known to European travellers since the 18th century, when several expeditions came to record the wealth of inscriptions built into the city walls.A French team directed by Paul Gaudin and Gustave Mendel excavated at the site in 1904 and 1905 in the temple of Aphrodite and especially in the Hadrianic Baths, where a number of well-preserved portrait statues were found. These were brought to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum under the leadership of Osman Hamdi Bey. Another French team came again for one campaign in 1913 under André Boulanger. An Italian expedition directed by G. Jacopi excavated the Portico of Tiberius in the South Agora in 1937 and discovered the important series of mask and garland friezes which is now on display in the Izmir Archaeological Museum. The ﬁrst systematic and continuous excavations at the site were begun in 1961 under the aegis of New York University, and were directed by the late Kenan Erim until his death in 1990. These excavations concentrated on the city’s central monuments, with spectacular results. Major areas of excavation included: the Temple of Aphrodite, the Theatre, the South Agora, the Council House,the Basilica,and the Sebasteion.The most important ﬁnds from these excavations are on display in the Aphrodisias Museum, built on the site in 1979. Since 1990, major new ﬁeldwork of the New York University team has investigated the city’s urban development and discovered the rectangular grid on which the late hellenistic city was laid out. Research has also concen- trated on documentation, conservation, publication, and museum empire, religious conﬂict and accommodation, and the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages. It makes a major difference to our understanding of the ancient world.
No.1 NERO AND AGRIPPINA
Sebastieion, North Building, mid-First Century AD
Agrippina crowns her son Nero with a laurel wreath.
Agrippina carries a cornucopia, symbol of Fortune and Plenty,
and Nerowears the armour and cloak of a Roman commander.
He held a spear, nowbroken off, in his right hand and probably
an orb (symbol of world rule) in his left hand. His helmet
(removed for the crowning) lies on the ground at the side. Both
ﬁgures are clearly identiﬁable by their portraits. The scene refers
to the emperor’s accession in AD 54 and belongs before AD 59, the
year in which Nero had Agrippina murdered. Inv. 82-250. Relief. H: 1.71 m.
Found in room 9 of the North
Building. Smith, JRS1987,
127-32, no. 11, pls. 24-26.1-2
The heavily shadowed eyes have engraved irises.The centre of the brow and root of the nose have a pronounced contraction. The garland has mostly apple-like fruits and some pine cones. The mask represented some rustic or woodland spirit that characterised the people or place whose name is lost. South Building reliefs:emperors and heroes . The South Building was sponsored by two brothers, Attalos and Diogenes, and their family. Some eighty per cent ofits reliefs survive, 1987, 101-4, no. 1, pls. 4-5. The naked emperor stands in majesty with a winged Victory (Nike-). He carried a spear and has an eagle, the bird of Zeus, at his feet. Victory is crowning a military trophy – a rough post with enemy armour attached to it (helmet, cuirass, greaves, shield). Beneath the trophy, a barbarian captive, his hands tied behind his back, is ‘sunk’into the plinth.The awkward junction of this ﬁgure and the plinth would not be visible from below, and for the same reason the feet of the ﬁgures are not well ﬁnished. and distinctive hairstyles,which are taken from the ofﬁcial portrait types in use at Rome. On the right stands a ﬁgure wearing a Roman toga who crowns the emperor with a wreath of oak leaves (the corona civica,a common imperial symbol,originally awarded to Roman leaders for the saving ofthe lives ofother Roman citizens.). This ﬁgure should be a personiﬁcation of either the People or the Senate of the Romans. In the construction of the ancient building, this relief was placed on a base for Nero whose inscription reads: [Nero-n].
No. 3 CLAUDIUS AND BRITANNIA with inscribed base
Sebasteion, South Building, mid-First Century AD
Inv. 80-137 (relief), 80-159 (base). Combined H: 2.36 m. Found inside Room 3 of South Building. Smith, JRS1987
The naked warrior Claudius is about to deliver a death blow to a slumped ﬁgure ofBritannia.He wears helmet,cloak,and sword belt with scabbard.Britannia wears a tunic with one breast bare – like the Amazon ﬁgures on which she was modelled.The subject ofthe relief is identiﬁed by the inscribed base and the imperial portrait. The inscription reads: Tiberios Klaudios Kaisar –Bretannia. The invasion of Britain in AD 43 was the ‘signature’conquest of Claudius’regime. elevation with reliefs.
No. 6 GODDESS
from Hadrianic baths,second century AD
Inv. 66-269. Over life-size head. H: 52 cm.
Found in the doorway to chamber 7 in the Hadrianic Baths. The skin is polished, and the unmarked eyes preserve traces of paint. Smith, ‘Statue Life’, 224, A 18, fig. 16. The over life-size head represents a goddess with her thick hairstyle tied up in a bow-shaped knot on top of the head. Two thick, twisting locks escape on either side of the neck. The face has the regular, idealized form of a divinity. The head is one of several of the same kind found in the Baths, and they probably belonged to a series of dedications made by wealthy women of the city for which the inscribed bases survive.
No 7 SATYR PLAYING PIPES
From Hadrianic baths, Second-Third century AD
Found in central drainage tunnel under forecourt of Baths, as it passes beneath steps and under the west stoa of South Agora.Inv. 65-236. Fragmentary head. H: 32.5 cm. Smith, AphPapers3, 61 and 64, fig. 63; Smith, ‘Statue Life’, 224, A 26, fig. 18.The back was separately worked; the pin is still extant in the smooth join surface. A lock of hair on the left side was also added s eparately. The high-quality head represents a satyr blowing the double ﬂutes. It is of the same high-level workmanship and polished ﬁnish as a group of sculptures associated with the workshop situated behind the Council House. It is a typically virtuoso interpretation of a hellenistic subject.
No 13 AINEIAS FLIGHT FROM TROY
Sebasteion.South building,mid-century AD
The armored ﬁgure of Aineias moves to the right,carrying his aged father on his shoulder and leading his young son Iulus by the hand. Old Anchises carries a round base or box that held images ofTroy’s ancestral gods. Inv: 80-140. Relief. H: 1.73 m. Main parts found in middle of Room 1 of South Building. Erim, ‘Aphrodisias 1980’, 23.These three ﬁgures constituted the regular icono- graphic scheme of Aineias’ ﬂight from Troy, on his way to Italy, which was widespread in the early imperial period. The local designers have added a ﬂoating ﬁgure of Aphrodite behind to give the scene a more speciﬁc, local meaning. The relief was carved from a large block that contained serious ﬂaws in the stone, resulting in the oblique brown-stained breaks;they represent the fault-lines.
No 19 MASK AND GARLAND FRIEZE BLOCKS
First Century AD and later
The frieze blocks come from the long Ionic colonnades that framed the South Agora. The earliest are from the north colonnade dedi- cated to the emperor Tiberius (AD 14-37). Others were made in the second century and later. The motifofa fruit garland hung between twomasks was popular at Aphrodisias. The masks represent a fascinating variety of subjects: athletes, heroes, gods, as well as a wide range of stock characters from ancient drama.The masks and garlands evoke ideas of festival and public celebration