Turkey is filled with ancient cities and after visiting a few, it can be difficult to differentiate between them. Before our recent trip, top of our ‘must see’ list was the ruins at Ephesus. It is probably at the top of most peoples’ list and without doubt, it is worth a visit. However, the place that impressed me the most – I could say I fell in love (pun intended) was Afrodisias, the ancient temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
When we arrived, the site was breathtaking as it basking in the morning sunshine, the heat bringing out the scent of oregano and basil. It covers a large area and paths disappear into thickets and over dazzling stretches of bright green hillside.
There are no large tourist crowds, which makes it easy to imagining life in the Afrodisias of old. Before the Romans, the Greeks in the 8th century BC built the once thriving city. Large houses have been unearthed that reveal a wealthy and prosperous community that revolved around the massive columns and roofless temple dedicated to the Goddess of Love Aphrodite.
When the Romans arrived, the focal point of the site became the amphitheatre. Sitting half way up on a cool marble bench and looking down at the stage, you are transported to a bygone world that you can feel all around you.
Nearby is the stadium – what a remarkable sight. The information plaque describes it as “the largest ancient stadium in the world and one of the best preserved”. That may be true but it doesn´t do it justice. Standing at one end, the other seems so far away. At times 30,000 people would have filled these seats, shouting and cheering as animals were baited; gladiators fought, wrestled and raced each other or threw javelins into the distance.
We spent a long time at the impressive on-site museum and checking out the sculptures and interesting objects around the grounds, before moving on to lunch in a nearby tavern. We had the Turkish equivalent of pizza and cheese straws, which were OK, nothing special unlike the grounds which were beautiful.