Aphrodite and the Miracle of Geyre

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Flag of Turkey  , Aydın Province,
Friday, October 22, 2010

After a leisurely breakfast I ride back to Aphrodisias to spend the day wandering in awe among the ruins. The site is one of the earliest in Anatolia and has origins in Neolithic and Bronze ages. It links the Assyrian goddess of love and war, Nin to the Semitic Ishtar and later Aphrodite meaning a fertility cult has existed here way before Aphrodite. It only really developed in the 2nd century AD with the help of the Romans. A reward for helping the Romans put down the Mithridatic revolt. Access to local white marble and a school of sculpture results in the site containing some of the most fantastic statutary in the world. Many of the scuilptures in imperial Rome came from here. There is a wonderful exhibition of old photographs taken by Ara Guler, a famous Istanbul photographer, of people from the village of Geyre living among and using the ruins in the construction of their homes and for their work.

The site was always well known and there are 19th century prints of it. In 1956 an earthquake damaged Geyre and the villagers were moved to another site. Since 1961 a Professor Dr. Kenan Erim (now buried on the site) began excavating and work continues today. There is so much here that it will take centuries, if the money is available, to fully develop it. Columns, friezes, carvings, blocks lie jumbled everywhere.

With studied and infuriating one upmanship I explore as much of the site as I can as tour groups scurry by on their busy schedule. But nobody notices!  I can be so superior when the mood takes me.I hear one guide say to his group

"We will be here for and hour and a half so you may need the toilets now!"

The ghosts here are most entertaining. I meet a Roman centurion who spent time on Hadrian's wall. We talk about the changes since his time there. He still shivers at the thought. When some of the Aphrodisians begin to tell me about the fertility cult I don't know where to look. It makes my night in the brothel seem like a totally innocent venture. Everybody seems incredibly happy although they are still a bit miffed with the Christians who not only tried to erase the name of Aphrodite from everything the but to cap it all they replaced the temple with a basilica. I wasn't surprised at their dark mutterings. Well, I mean, I know Theodosius had proscribed the old religions but they were still hanging in here. They did have a minor success in that the Christianity that developed here was of a heretical persuasion.

It takes me 5 hours and I feel I've only skimmed the surface but you pays your money and....

Finally I drag myself away and return to my delightful pension to work out where I've left my bike keys and accept that an earplug has gone forever!!!

I usually keep the keys in my right trouser pocket. I have searched every pocket and the room six or seven times. I've retrace my walk this morning. I even have my host looking for them. Nothing. I will have to tie my spare key around my neck. Lose that and with the benefit of modern electronics I'm going nowhere.

After another delicious trout I make an early night of it. Wearily, and for the last time, I start one more search. The key is in the right had trouser pocket where it's always been! Many would say there is a perfectly rational explanation for this. Others, less charitably perhaps, will says he's lost it completely. Comes from being on his own for so long and talking to all those ghosts. But I know the truth. It's my friend, Aphrodite, playing games to keep my on my toes. She's such a tease!
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Emma Anderson on

The ruins are wonderful, Peter. I can see how five hours might not have been enough to do justice to the place.

If you've not been, then the remains at Glanum, near St. Remy de Provence, is an interesting site. There was a restaurant adjacent that cooked food made in the Roman style.

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