Project Director: R.R.R. Smith

Plan of Aphrodisias

The ancient city of Aphrodisias is one of the most important archaeological sites of the late Hellenistic and Roman period in Turkey. It lies in inland Caria in the Meander river basin, 230 kilometers southeast of the port of Izmir (ancient Smyrna). Famous for its sanctuary of Aphrodite, the city's patron goddess, and for its marble sculptors, Aphrodisias enjoyed a long and prosperous existence from the first century BC to the sixth century AD. Today, many of the city's ancient monuments remain standing, and excavations have unearthed an unusual number of marble statues and inscriptions, as well as buildings and other artifacts.


The extraordinary preservation of the site and its marble culture makes Aphrodisias an important laboratory for the study of many aspects of Greek city life under the Roman Empire. The site is especially important for its rich remains of the Julio-Claudian period, for its well preserved ‘classical’ late antique cityscape, and for its honorific statuary both of the early empire and in late antiquity that survives with detailed contexts and associated epigraphy.

Sebasteion at Aphrodisias


Two prehistoric settlement mounds mark the earliest habitation of the site, in the sixth or fifth millennium BC. In spite of its long occupation, Aphrodisias remained a small village until the second century BC, the date of the earliest coins and inscriptions attesting the name of the city and an active political community. In the late first century BC, the city came under the protection of the emperor Augustus, and the first and second centuries AD were a time of great prosperity during which most of the major monuments of the site were built. In the third century, Aphrodisias became the capital of the new Roman province of Caria, and from the fourth century, the city was also the seat of a Christian bishop. The continued vitality of the city through the fifth century is attested by the wholesale reconstruction of the Temple of Aphrodite as a Christian basilica. By the seventh century, however, Aphrodisias was once again a small village, and so it remained until the fourteenth century, when the site was finally abandoned.


Parts of the site were briefly excavated in 1904-5 by a French team, and in 1937 by an Italian team. Sustained work at the site was begun in 1961 by New York University under the direction of Kenan Erim, who worked at the site till his death in 1990. In this period were excavated most of the major public monuments of the city centre: the Temple of Aphrodite, the Council House, the Theatre and Theatre Baths, the South Agora, and the Sebasteion, a temple complex dedicated to the combined worship of Aphrodite and the Julio-Claudian emperors.

Plan of Aphrodisias

Current research

The current research project at Aphrodisias began in 1991, under the auspices of New York University and the Institute of Fine Arts and under the direction of R.R.R. Smith. Its principal aims are (1) to record, document, and publish the earlier excavations carried out between 1961 and 1990, together with their rich associated marble finds; and (2) at the same time to pursue archaeological investigation of the city's urban plan, street system, and infrastructure. From 1993 to 2005, the Field Director was C. Ratté. The current Field Director, since 2008, is B. Yildirim.


A geophysical survey has shown that the city was laid out on a typical Hellenistic grid plan. Major projects have investigated the North Agora, the Stadium, the Bishop’s Palace, the temple-church conversion, the sarcophagi, and the Basilica together with its mythological reliefs. A major research and conservation project is currently focused on the Sebasteion and its remarkable series of eighty figured reliefs. Anastylosis of a part of the Sebasteion complex was begun in 2005, and construction of a new museum at the site in which to display the Sebasteion reliefs to the public is under construction in 2007.


An extensive regional survey of the geology and archaeology of the territory of the city (some 150 square miles) was carried out in 2005-09 under the direction of C. Ratté, and has identified more than 125 archaeological sites, ranging from a prehistoric cave to late Roman farmsteads. The territory of the city seems archaeologically as well preserved as the urban centre.



files/Research Projects/Aphrodisias/Aphrodisias propylon 1.jpg files/Research Projects/Aphrodisias/Aphrodisias theater 1.jpg



Regular reports have been published in the American Journal of Archaeology; detailed interim studies and publications of particular bodies of material have appeared in the Journal of Roman Studies and in several volumes of Aphrodisias Papers; and recent publications include monographs on the frieze of C. Julius Zoilos, on the cult statue of the city goddess, and on the portrait statuary from the site. The following are only works authored, co-authored, or edited by the project director (R.R.R. Smith):

  • Aphrodisias: City and Sculpture in Roman Asia (Ertug & Kocabiyik, Istanbul 2009), with A. Ertug
  • Roman Portraits from Aphrodisias (Exhibition and catalogue, Istanbul 2008. Ed. with J.L. Lenaghan), c. 300 pp
  • Aphrodisias Papers 4: New Research on the City and its Monuments (Journal of Roman Archaeology, Supplementary Series No. 70. Ed. with C. Ratté. Providence, Rhode Island, 2008), c. 400 pp.
  • 'Statue life in the Hadrianic Baths at Aphrodisias, AD 100-600: Local context and historical meaning', in F.A. Bauer, C. Witschel (eds), Statuen in der Spätantike (Wiesbaden 2007), 203-235, pls. 50-68, figs. 1-42.
  • 'Archaeological Research at Aphrodisias in Caria, 2002-2005’, American Journal of Archaeology 112 (2008), with C. Ratté, 713-51, figs. 1-34.
  • 'Sarcophagi and Roman citizenship', in C. Ratté, R.R.R. Smith (eds), Aphrodisias Papers 4: New Research on the City and its Monuments (JRA Supplement 70; Providence, RI 2008), 347-94, figs. 1-87
  • Roman Portrait Sculpture from Aphrodisias: Aphrodisias II (Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, 2006), 335 pp., 27 figs. and maps, 163 pls., with S. Dillon, C. Hallett, J. Lenaghan, J. Van Voorhis
  • 'Archaeological Research at Aphrodisias in Caria, 1999-2001', American Journal of Archaeology 108 (2004), 145-186, with C. Ratté
  • 'The statue monument of Oecumenius: A new portrait of a late antique governor from Aphrodisias', Journal of Roman Studies 102 (2002), 134-156
  • 'A portrait monument for Julian and Theodosius at Aphrodisias', in Chr. Reusser (ed), Griechenland in der Kaiserzeit: Neue Funde und Forschungen zu Skulptur, Architektur und Topographie (Bern 2001), 125-36
  • 'Archaeological Research at Aphrodisias in Caria, 1997 and 1998', American Journal of Archaeology 104 (2000), 221-253, with C. Ratté
  • 'A late Roman portrait and a himation statue from Aphrodisias', in H. Friesinger, F. Krinzinger (eds), 100 Jahre Österreichische Forschungen in Ephesos: Akten des Symposions Wien 1995 (Vienna 1999), 713-719
  • 'Herakles and Antaios at Aphrodisias in Caria', in Periplous: Essays for Sir John Boardman (Edd. G.R. Tsetskhladze, A.M. Snodgrass, A.J.N. Prag. London & New York, 1999), 299-308
  • 'Late antique portraits in a public context: Honorific statuary at Aphrodisias in Caria, AD 300-600', Journal of Roman Studies 99 (1999), 155-189
  • 'Archaeological Research at Aphrodisias in Caria, 1996', American Journal of Archaeology 102 (1998), 225-250 with C. Ratté
  • 'Hellenistic Sculpture under the Roman Empire: Fishermen and Satyrs at Aphrodisias', in Regional Schools in Hellenistic Sculpture (Oxbow Monograph 90. Eds. O. Palagia, W.D.E. Coulson. Oxford 1998), 253-260
  • 'Archaeological Research at Aphrodisias in Caria, 1995', American Journal of Archaeology 101 (1997), 1-22, with C. Ratté,
  • 'Archaeological Research at Aphrodisias, 1989-1992', Aphrodisias Papers 3 (1996), 10-72
  • 'Archaeological Research at Aphrodisias in Caria, 1994', American Journal of Archaeology 100 (1996), 5-33, with C. Ratté
  • Aphrodisias Papers 3: The setting and quarries, mythological and other sculptural decoration, architectural development, Portico of Tiberius, and Tetrapylon (Journal of Roman Archaeology, Supplementary Series No. 20. Ed. with Charlotte Roueché. Ann Arbor, Michigan 1996), 224 pp.
  • 'Archaeological Research at Aphrodisias in Caria, 1993', American Journal of Archaeology 99 (1995), 33-58, with C. Ratté
  • 'Two inscribed monuments from Aphrodisias', Archäologischer Anzeiger (1994), 455-472, with C.P. Jones
  • The Monument of C.Julius Zoilos: Aphrodisias I (Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, 1994), 68 pp., 14 figs., 33 pls.
  • 'Sculpture from the Theatre', Aphrodisias Papers 2 (1991), 67-98, with K.T. Erim
  • 'Late Roman Philosophers' Aphrodisias Papers 2 (1991), 144-158
  • 'A new portrait of Pythagoras', Aphrodisias Papers 2 (1991), 159-167
  • Aphrodisias Papers 2: The Theatre, a sculptor's workshop, philosophers, and coin types (Journal of Roman Archaeology, Supplementary Series No. 2. Ed. with K.T. Erim, Michigan 1991), 175 pp.
  • 'Late Roman Philosopher Portraits from Aphrodisias', Journal of Roman Studies 90 (1990), 127-55
  • 'Myth and allegory in the Sebasteion', in Aphrodisias Papers: Recent Work on Architecture and Sculpture (Eds. C. Roueché, K.T. Erim, 1990), 89-100
  • 'Le Sébasteion et son décor sculpté', Archeologia 139 (1989), 46-59
  • 'Simulacra gentium: the ethne from the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias', Journal of Roman Studies 78 (1988), 50-77
  • 'The imperial reliefs from the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias', Journal of Roman Studies 77 (1987), 88-138
Ethne from Aphrodisias

Project sponsors:
Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Faculty of Arts & Science, New York University
Charles and Rosanna Batchelor Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Geyre Vakfı, Istanbul
National Endowment for the Humanities
World Monuments Fund
1984 Foundation

Leon Levy Foundation
Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation
Joukowsky Family Foundation
American Friends of Aphrodisias
Friends of Aphrodisias Trust, London
Aphrodisias Sevenler, Izmir
Association des Amis d'Aphrodisias, Paris


Publications and research have been supported by:
Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications
Loeb Classical Library Foundation
Craven Fund, Oxford University
Meyerstein Fund, Oxford University
Jowett Copyright Trust, Balliol College, Oxford
Zilkha Fund, Lincoln College, Oxford
M. Alwyn Cotton Foundation

Link symbol Visit the project website