A Tale in Red: The goddess of beauty and two Spartans girls

18th February 2011

Aphrodite is known as the goddess of beauty, love and sexuality. The Romans called her Venus. It is believed the origin of Aphrodite name is Phoenician, and certainly the cult of beauty is not new for us in this world of appearances. The legend says Zeus, the might god of Olympus, married her to Hephaestus – the god of forges, fire, technology, craftsmen, sculptures, and blacksmiths – to avoid a war between the gods. However, as in our days, marry did not solved the problem. Aphrodite consistently had relationship with other gods and mortals.

It was a beautiful cold sunny morning in February when we arrived in Aphrodisias – The City of Aphrodite. We had crossed some small villages in the way there, where the topic marriage and love were discussed. One of those villages had a tradition: they put bottles in the roof so the single men in the village know there is a woman there available to marry. This cause me a huge indignation; however it wasn’t only that, more beautiful the bottle more beautiful the woman. “It’s outrageous!”  I complained. “It’s tradition.” He said. Tradition is like a knife that cuts both ways, could be a positive thing or something outrageous. I try to respect it, but it was impossible don’t begun a speech about women’s rights and freedom of choice.


“You need to understand how things works here, particularly in the countryside. Women have not much freedom to choose. It’s true changing is happening, but it is slow and most part of time, even the most liberated woman end doing what parents said her to do.” While I understand perfectly what he was saying, I knew how family, parents, could make pressure to accept their desires of your own freedom. There is another aspect, culture, women grew understanding their position in the family and society sometimes even unconsciously, they reproduce the mother behaviour because is the only reference they have. “If you say.” 

Aphrodisias did not disappointed. Its impressive structure, the quantity and quality of artefacts and building, made anybody wonder how important the city was. The man who dedicated his entire life excavating and trying to understand Aphrodisias, Professor Kenan Erim was delighted by the quality of works of art. Hi passion for the city is proved by where he was buried when he died. Professor Erim tomb sis located near the Tetrapylon in Aphrodisias. I really love passionate people.

The history of the site seems to start in the Bronze Age, 2.800~2.200 BC. The town was officially founded in the 5th century BC and flourished under the Roman dominion (1AC – 5DC). In Byzantine times it was an important archbishopric

Aphrodisias was home to many scholars, like Xenocrates, philosopher, Plato’s pupil and friend of Aristotle. Xenocrates main work seems to have been sorting the thoughts, theories and philosophy of Plato. Also became interested in numbers, being an admirer of Pythagoras. It’s believed he had written two books: On numbers and number theory. Also became interested in physics being the first to develop the atomic theory, in which all things were composed of an indivisible particle. All this from 395 to 314 BC.

There are many interesting points to be seen in the site like Tetrapylon – a gateway leading from the main north-south street of the town into a large forecourt in front of the Temple of Aphrodite It was built c. 200 CE – Stadium, Temple of Aphrodite, the Odeon, Roman Baths, Theatre, The Gate of Tiberius, Sebasteion – or  Augusteum was originally a site of imperial cult in ancient Roman religion, named after the imperial title of Augustus. It was known as a Sebasteion in the Greek East of the Roman Empire – and Agora. I visited them all in under a blue sky when the cold winter wind was calm and gentle. I can say the city is wonderful, every corner is filled with references to works of sculpture the same one that astonished Prof. Kenan, even though most of those are now in museums around the world and the site only house copies.

Walking around was like a tour to the 2nd century AD. I do not know exactly why this century, but that’s how I felt, amid Romans, walking from one side to another in the town, fetching water, milk and making bread.

I left Aphrodisias with a copy of the Tetrapylon and waiting for my next surprise. 

We stopped for a snack – cheese toast – and something Fırat was eager to introduce to me: yogurt with honey and poppy seed. Yes, Turkey is a producer of opium, along with India, as a therapeutic drug. From the poppy’s sap that is made morphine and codeine, drugs for suppressing pain.

Yoghurt, honey and poppy seeds

I need stop now and talk about the Turkish yogurt. There isn’t anything similar even in Greek, dense, creamy, almost like an ice-cream, not acid. It’s absolutely delicious. I can say the same about the honey, clear, sweet but not too much. I really enjoy the small surprise.

Later, on the road again, Firat asked if I minded visiting his cousin studying in Isparta. By now I had learned that many cities in Turkey and Greece share names and this Isparta wasn’t the famous one. 

Firat’s cousin was studying physics at the university and her colleague (I can remember the name), was studding Tourism Services Management. I was in front of two 20-year-old girls starting her lives with all passion on their eyes and big plans to the future. Unfortunately I lost contact with them, I don’t know if most of their plans were fulfilled. 

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