Karacasu 17 km (10 mile) far to Aydin. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, is one of the most colorful characters in Greek mythology. Born of pure white sea foam, she stepped onto land in Cyprus, displaying her beauty for all to behold. This scene, one of the most favorite and frequently depicted in all art history, has been embodied in sculpture, painting and mosaic. Whatever myth you read, you’re sure to come across Aphrodite at some point because, as the saying goes, she turns up under every stone. Was it not she, for example, who won the coveted prize in the three-way beauty contest on Mount Olympus, home of the gods, indirectly triggering the Trojan War? And what about the many fascinating couples she brought together in cahoots with Eros, god of love, by softening even the hardest of hearts? Countless temples and altars were erected to this much beloved ‘working’ goddess in her time. But all are overshadowed by the city founded in her name.
The story of the discovery of Aphrodisias, located near the village of Geyre in Aydın province’s Karacasu township, is extremely interesting. Turkish photographer Ara Guler, who went to Denizli for a shoot in 1958, was returning to Izmir in the middle of the night when he lost his way and decided to spend the night at the first village he came to. Down the road a stretch he stepped into a rustic coffeehouse. This was Geyre. When he saw the statues embedded in the coffeehouse walls and the carved marble tables, he was quite taken aback and asked where they’d come from. The answer: the environs were full of many more just like them. At the first light of dawn he hit the streets to explore the area and found himself wandering awestruck through the ancient city of Aphrodisias. He took photographs and, after first showing them to a few archaeologists, sent them to Kenan Erim, a Turkish archaeologist working at Princeton University at the time. Upon seeing them, Erim jumped on the first plane to Istanbul and proceeded immediately to Geyre. And so it all began…

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