Decision : 41 COM 8B.28
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Documents WHC/17/41.COM/8B and WHC/17/41.COM/INF.8B1,
- Inscribes Aphrodisias, Turkey, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii), (iii), (iv) and (vi);
- Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
Aphrodisias is located in southwestern Turkey, in the fertile valley formed by the Morsynus River, in the ancient region of Caria. The history of the area comprising Aphrodisias dates back to the Late Chalcolithic Period. The city was founded in the 2nd century BC, during the period of intense urbanization in the Meander Valley, and then or later was laid out in a grid around the temple of the goddess Aphrodite. Because the city shared a close interest in the goddess Aphrodite with Sulla, Julius Caesar, and the emperor Augustus, Aphrodisias had a close relationship with Rome. It obtained a privileged ‘tax-free’ political status from the Roman senate, and subsequently developed a strong artistic, sculptural reputation. Aphrodisias remained under Roman rule during the Imperial Period and under Byzantine rule in the late antique and medieval periods.
The Cult of Aphrodite was the most important cult of Aphrodisias. The sanctuary at Aphrodisias had a distinctive cult statue of Aphrodite which defined the city’s identity. The Aphrodite of Aphrodisias combined aspects of a local Anatolian, archaic fertility goddess with those of the Hellenic Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. It distributed this unique identifying image as a religious ‘export’ from Anatolia across the Mediterranean, from the city of Rome to the Levant. The importance of the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias continued well beyond official imperial acceptance of Christianity; the Temple did not become a church until c. 500 AD.
The proximity of the marble quarries to the city was a major reason that Aphrodisias became an outstanding high-quality production center for marble sculpture and developed sculptors who were famous throughout the Roman Empire. The longevity of high-standard production of sculpture in Aphrodisias assures its role as a unique place in human cultural history and makes important contributions to our understanding of ancient monumental art in its local contexts of social interaction. At the same time, the techniques and the highly skilled use of marble, the quality of local artistic design, and the production of advanced portrait sculpture give Aphrodisias a unique place in modern scholarship.
A distinctive Greek-Roman political and cultural system is embodied and enacted in Aphrodisias’s surviving urban fabric. This distinctive urban culture of Anatolia under Roman rule represents the urban system and planning characteristics of the Greek and Roman periods, with all public facilities and monuments specific to those eras. Because its archaeological preservation is better than that of any other sites in Caria, Aphrodisias provides modern scholars with a useful example of a typical Carian cult center, particularly in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
Embedded in this surviving settlement pattern is another unique aspect of Aphrodisias, its cosmopolitan social structure (Greek, Roman, Carian, pagan, Jewish, Christian) that is abundantly articulated in the site’s 2000 surviving inscriptions. When all the above described characteristics of the site are considered together they reveal the significance of Aphrodisias in world history.
Criterion (ii): The exceptional production of sculpted marble at Aphrodisias blends local, Greek, and Roman traditions, themes, and iconography. It is visible throughout the city in an impressive variety of forms, from large decorated architectural blocks to over life-statues to small portable votive figures. The proximity of good quarries with both pure white and grey marbles was a strong catalyst and enabling factor for the swift development of the city as a noted centre for marble-carving and marble-carvers. The great ability of Aphrodisian sculptors was well noted in antiquity and sought after even in metropolitan Rome where signatures of Aphrodisian sculptures appear on some of the finest works from Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli. These sculptors were major players in the art market in the Empire between 1st and 5th century AD and thus have contributed to the development of the western sculptural tradition.
Criterion (iii): Aphrodisias occupies an important place in the study of urban culture in Asia Minor from the late Hellenistic period to Late Antiquity. Like many other cities in the region, Aphrodisias blends aspects of Greek tradition with a variety of received elements of the Roman Empire. Aphrodisias stands out because of its extraordinary state of preservation and extensive epigraphic documentation and because of its cultic and historical importance. It was a unique Carian centre for Aphrodite, a city with special privileges under the Empire, and a provincial capital in Late Antiquity. Moreover, its quarries and its sculpture workshops made it an important art centre, famous for its creativity and high-quality technical skill in marble carving. Aphrodisias has one of the very few known and systematically excavated sculpture workshops of the Roman Empire, which provides a fuller understanding of the production of marble sculpture than almost anywhere else in the Roman world.
Criterion (iv): Aphrodisias bears exceptional testimony to the built environment of a Greco-Roman city in inland Asia Minor. Several of its monumental buildings have unique features in terms of architecture and design, and many are outstanding simply in terms of their state of preservation and conservation. The Sebasteion, a remarkable cult complex for the worship of Augustus and the Julio-Claudian emperors, represents a distinctive integration of Hellenistic, Roman and Aphrodisian artistic traditions. The so-called Archive Wall in the theater is a famous example of a well-preserved collection of official imperial documents regarding the status of the city under the Empire. The Theater also features the earliest known scene building with an aediculated façade. The Stadium, which has a peculiar architectural form known as “amphitheatrical”, is the best-preserved as well as one of the largest buildings of this stadium type in the whole ancient world. The conversion of the Temple of Aphrodite into a cathedral, around 500 AD, is unique among all known temple-to-church conversions in its scale, engineering, and transformative effect. The entire original architectural structure of the Tetrapylon, the conspicuous entrance to the outer Sanctuary of Aphrodite, is preserved with its elaborate and exquisitely carved architectural ornament. The South Agora is exceptional in terms of size, shape, and lack of parallels in an ancient urban setting.
Criterion (vi): Aphrodisias was famous in antiquity as the cult center of a unique version of Aphrodite which amalgates aspects of an archaic Anatolian fertility goddess with those of the Hellenic goddess of love and beauty. The Aphrodite of Aphrodisias appears in marble figures from the site of Aphrodisias itself as well as from many other locations around the Mediterranean. This dissemination of the cult image is strong evidence of the regional and supra-regional importance of the cult. The city was also famed as a place of philosophical activity under the high empire and in Late Antiquity. Alexander of Aphrodisias, the most celebrated of the ancient commentators on the works of Aristotle, is considered one of the most important thinkers of the Roman period. A school of Neoplatonic philosophy flourished at Aphrodisias under Asklepiodotos of Alexandria, who was based in the city in the 5th century AD.
Aphrodisias is of outstanding importance in terms of its unity and integrity. The property has visual integrity and a long, well-studied history from the Bronze Age to the Ottoman Period. The nominated property includes all elements necessary to express its values and does not suffer from significant geomorphological change or intensive human occupation since antiquity. Boundaries of the nominated area draw the limits of the remains at the largest extent which ensures fully representation of outstanding values. The property has been legally taken under control by the State, also many policies and actions have been proposed within the conservation and management plans in order to sustain the integrity of the site.
Aphrodisias retains its authenticity in terms of form and design, materials and substance, location and setting. This claim is clearly proven by remarkably well-preserved monuments and sculptures, about 2000 surviving incriptions, a comprehensively studied history, and a substantial body of published research. The work of conservation and restoration at Aphrodisias has been undertaken in conformity with the Charter of Venice, respecting their original design and building materials. The landscape dominating the environment of Aphrodisias has never been exposed either to development or to mass tourism and offers visitors the experience of feeling the ambiance of a Greco-Roman city in its historical context.
Protection and management requirements
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism with its central and local branches and the excavation team are the main responsible bodies for the conservation, protection, promotion and management of the site. The archaeological site is excavated, researched and conserved by the excavation team which is authorized by the government on a yearly base, and the work carried out is regularly monitored by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The site is registered on the National Inventory and is protected within the framework of the Act on the Conservation of Cultural and Natural Property No. 2863. A Conservation Plan for the Archaeological Site was prepared, and approved by the relevant Regional Conservation Council in 2002.
Aphrodisias Management Plan, which was prepared under the surveillance of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, was approved on 17 September 2013.
- Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
- Updating the Management Plan to reflect the revised boundaries and protections for the property,
- Providing the legal protection for the entirety of the buffer zone,
- Increasing efforts to integrate the local community into the management system for the property,
- Formulating and implementing monitoring indicators for the quarry component,
- Implementing the drainage rehabilitation plan within the walled city at a quicker pace,
- Developing a fire response plan and providing training in fire suppression, as well as mobile water tanks in the summer as an interim measure until a permanent fire suppression system is installed,
- Expanding the patrols by the agricultural guards to include the quarry component and the whole of the buffer zone,
- Conducting a full 3D inventory of the quarry faces in order to provide a baseline record of their condition,
- Implementing remedial conservation measures within the quarry component;
- Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2019 a report on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.