Unique 1,800-year-old marble bathtub found in Ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias

1800-year-old marble bathtub Aphrodisias

A 1,800-year-old marble bathtub that was almost sold by smugglers has been delivered to the Aphrodisias Museum Directorate in Tralleis (Τράλλεις, Turkish: Aydin) province, Aphrodisias (Ἀφροδισιάς, Turkish: Karacasu) district in western Turkey.

It was reported that the bathtub, with the lion’s head reliefs on it, is unique in Turkey as it is made of marble entirely.

The marble tub, which is 1 ton in weight and 1.80 meters in length, was seized during an operation carried out by gendarmerie on March 31 in Karacasu when it was about to be sold by smugglers.

Experts noted that the bathtub could have been used by a state administrator or a wealthy business person and that it is the first ever ancient marble bathtub found in Turkey.

It was reported that after the completion of the official process, the bathtub will be restored and opened to visitors in the museum.

Provincial Culture and Tourism Director Umut Tuncer examined the bathtub and emphasised that the ancient city of Aphrodisias, named after the Ancient Greek goddess of Aphrodite, is a very special area, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

“People of Aphrodisias were wealthy. We think that the marble bathtub is a special piece found in this city, which dates back to 1st BC,” he said.

“This bathtub, which is about 1,800 years old, is one of the rare examples in the world because it is completely marble.

“As far as we know, it is the only example in Turkey.

“There are bathtubs created with various mud layers that have been found in Turkey before, but this completely marble structure actually expresses the wealth of this region and the welfare of the society.

“There are lion head reliefs on the right and left sides of the tub.

“We perceive that these reliefs represent power and authority. We believe that this tub was in the house of a state administrator or a wealthy businessperson who ruled the region at that time,” he said.

Tuncer said that the tub would be restored and displayed at the museum.

“We believe that it will attract the attention of art lovers. There is a bath structure in all of our ancient cities. These places were actually used as public and social spaces,” he said.

“The culture of hot water, bathing and cleaning was an important part of the period. We have seen everything we expected to see in this tub.

“Aydın is a magnificent historical city of cultural civilizations at the intersection of Lydia and Caria regions.

“The richest ancient city of the region is Aphrodisias. The city also had a large sculptor school.

“We can see the curves that reflect the facial expressions, muscles and mimics in the sculptures in the Aphrodisias Museum.”

Aphrodisias was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who had here her unique cult image, the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias. According to the Suda, a Byzantine encyclopedic compilation, before the city became known as Aphrodisias (c.3rd century BCE) it had three previous names: Lelégōn Pólis (Λελέγων πόλις, “City of the Leleges”), Megálē Pólis (Μεγάλη Πόλις, “Great City”), and Ninóē (Νινόη).

Sometime before 640, in the Late Antique period when it was within the Byzantine Empire, the city was renamed Stauropolis (Σταυρούπολις, “City of the Cross”).

The Temple of Aphrodite was a focal point of the town. The Aphrodisian sculptors became renowned and benefited from a plentiful supply of marble close at hand. The school of sculpture was very productive; much of their work can be seen around the site and in the Aphrodisias Museum.

Unique 1,800-year-old marble bathtub found in Ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias 1
The Temple of Aphrodite.

Many full-length statues were discovered in the region of the agora, and trial and unfinished pieces pointing to a true school are in evidence. Sarcophagi were recovered in various locations, most frequently decorated with designs consisting of festoons and columns.

Pilasters have been found showing what are described as “peopled scrolls” with figures of people, birds and animals entwined in acanthus leaves.

The character of the temple building was altered when it became a Christian basilica. The building is believed to have been dismantled in c. 481-484 by order of Emperor Zeno, because the temple had been the focus of Pagan Hellenic opposition against Zeno in Aphrodisias, in support of Illus, who had promised to restore Hellenic rites, which had been suppressed during the Persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire, to the temples that where still standing.

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