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South Portico

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South Portico
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Photo Comments

This is a view of the eastern corner of the south portico of the Sebasteion—the Municipal Imperial Cult Complex at Aphrodisias. This corner has been restored based upon finds in the area.

The lower story—in the Doric order—contained rooms, the function of which is not clear.

The middle story—in the Ionic order—held 45 panels with reliefs depicting scenes from Greek mythology.  There was an emphasis on Aphrodite and her son Aeneas, who became the founding ancestor of Rome.

The upper story—in the Corinthian order—also held 45 panels, of which about one third are preserved.  They portray the victorious emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty as Olympian gods!  The emperors are rendered in idealizing nudity as gods (Friesen, p. 90).

"In the Sebasteion, however, as viewers looked up from the paved court, they encountered the mythic dimensions of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.  The members of the imperial family were gods, nor replacements for the old deities but 'a new branch of the Olympian pantheon.'" (Friesen, p. 93)

This picture is taken from the platform where the major Temple was located.  Note the central courtyard, in brown lower right, that measures 295 ft by 46 ft.


The Sebasteion was a complex of structures that served as a municipal imperial cult sanctuary.  It was dedicated to Aphrodite, the main deity of Aphrodisias, and to the "gods Sebastoi"—that is to the "August Ones," namely Julius Caesar and his successors.  Local elite persons built it to solidify their ties with Rome.  Its construction began during the reign of Tiberius and continued into the reign of Nero.