The stadium at Aphrodisias

Aphrodisias, located in southwest Turkey, was an ancient city of Caria in Asia Minor. It is not mentioned in the Bible, but is close to the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae. Robert F. Tannenbaum, an ancient historian, describes the location of the city this way:

A quiet, fertile valley folded into the Mediterranean hills, clear streams, tall poplars, ancient ruins more than 1,400 years old—a picture of pastoral quiet. (Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept/Oct 1986)

The site has been excavated since 1966, beginning under the direction of Kenan Erim of New York University. Marble was readily available at a nearby quarry and the excavation has brought to light a multitude of marble inscriptions and statues from the Roman period including a statue of the Emperor Domitian. Buildings include a theater, an agora, a bath, temples, and a well-preserved stadium.

Louw-Nida describes a stadium as an “open, oval area (frequently including a racetrack) around which was built an enclosed series of tiers of seats for those who came to watch the spectacles – arena, stadium.” When Paul spoke of running the race in 1 Corinthians 9:24, he used the Greek term stadion. The term was also used as a measure of distance and is found in John 6:19. It was about one-eighth of a Roman mile. Most large Greek and Roman cities had a stadium. The figure of the stadium is in mind in Hebrews 12:1-2, where a host of witnesses watch as we run the race.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The stadium at Aphrodisias is the best preserved I have seen and I wanted to share it with you in the photo I made in 2006. Picture yourself in the stadium.

This article, with minor changes, was published in Biblical Insights, September, 2006.

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