Archaeologist Iris Cornelia Love, Knidos 1969.

What I’ve accomplished so far, I owe to Aphrodite and the other gods.”  (X)

The Temple of Aphrodite Euploia at Knidos was built in the 4th century B.C.E., and was famous for its monumental cult statue of the goddess, sculpted by Praxiteles. In 1967, Iris Love, then an assistant professor of archaeology at C.W. Post College, Long lsland University, arrived at Knidos, on the southwest coast of Turkey,  with an international team of archaeologists and began excavations. Ancient accounts had described the cult statue as visible from every angle, so Love reasoned they should expect to find a tholos (circular) temple. On July 20, 1969, the day Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, Love uncovered a circular marble platform. Further finds, including the foundations of a circular building with eighteen columns, a larger than life-size hand of Parian marble which is comparable in size to copies of the statue of Aphrodite of Knidos, numerous votive offerings dating from the archaic through Hellenistic periods, and an inscription beginning “Prax…” encouraged the team that they had indeed discovered the site of Aphrodite’s temple. 

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Photograph of the circular temple at Knidos, copyright Dick Osseman, 2004.

Love continued excavations at Knidos, and in 1977 discovered a Minoan settlement dating to 1950 B.C.E. A review of literary sources led her to investigate the sea route from Knidos to Italy, and the cities established by Knidos in Magna Graecia. A major excavation planned in Naples was halted by the Italian government during the Achille Lauro incident in 1985, and the subsequent declaration of the area as a military zone in reaction to the threat of regional terrorism effectively blocked Love’s proposed fieldwork. 

Love has published only preliminary papers on the excavations of the temple at Knidos, though now, at age 82, she is said to be finally working on a book detailing the excavation. Her conclusions have been disputed recently by Turkish archaeologist Ramazan Özgan, who has been excavating at Knidos since 1988. Dr. Özgan insists the round temple Love discovered was built in the second century B.C.E., and was dedicated to Athena.

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