Richard Hodges soaks up the atmosphere at the Temple of Aphrodite, Knidos.
Knidos is a mariner's city, situated at the end of a long spindly Turkish peninsula jutting out towards the Dodecanese islands of Cos, Nicyros and Telos. It is renowned for its wine, vinegar and above all for Praxiteles' statue of Aphrodite. The statue has long since disappeared, but the elegantly proportioned podium of the round temple in which it stood was discovered twenty-five years ago. The temple was built in the fourth century BC to Aphrodite Euploiz, thc Aphrodite of fair voyages. It was a merchants' temple: the cathedral of a city whose rationale was commerce.
The temple dates from the foundation of Knidos in about 360 BC, when its citizens moved their city from an inlet by surrounded by fertile lands at Datca, fifty miles to the east, to this barren, waterless, but dramatic headland known as Cape Crio. The Knidians, then under Persian hegemony, understood the promise of this unlikely site. When the meltem, the strong northwest wind, blows, ships sailing from the south are unable to round the cape. Obliged to shelter for days at a time in the great commercial harbour constructed by the Knidians, wayfarers were compelled to contribute substantially to the port’s revenues.