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"He completed the building of his Tiburtine villa in wonderful fashion, in such a way that he inscribed the most famous of names of provinces and places there..."

Historia Augusta, Life of Hadrian

Pliny (Natural History, XXXVI.21) states that the setting of the Knidia was completely open so that the statue of Aphrodite could be viewed with equal admiration from every side, a setting that is duplicated in the monopteros at Hadrian's villa, where a single ring of Doric columns once supported a domed roof, in the center of which was found a copy of the statue, one of the few that have not been removed from the villa grounds. (In describing the fabulous barge of Ptolemy IV Philopator, Athenaeus, V.205ff, mentions that it had on board a rotunda-shaped shrine to Aphrodite, in which there was a marble statue of the goddess.)

In 1969, Iris Cornelia Love (heiress to the Guggenheim fortune, breeder of prize-winning dachshunds, and a member of the National Council on the Humanities) thought she had discovered the original site at Cnidus. A circular marble podium was found, the dimension of which conformed with the rotunda constructed by Hadrian, and the remains of a marble pedestal on which the statue could have been placed. Column drums and a section of an architrave also were uncovered. In subsequent campaigns, an inscription that began with the name "Prax..." was found, as well as a broken Corinthian capital. A crack running through the podium, presumably damaged by an earthquake, had caused one section to subside and, on a terrace below the temple, there were fragments of drapery, a hand, and a finger, which Love suggested may have belonged to the Knidia. Given that the monopteros at Hadrian's villa is Doric, Love conjectured that the Corinthian columns may have belonged to an earlier temple that originally housed the statue, especially since the present building, which she dated as later than the fourth century BC, is later than the Knidia, itself.

Continued work at the site by Ramazan Özgan has shown the round temple uncovered by Love to be a second-century BC tholos with an outer Corinthian colonnade and an inner walled room or cella. Moreover, it was dedicated, not to Aphrodite, but to Athena (Hansgeorg Bankel, cited by Ridgway). Nor is the fragmentary inscription that of the sculptor but a private dedication by a homonymous Praxiteles.

Lucian places the statue in a small rectangular shrine (naiskos) surrounded by trees and other vegetation (and not the paved area found at the tholos) to which there are two entrances, with one in the back so that the goddess could viewed from behind. His account and that of Pliny, indicating that the statue could be seen from all sides, are not contemporary and it may be that, as the Knidia became more renown in the second century BC (possibly because of Roman expansion into the Mediterranean), the original setting was renovated to allow for more unobstructed viewing. Or the temple may have been reinstalled in a new location, one that has not yet been found.


An architectural model of the tholos according to Bankel (Computergraphics for Archeology and History of Architecture).

References: "A Preliminary Report of the Excavations at Knidos, 1969" (1970) by Iris Cornelia Love, American Journal of Archaeology, 74, 149-155 (the first of several reports on campaigns that continued in 1970, 1971, and 1972); "Archaeology in Anatolia" (1992) by Machteld J. Mellink, American Journal of Archaeology, 96, 119-150; Second Chance: Greek Sculptural Studies Revisited ("Some Personal Thoughts on the Knidia") (2004) by Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway; Lives of the Later Caesars (1976) by Anthony Birley.

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