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ETERNAL EPHESUS

October 30th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

We recently rented a car and traveled about 260 km from Marmaris to the modern town called Selcuk, about 3km from the ancient city of Ephesus which is described as “one of the best preserved classical cities on the Eastern Mediterranean”.  Since arriving in Turkey we have been asked repeatedly whether we had seen Ephesus, and we were ready for some land touring, so off we went.

Selcuk itself is a charming little village with numerous small hotels, pensions and restaurants.  The remains of a Byzantine aqueduct run through the town, and provide a summer home for storks that nest on the top of the arches.

A stork's nest is barely visible on the top of the aqueduct that runs through Selcuk

A stork's nest is barely visible on the top of the aqueduct that runs through Selcuk

Selcuk is also home to the Ephesus Museum which contains some of the most notable archeological finds taken from the ancient site.  The museum contains many statues, sarcophagi and decorative items that originated during the Hellenistic and Roman times during which they were created.   Foremost among them is a famous statue called the “Beautiful Artemis” depicting the “Goddess of the Hunt”.

Ancient cult worshiping Artemis shown here dates back to 6th Century A.D.

Ancient cult worshiping Artemis shown here dates back to 6th Century A.D.

Sarcophogus. . .

Sarcophogus. . .

paying honor to the dead.

paying honor to the dead.

2nd Century A.D. Bronze sculpture "Eros and Dolphin" is a diminuative 5 in. x 8 in.

2nd Century A.D. Bronze sculpture "Eros and Dolphin" is a diminuative 5 in. x 8 in.

Just outside the museum a stand was selling freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.  The luscious red pomegranates were too tempting and we had to try some.  It takes three pomegranates to make a small glass of juice, from the ripened red fruit, making it a seasonal treat.  The vendor wore rubber gloves to keep the juice from staining his hands–the juice also reputedly makes great dyes for Turkish rugs.

Fresh squeezed pomegranate anyone?

Fresh squeezed pomegranate anyone?

A short walk from the museum on Ayasuluk Hill overlooking Selcuk stands the remains of the Basilica of St. John built in the 6th Century A.D. by Emperor Justinian over the small shrine that preceded it and housed the sacred grave of St. John.

Model of Basilica of St. John the Baptist, 6 Century A.D.

Model of Basilica of St. John the Baptist, 6 Century A.D.

Partial facade of Basilica of St. John

Partial facade of Basilica of St. John

Basilica has massive walls and many columns

Basilica has massive walls, many columns, and. . .

delicate mosaic floors that have survived the elements.

delicate mosaic floors that have survived the elements.

St. John reportedly lived on the hill that became the site of the Basilica, and wrote his gospel and letters at that location.  When St. John died at nearly 100 years old he was buried there.  The Baptistery was a central feature of the Basilica and featured an immersion pool with steps leading in and out of it set under one of the six domes of the Basilica.

Bapistry was under one of the 6 domes of the Basilica

Baptistery Pool--enter a sinner, exit saved.

 The domes of the Basilica, none of which remain, made the shape of a cross when viewed from above.  The central dome was built over the grave of St. John which bears a small marker set above a marble floor with columns on four corners that remain. 

A guide reviews St. John's life at his tomb

A guide reviews St. John's life at his tomb

A simple stone marks the tomb

A simple stone marks the tomb

Further up Ayasuluk Hill stands a Citadel constructed by the Byzantines in the 6th Century A.D. 

Citadel sits above site of Basilica

Citadel sits above site of Basilica

After a good night’s sleep in a small, local hotel we were off to Ephesus first thing in the morning.  We had been warned that when cruise ships were in port at nearby Kusadasi, tour bus after tour bus would converge on Ephesus—such was the case by the time we were leaving.

There are two entrances to Ephesus and it was recommended that we start at the northernmost entrance because the tours tended to drop passengers at the other end.  That strategy worked very well.  The parking lot was nearly empty when we arrived.  We scooted through the ticket window and gate without a wait and saw at least half of the site before we met the hoards of people coming from the opposite direction.  Of course, there was a little detour as we wandered off the main street having missed it due to some construction around the large amphitheater which was our first stop.

 Kent addressed “Friends, Roman & Countrymen” from the stage of the Grand Theater, and it was amazing how the sound carried.  The amphitheater, originally constructed over 2,000 years ago, holds 25,000 people and is still used for performances. 

Kent checks out stage in amphitheater

Kent checks out Great Theater acoustics

Once we were back on the right track, we proceeded through the remains of the Commercial Agora. As its name implies, it was the business center of this ancient city of some 200,000 residents. 

The Commercial Agora leads to the. . .

The Commercial Agora leads to the. . .

triple gateway outside the Celsus Library built by free slaves whose names it bears

triple gateway outside the Celsus Library built by free slaves whose names it bears

Passing through the remains of the Agora you reach the Mazaeus- Mithridates Gate leading to the Celsus Library—one of the most impressive of all ancient structures that we have seen.  The remaining facade soars two stories high and has bigger-than-life size statues set into niches in the lower section.

Kent in foreground reads about Celsus Library

Kent in foreground reads about Celsus Library

 

Library facade pops against an azure sky

Library facade pops against an azure sky

Celsus Library 3rd largest in ancient world held 12, 000 scrolls

Celsus Library--3rd largest in ancient world--held 12, 000 scrolls

Intersecting with the Celsus Library is Curetes Street, a wide marble avenue that leads to the other entrance to Ephesus.  

Marble streets have withstood the test of time and thousands of tourists

Marble streets have withstood the test of time and thousands of tourists

The Terrace Houses located on Curetes Street, are one of the most well preserved examples (comparable to Pompeii)of how the rich lived in this era.  Not everyone opts to pay the additional 30 TL (or 15 Euros) to enter, but we had been advised not to miss the experience.  

The Terrace Houses are protected from the elements. . .

The Terrace Houses are protected from the elements. . .

to preserve the decorative painting. . .

to preserve the decorative painting. . .

and beautiful marble.

and beautiful marble.

The remains of these magnificent three-storied buildings with interior courtyards are now preserved under a modern stainless, glass and plastic structure that stands in sharp contrast to the frescoes, mosaics and marble that it protects.  

Glasswalks through the terrace houses

Glasswalks through the terrace houses

The largest of the terrace houses was reportedly 10,000 square feet, and all were opulently decorated.  Many of the statues and fountains that were found in the excavation of the site now reside at the Ephesus Museum.

One of the terrace houses was 10,000 sq. ft.--an early "McMansion"

One of the terrace houses was 10,000 sq. ft.--an early "McMansion"

In this sheltered environment archeologists painstakingly work to reassemble the past into some recognizable form. 

Millenium Puzzle

Millenium Puzzle

Tourists walk through history over plexi-glass walkways that allow an aerial view of the houses.  

The terrace house structure is a modern work of art

The terrace house structure is a modern work of art

Within the houses you see examples of Roman baths, and yes, even marble toilets, with a system to dispose of waste.  There was also central heating provided by heated water piped under the floors. 

Aerial view of Roman life

Aerial view of Roman life

Just opposite the entrance to the Terrace Houses stands the Hadrian Temple with Corinthian style columns and delicate carving. 

Hadrian's Temple

Hadrian's Temple

. . .the original "double" arches

. . .the original "double" arches

Near the end of Curetes Street is the Odeon, which has the appearance of a smaller amphitheater, but was in ancient times a covered building with stadium-like seating inside.  The Odeon served as a theater and Senate Seat. 

The Odeon

The Odeon

Columns and arches in every direction

Columns and arches in every direction

Unlike Pompeii that was frozen in time by the volcanic eruption that engulfed it, Ephesus succumbed to earthquakes, marauding invaders and decay brought about by centuries of neglect as the Roman Empire died.  Ephesus’s worst enemy now may be tourists who invade the place by the thousands to admire its beauty.

More people than monuments

More people than monuments

Nevertheless, the beauty that survives is a timeless tribute to the people who created and inhabited Ephesus.

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  1. Bron
    November 4th, 2010 at 22:24 | #1

    WELL DONE ! I lived there for many years and this is a great round up ! Just one thing – St. John died a natural death (yes, at a great age).
    This is a matter of opinion and preference but there is no doubt that the the best of the ruins are at the bottom of the hill. Starting at the top gate = the site builds in impressiveness and finishes on a grand note. That is what was always recommended and why all “everyone” goes to the top gate to start.

    A really good job !

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