Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Touring Turkey - Ephesus, Part 1

While planning our trip to Turkey, I wasn't sure whether we should even go to Ephesus. It's one of the best preserved former Roman cities on the Mediterranean outside of Italy (pretty much other than Rome actually), but I wasn't clear if we should take a full day to see it. The Latin Geek in me felt like I had to though. In case you're interested in eventually seeing Ephesus, you can definitely see the ruins and St. John's Basilica in a day as many tourists often see the area as a port of call on a cruise (Kusadasi is the nearest major port) or fly in for the day from Istanbul.

When we finally got to Ephesus I could see why its founders planted the city here. The scenery is beautiful.

The marketplace (and hotspot for political discussions)

Me at the Agora (I think..so many ruins it's so hard to identify them all!!)

One thing you should know is that Ephesus was THE place to be back in the day. It was at certain points a major trading center with lots of wealthy residents. Ephesus was also a center for early Christianity, but I'll get to that in a separate post.

Part theater, part political gathering place for the Bouleia, a local council made up of the descendants of the Ephesian aristocracy

Tomb of Memius
Memius was the grandson of Sulla, a Roman general and politician who restored Ephesus as a Roman city after it was conquered by Mithridates, ruler of a kingdom bordering the Black Sea.

Before the Romans came through and ruled this part of Turkey, the Greeks were running the show. This tablet below has a Greek inscription. I wish I could tell you what it says.

By the way, I was shocked at how little supervision there was at the ruins. In some respects, it was nice to just wander wherever you wanted, but I feel like some people (i.e., some annoying teens) were not being responsible and respectful of it as a historical space. I think perhaps in other places there would be multiple guards making sure you don't go in certain areas. I'm sure the Turkish government knows what a treasure it has here in Ephesus. I just hope they do what is necessary to preserve this for future generations to explore. Anyhoo...

Temple of Hadrian
Built in honor of the Roman emperor Hadrian. Inside the walls showed the early history of Ephesus. If you want to see those walls now, you must go to the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk.

At this point, we were making our way down Curetes Street, one of Ephesus' main thoroughfares. Think of it as its Broadway or Champs Elysees. We were inching our way closer to one of the areas of the ruins that I had been waiting to see for our entire trip to Turkey.

We had lots of time in Ephesus (a solid 2 1/2 hours) not necessarily by our choice (I'll explain later), so we (respectfully) played around quite a bit in the ruins.
Mugging for the camera

Finally, there it was...the Celsus Library.

At one point, this was the third richest library in the ancient world with supposedly over 12,000 scrolls. It was constructed by the high-ranking government official, Gaius Julius Aquila in honor of his father, Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaenus, who oversaw the Roman empire in Asia (Turkey was considered Asia to the Romans even back then). Anyone building a library for your parents any time soon? Take note.

Each of these statues in the niches of the columns depicts a female representation of a virtue of Celsus (e.g. Sophia = wisdom).

Ennoia = Intelligence

We made sure to go behind the library's facade.

It's in Turkish, but I think this describes the excavation and restoration of the library.

At this point, I was definitely happy that Ephesus was included in our trip. I'm really glad that we didn't miss seeing this in person.

If you've liked what you've seen so far of Ephesus, there's more to come. :)


Hannah {Culture Connoisseur} said...

Ah Ephesus. One of the first major churches formed in Acts. John and I always talk about going to see the seven (?) churches of Acts.

melinda said...

Looks amazing! I've been wanting to do a tour with many of the historic sites important to Christianity - this is a great foretaste and a big help in thinking through that travel plan!


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