Ephesus is near Selcurk about an hour from Izmir on, the west coast of Turkey. It’s also near a the port of Kudsaadasi where a lot of cruise ships stop…so there’s a lot of tourist groups that visit this area year round (most of whom seemed to be in Ephesus today).
Ephesus was once a port city; the harbor though silted up and was moved to its present site. The city was founded my Greeks, then taken over by Romans. At one point it was the captial of Asia Minor and its population exceeded 250,000. Its Temple of Artemis was the largest in the world and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. St. John reputedly brought the Virgin Mary to Ephesus after the death of Christ and tradition attests that his gospel was written there.
Excavation has been going on for 150 years at Ephesus and less than 20% of the city has yet to be unearthed. I can tell you after looking at these ancient sites that Archeologists really have to be good with jigsaw puzzles…three dimensional ones that have pieces missing. So they are part detective too and part historian. And need to love it…the pay has to rely on donations.
Today we first looked at the Temple of Artemis…only a singles pillar remains. What wasn’t pillaged was destroyed in an earthquake. The site is large and so is the pillar (now topped by bird nests) and you can see how imposing the temple must have been.
Then we went to Virgin Mary’s house up in the hills where there’s a three room house reputed to be where St. John took her after Jesus was killed on the cross. It was a drive up into the hills to get there and a pretty spot. There was a line to get into the house, and it took me a while to get through, let’s just say other cultures are better at jumping lines than are Americans, about 10-20 people walked in front of me, but we all got through.
Next up was Ephesus proper and it’s a pretty amazing site. The city is large and you start by walking from the top where there were Roman baths (everyone had to bathe before being allowed into the city…since the baths were relatively expensive, it was a way of keeping the riff raff out so to speak). All the political buildings were in the upper part of the town. There was a small theater where politicians would debate and lots of shops. There was a large, open pillar lined promenade (uncovered because chariots were coming and going on the road). I am standing below next to the goddess Nike (goddess of Victory).
There was a public men’s toilet room..sort of like a club. It was lined with toilet seats, and there was a fountain in the middle of the room, music was sometimes played, there was a fee to get in and apparently a sort of Roman “men’s club”. At least the togas would sort of cover the guys…
We went into the terraced houses. There are seven and they are being restored. They ranged from about 1000-4000 square feet, and all had center courtyards. The arrangement, terraced up an incline, helped with the plumbing, which was used to heat houses as well as provide water and dispose of it through the aqueduct system. There were mosaics on the floors, marble or paintings on the walls, indoor plumbing, and did I say lots and lots of marble. In the courtyards there were some fishtanks, used to store fish till they became dinner…better than any fridge as long as you remember to feed them.
There was a hospital and medical school, and a large library (though the facade was grander than the interior) containing thousands of scrolls. Scrolls were precious and few people had any in their homes, and they were highly perishable. There were several fountains and temples too.
There was another huge market with a courtyard in the middle, used to sell among other things, slaves.
At the bottom of Ephesus there is a huge great theater which held 25,000 people. I walked up to all but the highest seats (which were fenced off) and could hear quite clearly people at the bottom.
There’s another bath at the bottom of Ephesus, which I passed on the way out.
Lunch today was Gozleme, a thin crepe which I had with peynir (cheese) and I had some cis kepap, lamb shishkebab, which here is cooked in small pieces on small skewers. In the front of the restaurant you could watch the Gozleme being made in the traditional way.
I parted with my guide then and walked up through St. John’s church, which is being restored and up to the fort overlooking the city. The views were nice, of lots of farms, mostly trees, olives, citrus and stone fruit and pomegranates. . There was a guard inside the wall of the fort and when two tourists appeared taking photos from the spire of the mosque I heard a sharp whistle and then he was over to the small mosque most likely to chew them out…and while he left his spot, another tourist went under the ropes and up the stairs he was guarding. Adventure tourists I suppose. Of course when I initially saw the couple on top of the spire I thought, how did I miss that vantage point, went back in and saw that the entrance was marked off…by a stick (no warning signs).
Now I’m in Istanbul and go to Ali Bey tomorrow, captains’ meetings are Sunday as are USA team photos so I’ll report more then if not sooner.