When I was growing up, I used to hear many great stories about Ephesus, and in my mother tongue the name of Ephesus is similar to "hat", so it always made me laugh. Later, during my geography lessons in school, the teacher never mentioned that Ephesus still exists today ( he probably did not know), and I never bothered to research it. One day, actually... on my first day in Izmir ( Turkey), I took the train from Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport, and on that train I met a man who said he was from Ephesus. I said 'whaaat???" Obviously I thought he was joking, or that maybe it was just a name resemblance but... nope! The man stopped firmly in Selcuk train station and I could see there some great archaeological walls and indications towards Ephesus. I was in fact so tired, that I assumed the walls I saw, were just drawn on a wall paper over another..perhaps real wall.
Fast forward, 3 weeks later, me and my friend Gloria woke up one beautiful Monday morning and flushed our asses in the train station of Denizli, trying to go back and visit Izmir. I should mention, our mornings were always late mornings. So we figured the day is lost anyhow, and we should perhaps visit something closer to our location. We checked the train station map and saw Ephesus marked there. Not to mention I still did not believe that's ancient Ephesus mentioned there. Ancient Ephesus is a hell of a special place and you will see immediately why. It has a healthy dollop of ruins & legends that might beat Rome in their beauty.
Eventually, we decided to travel by bus, which was not such a formidable idea...because from Denizli is better to take a direct train ( only 2 hours ride). By bus, you change after one hour and a half, and the new bus will leave you in the bus station of Selcuk, from where you need to take a cute mini van, taking you to mighty Ephesus, on the south -west coast of modern Turkey. The mini van is actually a 'dolmus' ( pictured below), a Turkish shared taxi, that leaves every 10-15 minutes from Selcuk Central Bus Station. One thing NOT to do is trying to eat/drink in that bus station: is dirty & products look & taste bad!
Now just some very quick organisational facts you should know, before we head down to business: The journey with the dolmus takes around 20 minutes, and it leaves you at the lower gate in Ephesus. Depending on where you are coming from you can either take a dolmus, or come by boat, and then take a dolmus ( Kusadasi location). The access to the complex is 40 TL., but be prepared to sprout out of your wallet an additional 15 for the terraced house or 80 TL for Virgin Mary's House:/. That is because some say Virgin Mary is the most famous inhabitant of Ephesus. Relax, there are others more famous. Especially if you come from Kusadasi, you can ask to be dropped at the northern gate, if you are not such a sport brat and don't like to climb ( your journey will only be down hill in Ephesus from the northern gate). Also Pamucak beach is close by, they have a direct dolmus & I heard the sunsets are amazing but I did not have enough time to visit it.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea, Turkish Dolmus, our fancy ride to Ephesus
Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean, and only an estimated 15% has been excavated so far. Can you imagine, how many treasures could still be lurking underneath?
In its days of glory, the city of Ephesus embodied a fertile sense of architecture & culture: it hosted one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World ( the Artemesium, a colossal temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis, you can chill though..thanks to the Ghots now only column stands...siiiiigh!!), the breath-taking Library of Celsus, with traces of menorahs, and its medical school, the largest theatre in the Roman times ( the Grand Theatre), and plenty of other temples, plus a red-light relic of the antic times: a brothel!! Like oh my god! who wouldn't want to visit Ephesus right?? As I said before, it's most famous inhabitant is Virgin Mary, not verified though, whom apparently had a house in Ephesus and died there, being commemorated on every 15th of August of each year, and for which the Turks will try to extort a bit your wallet. But since they recognize Jesus as a prophet, they also go to pray there. Ephesus is in fact one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written there, because John actually lived in Ephesus, trying to spread Christianity. Obviously he failed.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea, Library of Ephesus
A couple of funny facts about Ephesus
A spooky legend from Ephesus is that of the 7 sleepers, immured in a cave near Ephesus during the Christian persecutions by Decius. Some 200 years later, they awoke from their death ( whoooaaa...why is there no horror movie on this one ...), and were taken before Theodosius II, a devoted Christian & Roman emperor of the east, to reassure him on his faith. The 7 young & dead, returned to their cave, to sleep again until the day of Judgment. The story, thought to be of Syrian origin, was popularized by Gregory of Tours. But you can see where the 7 sleepers were put to sleep their sleep of death in Ephesus. Scary right? Speaking of Syria, on our way to Ephesus, we met a Syrian refugee girl in the train station..she broke my heart ..had only a bag to her name and was looking to get to Germany. I'll never forget how bad and unfed she looked.
Actually they say that nobody ever died in Ephesus ( that's a lie obviously, gladiators were killed by lions in the Grand Theatre all the time), what they were actually referring to, was the fact that all surgeries were performed in open-air outside the city. Yea..let me state that again: open-air surgery must have been a type of local circus for the time. Imagine walking by and gazing at someone's intestines. Bleeeeah! So where the priests failed, the doctors intervened. The priests were sending terminal ill patients outside of the temples of Ephesus, to die somewhere else. Or maybe they hade 9 lives just like cats, speaking of which: Ephesus is filled with cats!
Photo (c): Nomaddeea
After using temples as a hospital for a while, during the Roman period, Ephesus became home to a very large medical school. The famous Greek physician and author of numerous treatises on medical care, Soranus, was born in Ephesus. Soranos, who practiced in Alexandria, was famous for his gynecology & obstetric works. Rufus was another famous Ephesian doctor: an expert in anatomy and mostly he wrote works about the treatment of wounds, cardiac system, renal & bladder illnesses. Rufus also invented many pharmacological recipes.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Ephesus had one of the greatest seaports of the ancient world, but over time the port of Ephesus has silted up & Ephesus is now about 6 miles inland from the coast. The area around Ephesus and harbor turned into a swamp, and as mosquitoes increased more and more, a series of malaria epidemics decimated the population and the Ephesians abandoned the city almost in a span of one hundred years, though the city itself was inhabited from 10 BC to 263 our era, when the Ghots destroyed it. Since earthquakes also hit the area, nobody wanted to come back in and haul off the stones to build again. They all moved to Scala Nuova ( new port), which is modern day Kusadasi. Every day in the summer, the cruise ships still go from Kusadasi, to visit the old port city Ephesus which is inland. The port of Ephesus is at the end of the Arcadian Street (Harbor Street) which is in front of the Grand Theatre in Ephesus and waiting for excavations.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea
But what is actually left of Ephesus? What can you still see there?
These are some of the most interesting facts I myself saw. Prepare to dive in, into some of the richest architectural treats left to us from the Roman times. Some say you need not go to Italy for ruins, you should go to Turkey, and is true!
Map of Ephesus
1) The Library of Celsus
The library in Ephesus is absolutely stunning, it takes you right back into ancient times. It is one of the most visually powerful, yet delicate structures that I have ever seen and I was wondering what it was like to walk down those alleys, bounded by artistic statues on both sides, and then stumbling into the once, third richest library in the world, after Alexandria & Pergamum. The library is majestic & the architectural details are the icing on the cake.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea, Library of Celsus in Ephesus
Photo (c): Glo PS
It had a capacity of 12, 000 scrolls of manuscripts. Can you imagine going in the mornings there and read a book when the light was at its best? If you did not know, they built towards the east, to have the best light in the mornings for reading, and the manuscripts were kept in manuscript scrolls, in bookcases incorporated in niches in the walls. Behind these bookcases, the walls were doubled in material, so they would protect against humidity and keep the books much longer. Unfortunately, after a fire broke, the library was destroyed, with many speculating that the manuscripts somehow magically survived. They did not show up anywhere in the world so my best guess is, they were not saved. Or maybe they just lay in the collection of a very rich man out there.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Watch out for Menorahs in the Library...
There is also some evidence of Jewish life in Ephesus.. if you look closely on the steps, you can see a menorah (Jewish lamp stand/candle holder) carved into the marble steps of the Library. Perhaps they will dig out an ancient synagogue next…
Floor Menorah, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
The library of Ephesus, is known as the library of Celsus, because it was built in 117 A.D for Julius Celsus, a greek governor for the Romans, and he is thought to have left 25,000 denarii to pay for the library's reading material. Don't imagine the man was still alive when that happened..no..it was built as tomb for him, by his son Galius Julius Aquila. Since it is rather atypical to be put to rest in a sarcophagus in a vault chamber of a library, at the ground floor, right under the feet of a statue of the goddess of wisdom, Athena, you can assume that the place was built with great honor for Celsus. Lucky bastard! what a view... to be burried under the feet of Athena!
Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
The other statues, beside Athena, that you can see in the niches of the Corinthian style columns outside, are those of knowledge (Episteme), meditation/thought ( Ennoia) and valor (Arete).
Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
The Corinthian columns I just mentioned, are giving an optical illusion of the building, making it appear much higher. In the columns notches, they once held the street lamps that illuminated Ephesus at night. Everything was so well though-after!
Photo (c): Nomaddeea, Celsus Library
The statues incorporated in the columns, are sadly all copies of the originals, that were taken by the Austrian Archeological Insitute to the Ephesus Museum in Vienna in 1910. That's because the Austrians restored the library...sigh!!. In fact, if I think better, many of the Turkish relics, were 'taken" by the Germans or Austrians, after excavating in the area ( in Canakkale is exactly the same thing, the germans actually stole an important part of the Troy treasure there and never returned it to the Turkish government).
Photo (c): Nomaddeea, statue of Ennoia
Photo (c): Nomaddeea
The ruins that are displayed give some idea of the city’s original splendor but as so much has been destroyed or removed, the impact is not as full as the one you would have when visiting Laodicea, another ancient pearl city that made great use of water conducts, and which you can find on the way east towards Babylon :) That is, just 10 minutes away from nowadays Pamukkale, and the nearby modern city of Denizli.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Though, if you make an exercise of imagination, and you know where to look, you will discover still so many intricate details in Ephesus, that will melt your heart, give you a full blown erection ( oh yes men!), make you puke or set you in the mood to battle & debate. But for now, let's debate! for Feminism!!!
2) The Grand Theatre
Yes sir! let's debate in honor of the goddess Artemis, whom the misogynistic apostle Paul, thought to dethrone, in his quest to preach and install the patriarchal religion of Christianity. He attempted to convince a 'sold-out' 25, 000 seats Roman theatre in Ephesus, that Artemis belongs to the 'fake' gods. Good that the merchants of the day, furious that apostle Paul could have gotten them out of business, as they were selling small statues of Artemis to tourists & pilgrims of the day, collectively shouted at Paul, whom was sitting in the middle of the theatre, to shut up and get going. The energy of 25,000 people screaming must have been amazing! And I strategically placed myself right in the middle of the stage, where Paul supposedly once stood.
The Grand Theatre of Ephesus,Photo (c): Nomaddeea
What's even more amazing, is that the theatre has great acoustics and its auditorium is still in use for shows today! The Grand Theater was used initially for drama performances, but during later Roman times gladiatorial combats were also held on its stage: the gladiators were slaughtering lions ( or the lions were slaughtering them), & the sewage used to drain the blood is still in place in the theatre. Drama & blood I guess were the norm those days...( puking here ...not for those faint at heart).
The Grand Theatre of Ephesus, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
There was a guide in the theatre, when I went there, explaining its history to a bunch of Chinese tourists. He joked that the Romans were probably at fault for severely decimating the population of lions ( most likely, after the Roman Empire fell, 90% of the lions were off..). One of the Chinese guys in the group I saw, started to sing, in a spontaneous effort to test the acoustics of the theatre, and damn it was good. Actually, in may 2007 they discovered the fist mass grave of gladiators that found their day of doom in Ephesus. The theatrical productions in the classical period were performed by male actors who wore masks on their faces & it was constructed during the reign of Lysimachos. Like all the other ancient theatres, the theatre consisted of three main sections: the stage building , the orchestra ( place of action for the actors) and the cavea (auditorium) where the audience sat. Well...where also a praying mantis stood..she almost climbed in my bag and gave me a minor heart rush.
Praying Mantis, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
3) The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World
What Paul did not succeed with Artemis, the fires, the earthquakes and the Goths did. The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was completely destroyed, rebuilt two times and then finally looted by the Goths. Only one column stands today in Ephesus, from the wonder it once was. You can add to that a small pile of rubble. The friend I was with, Gloria, got incredibly sad to know that's all there's left. She dreamed of visiting this temple since she was back home in Spain.
It was made of marble and full of sculptured columns' capitals and shafts. The most beautiful remaining of this temple are today exhibited in the London British Museum ( the 6th century BC version of the temple). After this version of the temple got destroyed, a new one came to be, in the 2nd century BC, sporting 127 columns in total, & according to Pliny the historian, it was bigger than the Parthenon that sits today in Athens. Wooooow!!
A version of the temple from 356 B.C suffered a tragedy. A young Ephesian named Herostratus, stopped at nothing to have his name go down in history, so he set fire to the wooden roof of the temple. Ephesians were so enraged & appalled, that killed Herostratus and banned & cursed anyone that would dare to say his name. Whoops!! One of the legends that grew up about the great fire was that the night that the temple burned was the very same night that Alexander the Great was born. According to the story, the goddess Artemis was so preoccupied with Alexander's safe birth she was unable to save her own temple from its fiery destruction. Shortly after the fire, a new temple was commissioned. The architect was Scopas of Paros, one of the most famous sculptors of his day.
The statue of the many-breasted Artemis ( yes you read that right: she was depicted with several rows of breasts), was the symbol of the temple but also of abundance. She was represented with a mural crown, with a disc behind the crown; on her breast, a garland of flowers, as a sign of her influence in spring time. Lions clinged to her arms- as mother of wild beasts, and her legs are closely bandaged and ornamented with figures of bulls, stags, lions, and griffins. At the sides are flowers and bees. This figures may have resembled the original image of the goddess which had fallen from heaven.The Ephesus goddess Artemis, sometimes called Diana, is not quite the same figure as was worshiped in Greece. The Greek Artemis was the goddess of the hunt & wild life. The Ephesus Artemis was a goddess of fertility and was often pictured as draped with eggs or multiple breasts, symbols of fertility, from her waist to her shoulders. The earliest temple of Artemis, contained a sacred stone, probably a meteorite, that had "fallen from Jupiter." The shrine was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the next few hundred years.
The temple also housed many works of art including four bronze statues of Amazon women. The Amazons, according to myth, took refuge at Ephesus from Heracles, the Greek demigod, and founded the city. Also, it is known that when Alexander the Great came to Ephesus in 333 B.C., the temple was still under construction. He offered to finance the completion of the temple if the city would credit him as the builder. The city fathers didn't want Alexander's name carved on the temple, but didn't want to tell him that. They finally gave the tactful response: "It is not fitting that one god should build a temple for another god" and Alexander didn't press the matter.
I have seen the walls and Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon, the statue of Olympian Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the mighty work of the high Pyramids and the tomb of Mausolus. But when I saw the temple at Ephesus rising to the clouds, all these other wonders were put in the shade"- Antipater of Sidon (Copyright Lee Krystek, 2010). Well, is now gone!
Artemis is also associated with Hecate, the Goddess of the dark of the Moon (the black nights when the moon is hidden). She was holding light at the Crossways, which were held to be ghostly places of evil magic.
4) The House of Virgin Mary
Way to go apostle Paul in trying to cast out this horrible deceiver right? :/ Apparently he was not the only Saint around, Virgin Mary also has a house there, in which some Pope ( John Paul II) declared she lived until her last days. The Turks try to rip u off if you intend to go see the house ( the entrance is 80 Turkis Lira..)...they were quite surprised I wasn't into Virgin Mary, since she was the most famous resident of Ephesus in our times, but instead I just felt a calling to get to the theatre. The presence of Mary, Mother of Jesus there was not verified 100%, and as far as I tested the terrain you need to hope on a car driven by one of the 'sharks' on site to be able to get to where it is. Another interesting place is the "Water of Mary", a source to be found at the exit of the nearby church area and where a rather salt water, with curative properties, can be drunk by all. What I can tell you though, is that indeed Ephesus sports nowadays and incredible peaceful and cleansed energy.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea
5) Let's laugh: The brothel & the Latrines
So much for the saints..Let's go to the brothel! What? Whaaaat? ancient red-light relic!! You did not know about this ? Ephesus had a brothel! Because the Roman Soldiers were not permitted to marry..hence brothels were flourishing everywhere they went ( wonder how many roman genes float around the world just about now, hopefully they got a bit diluted). They even had indications towards the brothel in the latrines. The latrines were those places that I thought are a fiction and that the Brits just make fun of in reality shows and cartoons: the damn open loos- where you could poop in public, side by side with your friends and enemies. Luckily they had built solid pipes underneath so all the poo was washing away from the valley nice and smooth. The pipes are so solid you can still see them today. Ephesus had an advanced sewage system, so the latrines were quite hygienic. The long marble benches had (rather narrow) holes for up to 50 people to use at once & a water channel in front of the toilets served as a bidet to wash yourself. These facilities were only for men.
The Latrines, Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
Wealthy ladies would have their slave leave a chamber pot in their litter chairs ( a type of human powered transport..) should nature call when they were in town.
The Latrines, Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
There were plenty of slaves on hand to keep those marble toilet seats: about 60, 000 slaves in total roamed around Ephesus. The slaves were those people that were not even allowed to speak, had their feet marked with white in the public markets and were branded with a hot iron sign that could identify them if they run away. Sometimes they were put in front of wild animals in the arena. Slaves had no chance to talk unless asked.The number of slaves in the city was equal to the quarter of the population. For example in Ephesus population was 250.000 in Roman time so it will be right to say that there were more or less 60.000 slaves in Ephesus in Roman era. Notification of the overseas slaves was white color painted feet which meant plague. The prices of doctors, architects, musicians or vase painters were high. After the sale, slaves would be employed as foster mothers, shepherds, guards, bath attendants, horse keepers, workers in fields or mines, helpers in workshops, attendants or servants at homes etc. A tragic life to downscale from a doctor, musician or architect into that of a slave don't you think?
The Latrines, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Ok I said I will take you to the brothel, but instead I took you to the toilet. The Brothel is one of the few remaining bordellos of antiquity, Ephesus’ brothel was typical of a Roman city. Always in the city center, they were considered a necessity as the Roman soldiers, as I said, were not permitted to marry. The rooms on the lower floor are assumed to have been used by the clients. One of the rooms has a stone bed. In the excavations, a statue of Priapus with an oversize phallus was found in the house. The statue is now presented in Ephesus Museum.
The Brothel in Ephesus, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
6) The terraced houses
Besides the brothel, which is in a bad state, and the second floor is missing, you can find terraced houses, the highlight of Ephesus, built during Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.) They are currently meticulously restored to give you a fantastic insight into the life of the rich during the Roman period. You need to pay in between 15 to 25 TL to visit one, if I recall right. Most of these two-story terraces were very luxurious, even by today’s standards. The spacious rooms are decorated with whimsical frescoes of birds, flowers, gardens, gods and mythical creatures. On the west side of this particular house there is a reception area with colored mosaics on the floor, symbolizing the four season. The chamber next to it is the bath of the house with an elliptical pool. On the floor of the pool, there is a mosaic describing three women eating and drinking, a waitress standing, and a mouse and a cat nibbling crumbs.
Terraced House in Ephesus
7) The Temple of the Bisexual Emperor Hadrian
Enough about women, let's go see the men...the bisexual men from antiquity: Emperor Hadrian was known to be one, and his lover mysteriously disappeared into the waters of the Nile..some say he was thrown of the boat....but what Emperor Hadrian still has, is a temple in the very Ephesus! built in 118 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian, certainly loved to get around the empire. Of the many monuments that bear his name around the world, this one is the most beautiful to look at at, it gave me the impression of something fragile, spellbound yet unbreakable. The back wall features a relief sculpture of scary Medusa, that presides over the temples to keep out evil spirits, with the serpents in her hair and all.
Hadrian's Temple, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Hadrian's Temple, Details, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Hadrian's Temple, Medusa, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
The thing is Hadrian was not really that gifted in army matters, though he won some wars against the Dacians ( the nowadays Romanians)... he was in fact way too preoccupied with his mixed sexual interests: he liked both married women and men. It is believed that he tried to poison his wife. That is quite a game changer right? When it comes to Hadrian's homosexuality, most of the attention centeres on the young Antinous, whom Hadrian grew very fond of. Statues of Antinous have survived, showing that imperial patronage of this youth extended to having sculptures made of him. One day, Antinous accompanied Hadrian to Egypt. It was on a trip on the Nile when Antinous met with an early and somewhat mysterious death. Officially, he fell from the boat and drowned, but it remains unclear if his death was a suicide, a murder or a religious sacrifice, considering that he was deified post mortem...( maybe Hadrian held some remorse ..and defied his lover). Uhm, maybe Hadrian was into goats as well? Just kidding, this base-relief is close by his temple.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Speaking of Egypt, Ephesus throughout its history always had a large Egyptian population, so obviously it had a temple for Isis, a very important Egyptian goddess, the wife and sister of Osiris and the mother of Horus. Her temple was rectangular in shape and in the center of the State Agora, built during the Hellenistic period when Ephesus had close relations with Alexandria. Her name, Isis, literally means "Queen of the throne", which was portrayed by the emblem worn on her head, that of a throne. She is known as being the goddess of magic and healing. Ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile flooded every year because of her tears of sorrow for her dead husband, Osiris. Ephesus was therefore, quite multicultural don't you think? It was probably the London or NY of the day, the top destination to go to.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea- I dont think Gloria knew I was into a selfie as well
On the way back no dolmus was available, since it was quite late, we finished our glorious tour at around 6 Pm when we left the complex, so me and Gloria decided to walk through the woods to get to Selcuk and take a bus ( that would have been a dreadful trip..).... A weird mini van stopped to take us, they are all men in there, Turkish workers, only one woman. If not for her, I don't think we would have had the guts to climb in. I seriously don't know how I am still alive & unharmed :)) But is wonderful that I am so I can tell you all about it. Maybe I was in Ephesus, therefore I cannot die. And I had a cool hat on too!
Celsus Library, Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
Is only a New Beginning,