E P H E S U S
Ephesus is regarded as one of the greatest outdoor museums of Turkey and one of the largest archeological, historic and cultural sites in Europe. The remains of the ancient city overlook the Mediterranean Sea. Actually, the classical city which was initially established as a seaport has been re-built four times through the history and today’s archeological site houses the remains of the third built ancient city only around 6-7 km from the Eastern Mediterranean.
When you walk around you feel the Ancient Roman atmosphere everywhere. If you start your stroll, it will be from the 800-metre Marble Street. Do you know that there was a brothel in that street and the sign showing the way to this place is supposed to have been the fist advertisement ever? Curetes Street is another street that is about 1km long. Both of them lead you to the main points of interest of the Ancient city like …
The Grand Theatre in Ephesus has about 24 000 seats and its height is 38meters. Another place worth visiting is the Temple of Hadrian and the Artemis Temple. The latter is one of the seven wonders of Antiquity. The Temple of Artemis is thought to have been re-built seven times. It covers an area 125×60 (almost the measures of a soccer field). The columns themselves were 30 metres high.
As to the Hadrian Temple, it was built in the 4th century AD and re-built two centuries later. It was dedicated to Emperor Hadrian who was Trajan’s successor. The keystone of the construction and arc has a relief of Fortuna (the Roman Goddess of fortune and destiny). Another relief depicts another lady, semi-nude – most probably Medusa.
As I love mythology and legends, I will open a bracket. Medusa was an amazing young lady who attracted Zeus too much. His too jealous wife turned her into a giant whose curly hair resembled snakes. Medusa got the negative ability to turn everybody she looked at into a stone. After some time Athena wanted Medusa’s head for herself and assigned this difficult task to Perseus. He managed to cut it off and bring it to the Goddess of wisdom. While transporting it, every blood drop turned into a snake and thus these creatures were created. When Athena received the head she put it on her shield and this was her protection from enemies. This tradition was transferred to Ancient Rome and the head of Medusa was put in Roman buildings and Roman soldiers’ shields. As a matter of fact, the custom has reached present times as well. Nowadays you are supposed to wear an evil eye or to put it in your newly purchased apartment or car, or on the hand of your newly born baby. Bracket closed.
Ephesus is also proud of the remains of la Biblioteca di Celso (or the Celsus Library). It was the third largest library in the Ancient world (after those in Alexandria and Pergamum) with a capacity of 12 000 scripts. The Celsus Library was a two-storey building while its interior façade had three storeys because of the original architectural plan.
Other places of interest are the remains of the public baths and toilets. WCs in Ephesus were public, as I said, and they were arranged one after another without any space between them. Another peculiar fact is that wealthy people never used them first. They sent their slaves to sit and heat the stone toilets and after that masters availed of them.
If I have to sum up, Ephesus is a place where the history of civilization spread out along the shores of the Mediterranean has left profound and durable traces through the centuries. This is the place where Heraclitus (one of the early philosophers) was born. Do you remember his famous saying: “You could not step twice into the same river”? On the other hand, Ephesus is also the place which shows us that even the Ancient Romans knew that the world is round. In order to explain to you why, I will bring you to our last stop in Ephesus, namely the Trajan Fountain.
The fountain was built in the name of Emperor Trajan in the 2nd century AD. There was a pool in front and the water “jumped” from beneath the giant statue dedicated to Trajan. What did the statue itself look like? As I said, it was colossal. It represented the Emperor with his left foot stepped on the ground (still preserved and on display in Ephesus) and the right one on a round ball. He meant to show with this pose that he was the ruler of the round world and it was under his foot.
After a visit of the ruins, just outside the remains of the ancient city, you are welcome by that camel. Every tourist could climb up on its back against some Turkish lira and have a photo taken. This attraction isn’t dangerous at all because the camel is tightened to a tree and two guys stand near you and help you. Moreover, there’s a small chair which you can step on so that you can climb up onto the camel’s back.
Ephesus and the surrounding area are also an important pilgrimage destination for the Christians. Why? The first church dedicated to the Holy Mother is here. The Third Ecumenical Council was held in that church, i.e. in the Church of Virgin Mary, which is one of the seven holy places of the Apocalypse. In the second place, Mary the Mother of Jesus lived in a small cottage near Ephesus after his death.
Last but not least, I should mention one notorious cave – the cave of the 7 Christians. The legend says that seven young men found a refuge after having refused to make a sacrifice in the temple dedicated to the Emperor. They reached that cave and fell asleep there. When they woke up, it was as dark as a night inside their lodging. Going outside they realized that they had slept for 209 years. They were also surprised that life had changed in sense that Christianity hadn’t been an object of persecution anymore.
It’s time I shared with you one fact which I came across some time ago. It’s related to ichthys or ichthus which comes from the Greek word for “fish”. It is a pagan and later an early Christian symbol. It consists of two identical arcs that intersect and their right sides extend beyond the meeting point. Thus this symbol resembles a fish known as the “sign of the fish” or “Jesus fish”. I mentioned above that the ancient Greeks, Romans and other pagans used it as a symbol of fertility and birth as well as women’s natural force. Here is the brief explanation why. Ichthys is supposed to have been a child of the Syrian Goddess Atargatis. At the same time the word and name meant a “womb” and a “dolphin” in various languages. That’s why it was also associated with the “Great Mother” by the pagans. Afterwards, early Christians adopted the symbol and used it as an acrostic, meaning Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour).