Natalie Sayin – www.turkishtravelblog.com
THE colourful timeline of Turkey’s history means the country is awash with sites dating from many civilizations past. Out of all of them, the ancient ruins of the city of Ephesus are probably the most well-known, attracting thousands of visitors every day.
Sitting on the Aegean Coast close to Kusadasi and Selcuk, Ephesus is to Turkey what the pyramids are to Egypt or the Colosseum to Rome. In 2014, 3 million people walked through its gates. For me, this was my third time visit.
My first visit, 13 years earlier was uneventful. I was a 26 year old newbie expat in Turkey and more preoccupied with adapting to daily life here, than concentrating on the history of a Greco-Roman city that had fallen 12 centuries before.
The fact it was one of the Seven Churches of Revelation did not faze me either since I had long given up on religion and the study of the Bible.
My second visit was four years later with a friend. While I felt a little more appreciation, it was not until my third visit this year that I threw myself into the ambience and vibes of the place. My reason for doing so was personal.
My father was a religious man, so naturally when he came to visit me in Turkey I urged him and my mum to go to Ephesus since the Bible’s New Testament calls it the fourth greatest city in the world.
The biblical connection had him hooked. He took hundreds of photos and stored them on his laptop so he could look back on them as and when he wanted.
Last year, I went to visit him in England and he gave me a copy of those photos while casually remarking that he HAD hoped to return to Ephesus one day.
Three months later he passed away due to cancer. So my third visit was in memory of him, for him and because of him.
The downside of visiting Ephesus is the swarming crowds that descend from some of the world’s largest cruise liners docking at Kusadasi. The result: masses of people, wandering about in awe, paying no attention to where they are going or who they bump into.
The urges to photobomb are too great but if you don’t like crowds or hundreds of people in your holiday photos, visit Ephesus early morning as soon as they open at 8am.
The ruins include many buildings and temples that you would expect to see in an ancient city. Each has a signpost detailing a brief description and some of the most impressive include the public toilets, situated on three sides of a small courtyard so doing your business became a social affair. It is said that the wealthy and rich ordered their slaves to sit down and warm up the latrine for them!
The Statue of the Nike Goddess, standing nearby is not a large size but a novelty for those of us who grew up thinking Nike was just a brand of sports shoe! Turns out she was the winged goddess of victory!
Another quirky novelty is the engraved footprint on a pavement slab of Marble Street. Showing the way to the whorehouse, in those days, it was tactfully referred to as the “love house” but we shouldn’t be surprised really, since it is the oldest profession in the world.
One of the biggest and most treasured historical structures though, is the Celsus library that held 12,000 scrolls and was one of the largest collections of literature in the ancient world.
Built in 135 AD by Gaius Julius Aquila, it was in honour of his father, who at that time was a general governor for the province of Asia and called Celsus. Hence the name of the library.
Visitors walk up nine steps to the front facade, where niches in the wall held four statues.
Unfortunately the ones we see today are not the originals because they are in the Ephesus museum of Vienna but their purpose was to represent wisdom, knowledge, virtue and judgment.
Maybe qualities that Gaius felt his father possessed because he also had his white marble sarcophagus, measuring 2.5m buried underneath the library.
The interior hall is nothing like the grandeur of the front façade so it doesn’t take a lot of time to see the library. It is small but impressive and ultimately one of the most important architectural structures belonging to the ancient city of Ephesus.
Next week, we will feature two of the other important historical landmarks of Ephesus; the grand theatre where gladiators fought to the death and the terrace houses belonging to rich and wealthy citizens of the Roman Empire.
Pictures have been reprinted with kind permission of Turkishtravelblog Photography