But after a day of relaxing, it was back to work when we arrived at Izmir, the gateway to the ancient city of Ephesus.
Ephesus was a city of ancient Antolia. During the period known as Classical Greece, it was located in Ionia.
Ephesus hosted one of the seven churches of Asia, addressed in the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of John might have been written here. It is also the site of a large gladiator graveyard.
The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), which was destroyed by the Goths in 263. The emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected a new public bath. The town was again partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614. The importance of the city as a commercial centre declined as the harbour slowly filled with silt from the river.
Me again: Ephesus was one of the most important cities in the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Ephesus was really interesting to see after visiting Pompeii, because the cities were ruined in exactly opposite ways. Pompeii was destroyed in a split second, when it was covered in ash and pumice when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Ephesus, on the other hand, experienced a slow decline, being damaged by several earthquakes and having its population slowly dwindle as the Roman Empire switched to Christianity.
Our tour's first stop was the Izmir Museum, where many of the treasures of Ephesus have been placed. It was actually kind of disappointing to learn that many of the things that are in Ephesus right now are plaster replicas. So it makes me glad that we got to see the real stuff.
The most impressive thing we saw in the museum was the statute of Kybele. Kybele was originally a Phrygian goddess of the earth and fertility, whose cult later moved to Greece. She was kind of morphed into the goddess Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt who was also the goddess of fertility.
The things hanging around her neck are not breasts, but actually bull testicles. Wiki says it best here: Some ecstatic followers of Kybele/Cybele, known in Rome as galli, willingly castrated themselves . For Roman devotees of Cybele Mater Magna who were not prepared to go so far, the testicles of a bull, one of the Great Mother's sacred animals, were an acceptable substitute, as many inscriptions show.
When you walk into Ephesus, you're at the top of a hill, and walk down through the city. Being at the top of the hill mean you get stunning views of the Turkish countryside.
Visitors to Ephesus walk on the city's original marble streets. All I can say, is that I'm glad it wasn't raining that day. You guys all know how easily I can topple over.
The main street of Ephesus leads you right down to most impressive building in the city, the Library of Celsus. More on that below.
Walking down the main drag on your right is the Temple of Hadrian. It is one of the best preserved structures in the city. It was built before 138 A.D by P.Quintilius and was dedicated to the Emperor Hadrian, who came to visit the city from Athens in 128 A.D. The facade of the temple has four Corinthian columns supporting a curved arch, in the middle of which contains a relief of Tyche, goddess of victory. The side columns are square. The pedestal with inscriptions in front of the temple, are the bases for the statues of the emperors between 293-305 CE, Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius I, and Galerius; the originals of the statues have not been found yet.
Authentic Ephesus toilets!
Ok, here we go with the Library of Celsus. More wiki:
The library of Celsus was completed in AD 135. The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a monumental tomb for Celsus (a former consul). It was unusual to be buried within a library or even within city limits, so this was a special honor for Celsus.
The building may be considered important today because it is one of the few remaining examples of an ancient Roman influenced library. It also shows how public libraries were not only built in Rome itself, but also all throughout the empire. After a massive restoration project, which is considered to be very true to the historical building, the front facade of the building was rebuilt and now serves as a prime example of Roman architecture on public buildings. It is also almost certain that some early literary collections were housed in UK locations during the occupation as reference sources for travelling Roman leaders. Local texts of interest would also have been housed in such places if not destroyed. Locations like Verulamium (St Albans) and Caesaromagus (Chelmsford) are reputed to have been sites of such Roman libraries.
Across from the library is a tunnel that leads to...
...the brothel! So the learned men of Ephesus could tell their wives they were going to the library, when they were really just going to get laid. Some things never change, eh?
Chris and Kent, claiming ownership over this column.
At the edge of Ephesus is a Roman amphitheater. You can clamber all over the rocks, but there are signs to warn you of the danger.
Like this one. Awesome.
And here we are at the edge of the city. At the end of the day, I still have trouble believing that I actually made it to Turkey. It's one of those places I have always wanted to visit, but the fact that I actually made it there is pretty amazing. And wait until you see the pictures from Istanbul! We'll probably spend a couple days talking about it, so strap in!