Crossing Uneven Ground

Rock Fans at Ancient Ephesus

Crowds at Ephesus

Tour buses arrive early and soon the streets are very busy. We visited on a weekday in mid-September. Be sure to take water and protection from the sun.

Ancient Ephesus lies near the coast and half way down Western Turkey. Around 300 BCE Greeks started building here and the Roman’s brought it to a crescendo around 200 CE. It was the second biggest city in the Roman Empire. Archeologists figure that the population was around 250,000. Interestingly, they calculate ancient city sizes based on the size of the amphitheater. Ten times the capacity of the amphitheater equals the size of the town.

Ephesus has always been a popular destination. Probable past visitors include Julius Cesar, Anthony and Cleopatra. Saints John and Paul both lived here and wrote significant parts of the New Testament while in residence.

Sunrise at Ephesus

One strategy for photographing Ephesus is to arrive early. The light is better and the walking is easier. The crowds will be right behind you and the roads clog up pretty fast.

Populations of the past pale in comparison to the throngs of archeological groupies that mob Ephesus these days. I had no idea old rocks could draw such a crowd. Ephesus is Turkey’s second most popular tourist attraction, bested only by the historic area of Istanbul. We got here early to get the good morning light for photos and to avoid the crowds. Even so it wasn’t long before the tour buses arrived and it was a solid mosh pit from the agora to the odeon.

The crowd was so intense we could hardly move at times but we pushed on. It was definitely worth battling the throng for the attractions. We enjoyed the magnificent library, some painstakingly restored rich folks’ residences and of course the ever-popular men’s public toilets. (Sorry ancient ladies, no toilets for you.. I guess it’s the bushes.) Later we sought out some quiet back streets, listened to our Rick Steves audio guide and then split looking for quieter venues.

Library of Celsus

Facing the rising sun the Library of Celsus was built to honor Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. The library held 12,000 scrolls as well as the tomb of Celsus.

Statue of Arete

Arete, the personification of excellence for the Greeks, stares out at the throngs of tourists at Ephesus.

In ancient times Ephesus declined, its harbor silted up, earthquakes and invading armies knocked it down and eventually everybody moved out. Anatolian dust and dirt blew in and covered it.

Archeologists have done remarkable things here; maybe not quite moving mountains but certainly moving hills. And mind you, when archeologists move dirt it is not with bulldozers but with trowels and whisk brooms…very carefully so as not to destroy any evidence of the past.

Reassembling Frescos

Workers at Ephesus painstakingly reassemble frescos or paintings from the ruins.

Terraced Houses

The “Terraced Houses” at Ephesus require a separate admission fee but it is worth it. Peering down from suspended walkways you have a look into the lives of the more well-to-do from the city.

Plumbing at Ephesus

Inside the terraced houses at Ephesus are remains of ancient plumbing.

Lion Floor Mosaic

The terraced homes of the wealthy were decorated with intricate mosaics. This one is on the floor.

Come to see Ephesus. I’ve seen it on TV and take it from me, it is much better in person. Archeologists keep uncovering more so it just keeps on getting bigger every year. But let me tip you off on a new dig. I stopped in at a little hole in the ground on the outskirts of Selcuk. There is a new group digging at the Temple of Artemis!

Temple of Artemis

Once one of the seven wonders of the world, the Temple of Artemus, has but a few remaining stones set to mark the spot. in contrast to Ephesus, it is a lovely and quiet place to sit and ponder the past.

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