When I first visited Turkey, I did something I won’t be able to do again. I gave the coach driver a 2 million lira tip! Shortly after my visit, the revalued their currency, simply by deleting the word ‘million’. The Turk with the price of a packet of cigarettes in his pocket is no longer a millionaire!
But, we weren’t there to marvel at the currency. Most of the shopkeepers in the resort town of Kusadasi, where our cruise ship called on its tour around the Aegean Sea preferred to take Euros, anyway.
We were there to visit ruins … it’s said there are more Grecian and Roman ruins in Turkey and the Holy Land than there are in modern Greece and Italy.
We’d come to see Ephesus, which features largely in the Acts of the Apostles. But why was Ephesus so important, and why does nobody live there now?
When St. Paul came to Ephesus after the death of Christ, it was a thriving seaport, and an ideal place from which to spread the Christian word. Ephesus used to stand in a wide bay, at the mouth of the River Caister, but is now several miles inland due to silting, and is in ruins, contributed to by frequent earthquakes. However, what remains has, in recent years, been reinforced against such an eventuality.
When the Athenians arrived in the area, they’re supposed to have been guided by a fish, a wild boar and several soothsayers, who told them where to build their city. They can’t have been very good soothsayers, for the city they established changed location several times, before being finally abandoned in the 7th Century AD.
The city is laid out in a narrow canyon, which formerly led down to the sea. And, if your guide really likes you, he’ll start at the top, and work his way down to the old harbour.
Archaeologists have managed to identify such edifying places as the brothel and the signs showing the way there. They didn’t have much difficulty here, for the signs promising the delights of the place were in the form of pictograms, so sailors who couldn’t read the language of the city could find their way.
And the public latrine – only men were allowed in; the ladies, presumably, had to hold it till they got home! There was a use for its products, too. It was a source of uric acid used in tanning leather.
For more discerning visitors, there’s the Fountain of Trajan, the Temple of Hadrian and the Temple of Nike … who, as everyone knows, was the goddess of running shoes!
The most imposing buildings in Ephesus were raised by noted citizens of Ephesus. The son of a worthy inhabitant named Celsus built a library in memory of his father. Right on Papa’s grave! That was a headstone and a half! Was it maybe modelled on the Treasury on Petra? I did note a slight similarity between the two.
The Gate of Mazeus and Mithradates is almost adjacent to the Library of Celsus, and is still largely intact. It leads into the Agora, where most of the business of the city was carried out. The usual translation is ‘market place’, but it also served as a stock exchange – sometimes, workmen plied for hire, and slaves were bought and sold here too.
The main entertainment was, of course, the open-air theatre, which could accommodate an audience of 25,000, and is still occasionally used. Greeks and Romans had different ideas on how drama should be presented, and the theatre was laid out to accommodate both. And, if the show was boring, there was the view down Harbour Street, to the docks and the sea, where there was usually something happening.
But, nowadays, the view is of Harbour Street and the valley!
Usually, the place is thronging with visitors, who come to see the wonders of Ancient Greece and Rome. But, it should be remembered that Ephesus was a city, not a villa or temple; you need strong shoes and plenty of water.