Saturday, Aug. 2, 2008 Ephesus, Turkey
After the house of Mary, our tour bus drove to Ephesus, which is the location of some of the most spectacular ancient ruins just 10 kms away from the house of the Virgin. These ruins are pre-Christian going back to as far as 2000 BC. They are absolutely splendorous! The ancient world must have been amazing. Sitting amongst these ruins I have the same feeling as I did in the ancient Roman ruins. Who were the people who built this city? How did they live? How did they see the universe? As I walk through these ruins and all the others that I have seen I constantly remind myself that I a only looking at the skeletal remains. In my mind I have to imagine these places with full buildings and people living their lives. When I visit modern sites such as the Vatican I do not need to do this. And yet these skeletal remains in themselves are so impressive that they rival in majesty places like the Vatican that are still intact. Originally Ephesus was on the Aegean Sea, but due to silting it is now 6 kms from the sea. It was surprising to hear how this was the place that St Paul, St. John and other patriarchs of the early Christian Church lived. Later in the afternoon I will go to the island of Patmos where Saint John was exiled. Most of these great Christian personalities were exiled out of this city for their preaching against the worship of the Goddess. John was sent to Patmos and Paul went to Rome. This tour is turning out to be as much about early Christianity as it is about the ancient world. I did not expect this. I have no time to prepare for these trips. I just go and then find out later where I went! I call it reverse travel. This place makes me want to go to the Mideast to see that part of the early development of Christianity. What I am seeing here is only the Greek and Roman side of things.
As you enter the ruins of Ephesus you start down the main road called Curetes Street that leads through the market (the agora) past the public bathes and the brothel to the most amazing facade of the central library called the Celcus library. From there turn left and head up Marble Road to the main Stadium, which can seat as many as 13,000 spectators. At one time 250,000 lived at Ephesus. The famous temple to the Goddess Artemis which was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world used to be here. Unfortunately today, only a huge ditch remains from the once majestic and colossal temple that once stood in this place. Time in the form of earthquakes, fire and war has taken is toll on. It is said that the library once rivaled the great Alexandrian library in Egypt. Amazingly the facade of the library has been rebuilt along with some of its arches. It is recorded that Alexander the Great once visited this city in 334 B.C. and revered it as one of the greatest cities in the world He promised to rebuild the temple of Artemis, but the citizens apparently refused saying, “It would not befit a deity like you to build a temple to another Deity.” History records that the Temple of Artemis burned the very night Alexander was born. The residents of Ephesus saw Alexander the Great as bad luck. The best way to appreciate this great city is through its photos.
There are, of course, many more parts to this ancient city including the Church of Saint John, the Church of Saint Mary and the Isa Bey Mosque, but these are all later constructions and, honestly, in the presence of these ancient ruins pale by comparison.