Kusadasi, Turkey – Day 10 / Cruise Day Nine
House of Virgin Mary
We started our tour with a short stop at the House of Virgin Mary, which is located on the top of Bulbul Mountain, just outside of Ephesus. The house is typical Roman architecture, entirely made of stones. This is the place where many believe that Mary may have spent her last days. The belief is that she came into the area to spread Christianity with Saint John. Mary chose this remote place on the top of a mountain, rather than living in a crowded city.
On top of this mountain, there is much shade from beautiful landscaping and natural environment. the breeze is cool and the air is fresh. the bus ride brought us through hillsides of fruit and olive trees with stunning views of the ocean. This is the first stop we have made that was not a crowded city, so I am appreciating nature this morning all that much more. We wait for a long time in line to visit the inside of the house. Oscar tells us that this trip is a pilgrimage for many people.
As we leave Bulbul Mountain, we head toward Ephesus. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, just south of the present day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. This amazing place was built in the 10th Century BC! Our guide Oscar tells us that only about 20% of the city has been excavated from the earthquake that buried it. Ephesus was a huge city, our tour begins with a wonderful sculpture of the goddess of speed (Nike) on the gateway into town.
It was a very hot day when we visited Ephesus, but the views and the history were so amazing, I didn’t hear many complaints about the heat. Our guide explained to us that Ephesus was one of the greatest of the Ionian cities. It was full of wealth, because it was also the leading seaport of the region.
This is one of the main streets of Ephesus, as we walked down it we could see the whole city below. There were fountains, moments, statues and shops on both sides of this ancient street. Ephesus had many earthquakes, in which many structures, including Curetes Street, were damaged.
We experience a very steep downhill trek on Curetes Street, the rocks are polished smooth from so many years of foot traffic. Several members of our tour group slip and fall, including Emilie who bounced right back up, always a dancer.
The kids got a kick out of the public toilets. These toilets were part of the Scholastica Baths and were built in the First Century, AD. In the center of the public baths lies a pool, the toilets are aligned around the outside walls with a drainage system underneath. It has been said that the wealthy would take their slaves to sit on the toilet and warm the seat for them before they sat down themselves.
The Celsus Library
The library is one of the most beautiful structures in Ephesus. It was built in 117 AD and was a monumental tomb for Gaius Julius, the governor of the province of Asia, from his son.
The capacity of the library was more than 12,000 scrolls, it was the third richest library in ancient times. The facade of the library has two stories with Corinthian columns on the ground floor and along the three entrances to the building. There are three window openings on the second story of the facade, although the facade was two-stories, the building was actually three stories tall. Today, the statues in the niches of the library are copies. The statues symbolize wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, and valor, these were the virtues of Celsus. The library was restored with aid of the Austrian Archaeological Institute and the original niche statues were taken to the Ephesus Museum in Vienna, Austria in 1910.
The library is 70-75% original, our guide tells us of the restoration. He explains that you can differentiate in that the original marble is a more golden color than the reproduced sections.
This structure is huge and holds 28.000 people. Oscar tells us that a good way to judge the population of an ancient city was to look at how large its’ stadium was. The spectator’s seats on the south side sit on the slopes of the Mount Pion. The seats to the north were placed on top of vaulted galleries. There was a monumental entrance gate to the stadium on the west side. Sadly, none of the pieces of seating tiers were saved, they were used in the restoration of other buildings in Ephesus.
The stadium was first built purely for ceremonies and sport activities. As time went on, gladiator and wild animal fights became very popular and were also showcased there.
Fountain of Trajan
Built around 104 CE, the fountain is one of the finest monuments in Ephesus. It was built for the honor of Emperor Trajan, and the statue of Trajan stood in the central niche of the facade overlooking the pool.
Gate of Mazeus and Mythridates
To the right of the Celsus Library lies the gate with three passageways. This gate was built in 40AD by the slaves Mazeus and Mythridates for their emperor, Augustus, who gave them their freedom.
The passages are vaulted, the front side of the vault faces the Celsus Library and is made of black marble, while the other side is white. A latin inscription with inlaid letters is still visible on one side. Part of the inscription reads: “From the Emperor Caesar Augustus, the son of god, the greatest of the priests, who was consul twelve and tribune twenty times; and the wife of August Livia; the son of Lucas, Marc Agrippa who was consul three times, Emperor, and tribune six times; and the daughter of Julio Caesar Augustus, Mazeus and Mythridates to their master and the people.”
Basilica of St. John Ruins
Our last stop of this long day is a quick visit to the cross shaped foundation of the Basilica of St. John. At one point, the Basilica had been huge and beautiful, with separate and dedicated rooms for money, a cistern for olive oil, the confession hallway, and was covered by six domes. The ruins of the basilica stand over the believed burial site of John the Apostle, on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill, about 2.2 miles from Ephesus
The Basilica was constructed entirely of stone and brick which was a rare find in architecture of its time. The chapel was used as a mosque in the 14th century with the invasion of the Turks. That same century, the structure was totally damaged by earthquake.
More to Come
Ephesus was amazing, I just couldn’t close my jaw dropped mouth, no matter how hard I tried. Tommorow is Athens and the Parthenon, something I’ve REALLY been looking forward to on this trip. So stay tuned for some wonderful images of Greece!
For more information on my workshops visit Facebook page for a complete listing of classes. No Facebook account required.
Click on any Douglas Nelson Photography image to enlarge. Visit his photo Facebook page for more stunning images.