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ABOUT EPHESUS
 

Turkey - Izmir - Ephesus

Numerous remains and disinterred monuments give archaeologists reason to believe that Ephesus was inhabited as early as the fourteenth century B.C. Strabo, the Greek historian, asserted that the city had been founded by the Amazons and that its population, partly Carians and partly Lydians, worshipped the Great Goddess Artemis to whom they dedicated an impressive temple, the Artemision, of which only a few columns survive.

In 334 B.C. Ephesus was conquered by Alexander the Great who initiated the reconstruction of the temple which had been set on fire by Hierostatus on the very night that the Macedonian champion was born. Ephesus became a great capital of Asia Minor after 133 B.C. when it became subject to Rome,and it also evolved

as a centre for commerce.Amongst all the Roman-dominated cities in Anatolia, Ephesus certainly has the best preserved and appreciated monuments but above all it is the city where the quality of Roman life can still be breathed today, and where one can form an impression of what life was like at that time.

Goths from Crimea conquered the city and looted the Temple of Artemis, then considered to be one of the wonders of the ancient world, and the city’s decline dates from then. It was from here that first Paul the Apostle and then John began to spread Christianity. St Paul, who came from Tarsus, spent three years at Ephesus and founded the first of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelations, before being ousted by Ephesian silversmiths. St. John lived here with the Virgin Mary while he wrote his gospel. In 100 A.D. St John was buried in the city and Justinian erected a basilica over his tomb.

In 431 A.D. Theodosius II convened the Third Council at Ephesus, during which the Nestorian heresy was condemned and the Virgin Mary’s divine maternity affirmed. The Library of Celsus, reconstructed by Austrian archaeologists, is without doubt one of Ephesus’ more important monuments. It was erected by Tiberius Julius Aquila in memory of his father, Julius Celsus Polimeanus (proconsul in Asia) in 135 A.D. His Sarcophagus, of fine carved marble, is situated in the funerary chamber underneath the library. The two-storied building has a sumptuously decorated facade with Corinthian columns and capitals together with niches filled with statues representing Wisdom and Intelligence. Three doors lead into the great reading room, which in antiquity had a wooden roof, and where, in the centre, there stood a statue of Athena. The marble-lined aligned walls contained niches where the parchment scrolls were kept. At that time the library’s collection amounted to around twelve thousand scrolls. Hollow spaces were constructed behind the walls (a great engineering feat) preventing damp from damaging the scrolls.

The main road, the street of the Curetes, runs through the centre between the Library of Celsus and the Agora. Numerous buildings gave onto this street which was paved in marble and stone. On each side there was a colonnaded portico behind which galleries paved with mosaics provided access to private dwellings, shops and workshops. Some of the inscriptions on the columns are clearly visible, adjacent to statues of citizens who contributed towards the birth of the city. The street was reconstructed after its destruction by an earthquake during the fourth century A.D. It was called the street of the Curetes in memory of a community of priests called the Curetes who worshipped Artemis who every year organised dramatic displays in honour of the goddess at Ortigia, near Ephesus. The Odeum, or “Small Theatre” on the slopes of Mount Panayir next to the Prytcmeion, now the town hail, is in a good state of preservation. It was built in 150 AD. by a rich Ephesian named Publius Vedius Antoninus. It is semicircular and originally it was certainly roofed over. Its capacity was around 1,500 people. Like most theatres of antiquity it had a cavea, stage and orchestra. The podium was made of marble as were the spectators’ benches. The audience entered through two paradoi, one at either side, or by stairs leading to the paradoi. The Odeum was not only used for dramatic performances and musical concerts but it was also the meeting place (buleuterio) for city representatives from the BuZe. The ruins that can be seen by the eastern side of the theatre are the Baths of Varius, probably privately owned, dating from the second century A.D.

The Large Theatre is Ephesus’ most picturesque monu-ment, its elevated position dominates the entire valley and it could seat over 20.000 people on sixty-six rows of steps. It was built by the Romans in the first century A.D.on the remains of a Greek theatre during the reign of Claudius and it was modified under Nero. Like all theatres it had a cavea (one hundred and fifty four metres in diameter), orchestra (thirty-four metres in diameter), and stage (eighteen metres high). If the Buletos met in the Odeum, this was the meeting place for the Demos, the peoples’ assembly of male citizens. It was in this great theatre that Ephesian silversmiths who worshipped the Goddess Artemis revolted against St Paul and his followers, forcing them to leave Ephesus. The theatre’s facade was ornate: there were three rows of columns with niches and statues and the galleried entrances to the theatre are still visible today. Not far from the Odeon are the remains of the monu-ment to Memmius, commissioned by Augustus in the I century B.C. to honour Cornelius Siila’s grandchild.

Hadrian’s Temple, in the Corinthian style, was built along the Street of the Curetes in 138 A.D. and was restored by Austrian archaeologists. It is one of Ephesus’ most attractive and elegant monuments. The four Corinthian columns in the centre support a finely decorated pediment in the centre of which is an elegant female bust: Tyche, the goddess who was the guardian of the city. Above the temple door leading to the celia there is a highly decorated tympanum with a sculpture representing Medusa. On the facade, in front of the columns, four statue bases have survived with the inscriptions of the names of four emperors: Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius and Constantius Chlorus. In the cella there is a plinth that at one time supported a statue of Hadrian. On an architrave there is an inscription that the temple was dedicated to the Emperor “Divo Adriano” by P Quintilius.The Dwellings on the Slope, also called the Slope Palaces, were luxurious houses of the rich. They were built on the slopes of Mount Phion and they have an unusual structure as the roof of each house forms the terrace of the next. Almost all of them had three storeys and they were constructed around a peristyle (a courtyard with a columned portico), with a central fountain. The floors were paved with mosaics and almost all the walls frescoed with scenes from mythology. Two of these can be seen, one next to the other, which have been completely restored. The first house dates from the first century A.D. as does the second which has two peristyles and which was restored and modified up to the seventh century. Continuing along the street of the Curetes, behind the Baths of Scholasticia, there is a further house with an atrium, which was a Brothel. Nothing remains of the first floor, but on the ground floor some of the walls have retained their frescoes. The mosaic on the floor of the dining room represents the four seasons. The baths were equipped with hot water and at the back there is a pool with mosaics featuring a woman, a mouse and a slave. During restoration work a terracotta statue of Priapus with an enormous phallus was found and it can now be seen in Ephesus’ museum. A few Ionian columns and a perfecdy restored wall survive from the Church of the Virgin Mary. This is an important church for Christians because it was the first church to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Ecumenical Council convened by Theodosius II proclaiming the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in 431 A.D. was also held in this basilica. The Church of the Virgin or the Basilica of the Council was erected in the fourth century using the foundations of a second century B.C. basilica structure called the Museion. Three naves with columns and balustas were added together with a circular baptistery with a central font. Some of the floor slabs bear inscriptions and others are decorated. The marble omphalon, in the centre of the Church, was brought from the Baths of the Port.

The House of the Virgin is a church on the plan of a cross surmounted by a dome. It is almost entirely reconstructed. It is immersed in the silent green countryside at Panaya Kapulu, a small locality not far from the ruins of Ephesus. In the apse there is a statue of the Virgin (placed there a hundred years ago) and a simple altar. There was once a kitchen in the small central area which is paved in grey marble. Excavations brought to light pieces of charcoal and traces of wood. In the back room, to the south of the altar, there was a bedroom. There is a fountain near the house, the Fountain of the Virgin, and its water is said to have miraculous powers. The house is a place of pilgrimage for Christians, Orthodox and Catholic, and Muslims (Meryemana is recognised as a saint by Islam). Every year, on August 15th, believers of all three faiths gather here to celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin. Many exvotos adorn the House of the Virgin which has been visited by three Popes: John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II. Traditionally, the Virgin Mary was thought to have lived in Ephesus for many years with St. John (from 37 to 48 A.D.) after the death of Jesus Christ. Some claim that she was even buried here at the age of sixty-three, though Christians maintain that she was buried in Jerusalem, on Mount Sion, where there is now the Church of Dormition. Before reaching the Selçukk Fortress, you come to the Church of St. John, thought to be the most important Byzantine building un Ephesus. It was built by Justinian and Queen Theodora during the sixth century A.D. on the ruins of a small church erected over the Tomb of St. John who died at Ephesus in 100 A.D. At a later stage thick walls were built around the basilica with twenty towers and three gates to defend it from Arab attacks.

When Ephesus was conquered by the Selçuks in 1330 it was first transformed into a mosque and then into a bazaar. Excavations of the basilica began in 1926 and are still being undertaken. The entrance is through the Gate of Persecution, surmounted by two imposing towers, which leads into a courtyard and then into the remains of the church. The church was forty metres wide and one hundred and ten metres long, and constructed on the pattern of the cross. There are three naves covered by domes supported by brick and marble pilasters. The Saint’s tomb is above the crypt facing the apse. The Baptistery was octagonal and faced with marble, and the font was embellished with arches and columns.

Turkey - Izmir - Ephesus Turkey - Izmir - Ephesus

Turkey - Izmir - Ephesus Turkey - Izmir - Ephesus

 

 

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