27-30 September, 2011
Just arrived in Selçuk by bus from Bursa (7 hours). Since Odessa I have been heading south, prolonging the summer! One of the main reasons to come to Selçuk is to visit nearby Ephesus (Efes in Turkish), which is said to have some of the best Roman ruins anywhere outside Pompeii. Back to a dorm bed here (Nur -means “light” – Pension, run by a young guy, Sean, who sounds Australian).
Sights in the small town of Selçuk include the Byzantine aqueduct (with storks’ nests on top, but I think the storks have all flown south by now), the Ottoman fortress on the hill (closed for repairs), the Isabey Mosque and the remains of the Basilica of St. John the Apostle (which was possibly constructed over his tomb) . Tradition has it that after Jesus’ crucifixion John brought Jesus’ mother Mary to Ephesus to live in his house. The Gospel of John might have been written in Ephesus, while Revelations is thought to have been written by John on the nearby island of Samos. Ephesus is one of the seven major centres of Christianity in Asia mentioned in Revelations.
In the 1st c. BC Ephesus had an enormous population for the time of about 250,000 (second only to Rome) and was the capital of the Roman province of Asia. The results of archaeological excavations at Ephesus are impressive, with the major streets and remains of some buildings still visible (similar to Pompeii and Herculaneum near Naples). The interiors of some houses can be visited, with their mosaics floors, frescoes and indoor plumbing.
The Temple of Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world but sadly little is left, apart from the many-breasted statue of Artemis in the Archaeological Museum in Selçuk, which also houses statues and other artefacts from Ephesus, including the well-endowed god Priapus (from where the English word priapic comes) and the lovely bronze Boy on a Dolphin. It also has a marble bust of my favourite Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius (author of Meditations). The most striking building at Ephesus is probably the two-storied Library of Celsus, of which the facade has been re-erected from the original pieces.
If you are able to employ a little imagination, you can easily visualise how cushy and civilised life most have been here for the inhabitants, especially the wealthy.