I Can’t Wait Forever…or Can I?

Being in Asia (ok Asia Minor) is something I’d rarely contemplated. Visiting the ancient city of Ephesus, the site of significant Roman Empire ruins was a bonus: its also a UNESCO World Heritage Centre as determined by the United Nations (UN). Located near the modern city of Kusadasi the ruins are fairly well preserved or so it would seem. Not sure what to expect. Would the area remind me of Rome and its forum, coleseum, etc.? Would it look like the ruins in Spain — particularly the Roman aqueducts?This the first street one walks upon when entering the ruins:   

Remains of a citizens’ home:

Well, both answers are correct. Ephesus was once the center of a Roman administrative district. The city held over 25,000 residents. Its populace was educated and highly evolved. It was also quite wealthy compared to other cities in the vicinity. It even had its own “Rodeo Drive” with a number of shops lining the main “drag”see below:

Also along the “Drive” was this fountain — the first photo is the ruins today and the next photo is an illustration that shows the original building as it probably appeared 2,000 years ago:   

 Being a Roman capital it had its own ruling body or senate. Senators were landholders and merchants who had to be at least 45 years old. Education was important which is why the city had a large library. The library known as the “Library of Celsus” allowed all residents access: it was dedicated to the goddess Athena. Celsus was a former Roman governor who funded much of the cost for the library. He was an intellectual in a city of intellectuals. Celsus loved knowledge so much he asked that upon his death his body be entombed under the building. In 117 A.D. he was buried in a lead coffin and placed in a marble sarcophagus under the library.

The library was an unusual amenity for any city of this period particularly one of this size. Its an outstanding example of Roman architecture.   Statues of Athena and others in from of the library:


Three aqueducts brought water from the surrounding hillsides. Water cascaded down the surrounding hills and into the cities cisterns.  This photo shows the ruins of the water system:  

A sewer system was built under the streets of the city. Each citizen’s home had the latest tool for personal hygiene — toilets that fed a series of undeground sewer lines. The following shows a eight seat toilet that apparently was shared by all members of the household. Seats were made of marble and quite cold. Slaves were required to sit on the seats to warm each up for their masters and mistresses. Looking at the seats they were clearly adjacent allowing for continuous conversation while users completed their “business”.  Here’s a bit of trivia about personal hygiene.  The clever Romans didn’t have toilet paper so sponges were used to clean  their bottoms. The trench underneath the toilet seats is the excavated sewer line:

Throughout the ruins of Ephesus one can see statues, columns, and the remains of various buildings.  Bulls and gods were popular subject matter for statues:

  One of the best preserved buildings is the theatre. Every Roman city had a theater that would host a various forms of entertainment  — many are left to visit. The accoustics are still terrific as sounds on the stage can still be heard while standing at the top of the structure.  Here are three photos — the first two show the present day ruins of the theatre while the final photo is a schematic of the orginal site:

Ephesus was also noted for allowing its residents to practice other religions including Judism. 

See the menorah etched into the front steps of the Library of Celsus:

 The Christian evangelist St. Paul traveled to the city to convert the “pagans”. Paul proselytized to the residents from various corners of the city. As was his custom he wrote a letter to his followers that appeared in the new testament of the bible — it was addressed to the Ephesians. He was eventually  driven away by moneychangers who were suffering from a lack of business due to his pronouncements.  

Not only was Paul visiting Ephesus — legend has it that the (the Virgin) Mary the mother of Jesus lived out her final days accompanied by the Apostle John the Evangelist here as well. In the sixth century the Emperor Justinian built a basilica on the tomb of John. The “House of the Virgin” defined as Mary’s final home and burial place was discovered in 1812 thanks to the visions of a nun (that’s the legend). The foundation is thought to have been built in the first century A.D. further supporting the belief that she’d lived and died in Ephesus. These discoveries eventually led to Ephesus becoming a Christian pilgrimage site–for over 200-years.

Eventually Ephesus suffered the same fate of all ancient cities destruction and disrepair due to natural calamities like malaria, plague and earthquakes;  and from man-made crisises like war and rebellion.

Thanks to some German benefactors the ruins are constantly under excavaion so we continue to learn more and more about the lives of these ancient people.  

Its rather astonishing to see how civilized the Romans could be  — based on what you’ve just read and seen would’nt you agree?


About tourdetom

I'm retired. Travel a lot.
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