Running through the Ruins of Ephesus
Trip Start Nov 05, 2010
137Trip End Ongoing
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It was Sasha's first time and the ancient city did not need an introduction. If you have only one opportunity to see ruins from the Hellenistic and Roman periods Efes (as it sounds in Russian and Turkish) should be it!!!
A Little History
A city that had a quarter million people at its heyday was abandoned after a series of earthquakes. The site is now surrounded by hills and meadows with lots of grazing sheep. The permanent population of the area is quite small, however, the number of visitors is incredible, and that was not even the peak season! Only 15% of the former metropolis is excavated and open to visitors while cranes are visible with archeologists busy as bees.
Most people come to see the ruins with a tour. Our faithful companion, the Lonely Planet, strongly advised to take one. We were discouraged by the price and decided to do it on our own. We read LP the night before and rented an audioguide which filled in the gaps and helped bring the ancient city to life.
Sasha and Dasha, tour guides
At the entrance we could see the bathhouse. It made a lot of sense to get a good wash when entering the city on foot or donkey. The ancient Romans loved their baths. It was surprising to learn that they had running water (cold and hot!) and flushing toilets. Four major streets were preserved and they were quite wide. Not as wide as the Highway 401, of course, but everyone used to get around the city on foot those days.
We were surprised that a site for the city was chosen on a mountain slope. In fact, the scenery in Western Turkey is quite rugged. There was a little beach which housed a settlement during the Iron Age that was later abandoned as it was prone to flooding. People were fitter and didn't mind walking up and downhill.
Most surviving structures were temples. They were preserved because thick marble was used for the walls. The most revered Gods were Zeus, Artemis and Apollo. The later was the patron of the west coast of Asia Minor. Emperor worship was just as visible with each Ceasar joining the Pantheon as he takes power.
An amphitheatre that hosted sporting events such as gladiator fights was standing strong. We learned that population of an ancient city could be estimated by multiplying the number of seats at the theatre by ten. Thankfully, not everyone was into these bloody shows!
Houses of the wealthy were restored as well. They looked like rowhouses with six or seven rooms for each household. The furniture was limited to occasional benches and size of each room was comparable to our hotel in Hong Kong. The floor was covered with mosaics depicting Gods and Heros. One of the rooms had a depiction of Socrates; it was presumably used for intellectual persuits. Each family had their own toilet, bath and several rooms for house slaves.
At the edge of town there were remnants a church allegedly frequented by Virgin Mary during the last few years of her life. Only a wall remained an altar that was still standing alongside some columns. The church was quite small as Christianity was still a small sect within the Jewish community of Efesus at the time.
In the evening, Sasha and Dasha went for a stroll looking for the famous temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World. We were walking along a wide alley with plenty of blooming trees. There were fruit and berries familiar to Sasha's childhood days growing up in the Middle East. When we finally found the temple there was no single person around. Only a few pieces of marble surrounded a single column. At that very moment the sun set behind a mountain. This long day was over.
Who knows how much of our own civilization will be still standing in two thousand years from now?
We had a great time exploring Ephesus in the hot sun! It was one of the best archeological sites that we've visited! Once you set foot into Ephesus, you feel as you have time traveled back into time, a time when gladiators and Caesars ruled the earth!