Ephesus

Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
1
6
42
Trip End Nov 30, 2005


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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ephesus was defiantly one of my favorite places we visited on this trip. It was so well preserved it really felt like you were walking through it thousands of years ago. It was so neat to know Paul was there, and it really adds another dimension to Acts and Ephesians. What follows are the notes I took on-site.
Turkey was a really interesting place. It was very pretty with rolling hills and pine trees - not at all what I expected. The capital is Ancor not Istanbul like most people think. They say that Ancor is the brain of Turkey, but Istanbul is the heart. The currency is the lyra which they are in the process of "fixing". As of a few months ago, 20,000,000 lyras was equal to about $15, but they have changed it now, removing six zeros, so that 20 lyras equals $15.
The ancient city of Ephesus is located near the modern city of Kusadasi. Now it is about seven kilometers inland, but at the time the city was flourishing it was on the coast. The Meander River used to run near Ephesus, and over 2,000 years the silt from the river has filled in the harbor that far. One of the ancient wonders of the world, the temple of Artemis, used to stand there. It was about four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens. All that is left today is one column that has been put back together. The rest either fell apart or was taken apart by later civilizations to build their buildings. Apparently a stone fell from heaven (probably a meteorite) and was placed in the temple. That is why it was such a sacred spot and worth all that effort. The city was originally built by the Greeks, but later it was occupied by the Romans. Most of the city was built out of marble which was quarried in a mine only 15 minutes away. It was common and not considered the luxury it is today. Since there is no modern city on top of Ephesus, it is very well preserved, and you feel like you're really walking through the old city as you're seeing the ruins. Most of the buildings in the city that we saw were from the first or second century B.C.
The myth surrounding the beginning on Ephesus goes like this... the Greeks were looking for a new place to build a city. Andromedis consulted the oracle at Delphi, and she said that they should look for the signs of a fire, a fish, and a boar. Well, he went sailing, and one night when he and his men went on shore, they decided to cook some dinner. A fish that they were cooking fell into the underbrush starting a fire which caused a boar to run from the forest. They had their sign and there founded the city of Ephesus.
At the entrance to the city there were public baths for people to use who had traveled a long way to get there. The city had two entrances and both had baths. We entered through the upper sections which was the "VIP" area. No slaves or lower class people were allowed, and the gates were made small enough that only a person could get through, no carriages. Within the city, the gate that separated this section from everything else was called the Heracles gate because it has a statue of Heracles on each side.
First we visited the Bouleterion which was a public administration building where the Boules (a council of around 400) to discuss the policy and laws of the city. The other administrative body of the city was called the Demos, and it consisted of all the men in Ephesus and met in the Ephesian theater which I will talk about later. The Bouleterion looked like a small theater although it was never used for that purpose. It had a roof over it, and there was both a Greek and a Roman entrance. The Greeks preferred to enter from the bottom and climb up the stairs to their seats while the Romans built tunnels with stair cases that led to the top and walked down the their seats. The roof is no longer there, but they can tell that their must have been one because there is no drainage system for the stage area like there is on other structures that were open air.
From there we went to what is left of the town hall. A fire was kept burning inside, and it was a sign for all the people. As long as the fire was burning, things were good, but if the fire ever went out it meant that the city had been captured. The Curetes were the priests responsible for keeping the fire going, and this was the beginning of Curetes street.
Domitian Square was next which was interesting. Apparently Domitian went to see an oracle at some point in his life, and it told him that he was going to be murdered. This made his very suspicious of everyone and generally pretty mean. No one in Ephesus liked him, but to appease him, they made this square and temple dedicated to him.
Beyond the Hercules gate, there was a street with a row of statues of important people to the city. If someone made a large contribution or did something special, he got a statue with a little plaque underneath that said what he did. One of the ones standing was of a particularly good doctor named Alexander. Also along this road was Traijan's fountain. There was a big statue of him there with the world beneath his feet. The water from the fountain was used to clean the street everyday in the afternoon time, so I'm sure it was always nice and pretty.
On the slopes next to the street were the high end houses. These were for the rich people. There were beautiful mosaics on the ground out front. Inside it was designed as one big room with several smaller ones off of that. The big room had an opening in the roof for light and air, but the smaller ones had no windows. This was to preserve the frescos that were on the walls. We didn't get to see these houses because they are currently being excavated, but we did see the mosaics out front and they were amazing.
Next was Hadrian's temple. All that has been excavated on it was the entrance arches. On the first arch was a relief of the god of chance. On the second was a relief of Medusa which was kind of a neat thing the architects did. Supposedly if you looked into the eyes of Medusa, you would turn to stone, so since the face was above the entry way, everyone looked down and bowed their heads as they came in.
We visited the public toilets which were just like the ones we saw in the Roman agora in Athens. Apparently this was the place to gather and talk and just hang out. Some of the richer people would send their slaves in first to warm up the marble in the colder months. I thought that was funny.
The library of Celcus was the third largest in the world at it's time (second after the one at Alexandria burned). It was pretty neat. All that is left is the fašade, but inside there used to be three stories with a man powered elevator. All of the books had parchment paper like the library at Pergamom (Egypt didn't like to have the competition of these other libraries and so refused to send them papyrus). Off the court yard of the library was the gate of Mazeus and Mitridates, slaves who had been granted their freedom and were so thankful that they built these huge gates, which lead into the commercial agora. Across the street from the library was the brothel of the town. There was a tunnel going from the brothel to the library, so if you didn't want to be seen going in and out of it, you didn't have to. Apparently there was an advertisement for the brothel down the street, but I think that's just a legend.
Now comes what I thought was the coolest part of the city - the theater of the Ephesus. It was huge and held up to 24,000 people. The acoustics were amazing - you could stand on the stage and be heard at the very top of the theater if you just spoke in a normal voice. It was positioned so that back when the Greeks were in the city, you could have seen the country side and sea while you were sitting watching the play. The Romans built a wall there because they wanted you to focus on the drama, but it has since fallen down and you can see the view again. The cool part though was that this was where the riot in Ephesus took place. You can read about it in Acts 19. It was truly amazing to stand there and imagine being the only two Christians in a theater packed with people who were ready to stone you because you were preaching the word of God. We stood on the stage and sang a couple of songs which was neat. Acts was not my favorite book in the Bible before, but now that I'm getting to go to all these places, it means a lot more to me. Paul was in Ephesus for a long time, and it was cool to walk the streets and see the places he must have seen. From the theater you can see the street that led to the ancient harbor. It was flanked by columns and had a roof so that you would have a good impression as you entered the city.
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