During my Mediterranean trip last fall, the last port we stopped at was the Turkish seaport of Kuşadası, on the southwest side of the country. Skeptours hired a private coach and guide, who took us straight to the ancient city of Ephesus.
I really enjoy ancient ruins! Our guide, who was a secular, Westernized Turk, was not only able to fill us in on the history of this coastal area, but willingly answered all of our questions about the Turkish government, the role of religion in the country, and local tidbits you can only get from living in a place or getting off the beaten path. Kuşadası is an old port town that has become a thriving tourist destination thanks to the beautiful beaches, beautiful summer weather, the abundance of fresh foods, and a wise move to build luxury hotels and condos in the area as well as a cruise ship port.
Ephesus has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, based on archeological findings, but was a center of the ancient world for hundreds of years. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis, was located here about 500 BCE. This is a town that was liberated from the Persians by Alexander the Great, was visited by Anthony and Cleopatra, and threw Paul, the pseudepigraphical author of “Ephesians,” out of the city for preaching a false religion in the amphitheater.
The library at Ephesus was one of the most celebrated, surpassed by only the library of Alexander. Much of the ancient ‘pagan’ parts of Ephesus were destroyed upon the orders of Theodosius I, the Roman Emperor who made Christianity the official religion of the empire. A mob, led by by a really cool guy named John Chrysostom, pulled down the Artemis temple. He was a very cool guy in that he helped create antisemitism by banning Christians from attending Jewish rites and festivals, and said that women were worst than wild beasts. He, of course, is thus considered a early church father, a saint in the Roman and Greek churches. Four different churches in Russia and Italy has his skull as a relic…
Enough history. Ephesus was further damaged by the silting up of the river, which put it miles inland instead of on the coast, being sacked by the Muslims, and earthquakes. At one time, it boasted piped water, baths, gymnasiums. In the 19th and 20th century, archeological work uncovered the ruins and slowly restore them, using the original materials as much as possible. The restoration continues today. (Ancient ruins were always a great place for Middle Ages peoples to find pre-cut stones for their churches and homes, or for something to grind up when making lime or concrete.)
Our group had a great time exploring this historical and beautiful site, which inspired me to pick up some additional books about this era.
- A City for the Ages – Ephesus, Turkey (travelpod.com)
- The Ancient Greek City – Ephesus (fun-joy.typepad.com)
- Photo a day, May 16, 2012 – Celsus Library at Ephesus, Turkey (travelingwithkrushworth.wordpress.com)
- Ephesus and Kusadasi, Turkey (worldtravelingirl.wordpress.com)