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Ephesus, Turkey

Library of Celcus

Library of Celcus

Ephesus is considered one of the best-preserved classical cities in the Eastern Mediterranean region. At its peak, Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and boasted 250,000 inhabitants. The goddess Artemis was heavily worshipped here.

Our host from Nilya dropped us off at the Upper (Magnesia) Gate and we spent two pleasant hours meandering our way through the ruins of Ephesus to the Lower Gate. We arrived early to beat the heat but by 11am the sun was beating down hard and we couldn’t imagine visiting in June or July. Additionally, we navigated around various tour groups that tended to clog up the different buildings and boulevards. Later, we heard that in the peak season up to 30,000 visitors to Ephesus can be disgorged from cruise ships at Kusadasi in a single day. Yuck.

Odeon

Odeon

Highlights included the Odeon, Curetes Way, Library of Celcus and Great Theater. The Curetes Way was the primary boulevard of Ephesus, lined with rows of shops and pedestals displaying statues of honored citizens. The way was named for the demi-gods who helped Lena give birth to Artemis and Apollo. Celcus Polemaeanus was the Roman governor of Asia Minor early in the 2nd century AD. His son, Consul Tiberius Julius Aquila, erected the library in his father’s honor after the governor’s death in 114. The library held 12,000 scrolls in niches around its walls, making it the third-largest library in the ancient world after Alexandria (Egypt) and Pergamum (Turkey). The Great Theater was reconstructed by the Romans between AD 41 and AD 117. The first theater on the site dated from the Hellenistic city of Lysimachus. The cavea (seating area) was capable of holding 25,000 people, with each successive range of seating pitched more steeply than the one below, thereby improving the view and acoustics for spectators in the upper seats. Interesting fact: Archaeologists often estimate a city’s size by multiplying its theater’s capacity by ten.

Upon finishing our visit we strolled through the shady tree-lined path to the Lower Gate. Nilya has an arrangement with one of the gift shops to call to be picked up. When we returned to the hotel we announced we were heading to the bus station to travel to Pamukkale (the town). The guys called the bus station, determined that we had ten minutes until the next bus, and went into overdrive. We threw our stuff into the van and zipped over to the station, where our driver honked at a Pamukkale (the bus company) bus which was exiting the gate. Turned out this bus was actually heading to Istanbul and we had time to board our bus to Pamukkale (the town). Last minute antics like this are only possible in the shoulder season!

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