Today we are in Kusedasi, Turkey and we signed up for a ship’s tour that visits The Virgin Mary’s House, the ancient city of Ephasus and St John’s Divine Church. We had an incredible guide that literally talked and provided information for the entire five hours on tour. Therefore, I have oodles of information for the blog, but unlike Petra, I will split it into a couple of posts. The first of the posts covered the journey through Kusedasi and and first stop at the Virgin Mary’s House, while this post will cover the Ancient City of Ephasus.
If you haven’t heard of Ephasus, but want to join us on our discovery tour, read on!
Similar to a previous stop in Aqaba, Ephasus has many similarities to Petra, in that it is an ancient city dating back almost 3,000 years and it was recently discovered. In fact, archaeologists are still working the site and estimate that only about 20% has currently been re-discovered.
The bus dropped us at the top entrance to Ephasus, which meant the approximate 1 mile walk was all downhill. Our guide was exceptional, probably one of the best we have ever experienced and he issued us with individual receivers and headphones, so we didn’t have to crowd around to hear his talk. He requested we stick with him, which was most definitely worth it, as his information was excellent.
This is a model representing what they think Ephasus may have looked like thousands of years ago. Ephasus was in fact a port, but over the intervening years the silt from River Cayster has pushed the ocean back about 3 miles, creating a fertile valley. The defensive wall extends for 8 miles and was 20’ tall and 10’ thick, with some remnants still visible on the hill.
In Ephasus the rich residents lived in elegant homes on the level ground and the poorer residents lived in more basic housing on the hill in the background.
Some of the earliest settlements are thought to have started about the 10th Century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek Colonists. In the first century BC, the Romans assumed control, at which time the city population flourished, with our guide advising it may have reached as high as 250,000 people. The city was destroyed by an earthquake measuring about 8.6 in the 5th century AD, until it was initially re-discovered by a British team building a railway in the 1800’s.
The columns found by the British engineers who were building a railway. Our guide then explained that archaeologists are continuously working at the site and showed us an area where new columns and blocks get stored when they are un-earthed. His next explanation involved the Roman Baths, which are located at the gate so people took a bath on entering the town. They thought that this would prevent the spread of Malaria and other diseases.
Water tank used to collect the rainfall from the hill.
Under ground water pipes carrying water from the tank to the Baths
Remains of the Roman Baths, with the arches being from the days of Roman rule and influence.
The area around the upper gate was known as the government area, with Parliament, Town Hall and Church all located in this area.
Parliament Building with seats for 1,500 members that also doubled as a concert hall. The two rows of columns carried a roof over the entrance.
Rows of columns in front of the Parliament Building that originally carried a roof from the steps to the entrance.
Located next to the Parliament Building is the church, which has small rooms built into the hill at the rear of the church.
Continuing down the road, next to the church is the ruins of the Town Hall or Mayor’s Office.
The last building on the row of buildings after the Parliament Building is the Memmius Monument, which was built to commemorate the grandchild of a Roman leader.
Just after the monument, the road, called Processional Way turned to the right and headed downhill
Looking down Processional Way from the statue of Nike, the Goddess of Exercise or Competition
Area with archaeologists conducting an active dig.
Judi amongst the crowd while heading down Processional Way
Close to the bottom of Processional Way is the Temple of Hadrian, which dates from the 2nd Century BC and subsequently underwent repairs in the 4th Century. It was re-erected predominantly from the materials discovered by the archaeologists. However, the upper portion is a cast, with the original displayed in the museum.
Temple of Hadrian arch close-up
The next building was the Latrines or Washroom, which had a functioning water system to remove the waste.
The city latrines. Being rather chilly marble, the rich had servants sit over the hole to heat the seat before doing their business.
The opposite side of Processional Way was lined by terrace housing, which had a mosaic floor between the road and entrance to the houses.
Terrace houses mosaic floor
At the bottom of Processional Way is the Library of Celsus. This facade has been carefully reconstructed from the original components unearthed during the archaeological digs. Originally built about 125AD in memory Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an ancient Greek and Governor of Roman Asia. Celsus funded the construction costs and is buried in a sarcophagus beneath the library, which held about 12,000 scrolls. The building faces East, which provided ample morning sunlight to the reading rooms.
Andy & Judi in front of the Library
Adjacent to the Library is the entrance to the Market Square.
The Market Square is surrounded by individual stalls, as pictured above.
Prior to the exit is the crowning glory of Ephasus, the Theatre, a massive structure that took about 500 years to build and seats 25,000 people.
Looking down at the stage from the top row. The theatre is still in use, having hosted a very successful Elton John concert. They also hosted a rock concert, but damage to the seating resulted in the Government only permitting classical concerts in the future.
Theatre from the top corner. The view from the seats must be perfect, as the stair risers between rows are rather high, making it a steep climb to the top.
The above photograph depicts where the ocean used to be located at the end of the road leading away from the Theatre. River silting has created a fertile valley and pushed the ocean back about 3 miles.
View of the fertile valley from the top of the Theatre
View of the Theatre from the lower exit.
On departing Ephasus you enter a double row of stalls with vendors peddling the usual made in China junk that is available in each port. However, we did get a good laugh as we walked past this stall. At least they are honest.
This brought an end to a short, but excellent day as we arrived back at the ship about 10 minutes after the all aboard time. This is the benefit of ship’s tours, if they return late the ship waits. If you are on your own and you’re late, the worst sound would be the sounding of the ship’s whistle signifying departure.