Kusadasi is our first of two ports of call today. Our shore excursion is to Ancient Ephesus. We begin by driving through the Turkish countryside. We are pleasantly surprised to find this area is fertile and quite beautiful with mountains, hills and orchards.
After about a 45-minute drive, we arrive at the ruins of Ancient Ephesus. Ancient Ephesus lies in a valley between two steep hills. This helped to guard the city from enemy attack. Probably founded in the 11th century BC by Ionian Greeks, Ephesus became a major port at the mouth of the Cayster River and served as a departure point for trade routes into Asia Minor. As many as 250,000 people lived here. Over the centuries, it was conquered by various Greek, Persian and Roman empires. By early 14th century AD, however, sediment from the Cayster River silted the harbor leading to the ancient city’s decline and eventual abandonment. Only 10 percent of the city has been excavated to date.
Ephesus was an important center of early Christianity and attracted many influential Christian leaders, including Paul, John, and Timothy. Paul established a Christian congregation in Ephesus in the 1st century AD. Nearby is where the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, spent her last years.
We begin our walking tour near one of the two agoras (or public squares) of the ancient city. There’s not much left of this civic agora, the place where the official business of Ephesus was once conducted. We continue walking down Curetes Street passed a wonderful succession of ancient ruins, sculpted pillars decorated with sculptural figurations.
We stop at the Fountain of Trajan erected between 102 and 104 AD. Only the base with the feet and the globe remain of the statue of Trajan. Our tour guide, an archeology major, tells us that the globe indicates that even in the first century AD, the world was thought to be round. One of the highlights of the ruins is the men’s toilet. It once contained about twenty places for men to sit almost touching as they used the facilities. Apparently, men used this as a place to socialize. Servants were sent ahead to warm the marble seats.
The Library of Celsus is one of the most beautiful structures in Ephesus. Built in 117 A.D, the capacity of the library was more than 12,000 scrolls. The facade of the library is two-stories, with Corinthian style columns on the ground floor and three entrances to the building. There are three window openings in the upper story. They used an optical trick that the columns at the sides of the facade are shorter than those at the center, giving the illusion of the building being greater in size.
Our final stop is the Great Theater. It is the most magnificent structure in Ephesus and could contain up to 25,000 people. The theatre was used not only for concerts and plays, but also for religious, political and philosophical discussions. The big riot against the Apostle Paul happened here as recorded in Acts 19:23-41.
Back in Kusadasi, the tour stops at a local Turkish carpet shop. The shop owner gives a presentation of the various styles of Turkish rugs. His voice, his dress (dark suit and tie) and his mannerisms give the physical appearance of a mob god-father. It was especially creepy when he snapped his fingers and six guys would unroll in seconds 8 by 12 foot carpets worth thousands of dollars. We drank the free wine and beer and left as quickly as we could.