Welcome back. Now I will tell you about our trip to Ephesus.
Ephesus is an ancient city about 30 minutes from where we were staying, and has been owned (for want of a better word) by both the Greeks and the Romans. We had to get up painfully early to be there for the coach, which left at 7:20. Ouch. I was not too discombobulated, compared to my dad and Jada, but it was still too early. Our tour guide, Denis, greeted us and as soon as we started driving, began to tell us about Turkey and Ephesus. He told us that Turkey is one of the largest producers of silk in the world, and the port where we were staying was one of the biggest in Turkey. He was a very good tour guide, and his little mistakes in his English were funny!
We got out of the coach and saw that we were one of the first groups there. As soon as we got into the actual city, we saw plenty of ruins. What we could see was spectacular, but I had no idea that the city was so big and there was yet more breathtaking stuff to come. My first sight was this:
but that was nothing compared to what we saw later.
Our first main stop of the tour was at the small theatre, which held concerts as well as goverment meetings back in the Greek/Roman times. It was not that small actually, and we climbed up and got some good photos.
Then we walked past the remains of the Pyrtanieon, otherwise known as the palace of the municipality. Here they kept a sacred fire burning at all times, but now there’s not much left of it.
Next we walked down the processional walkway. Back in the Classical period, a procession (I don’t quite remember what for) would begin on that road and they would end up elsewhere in the city. There was a marking on the floor signifying the starting point of the procession.
After that we came to the Square of Domitian. Here there was a monument, known as the Memmius Monument, which was built in the name of the Memmius family, who were the descendants of Sulla. There are a couple of statues of the family members still remaining.
Here there is a relief of Nike, the goddess of victory, and apparently the inspiration for the Nike logo came from here.
Another thing we noticed while walking around was the huge population of cats! They were everywhere: on top of columns, in little nooks and crannies, wandering around. I got a picture of one of them as we were walking down the Curetes Street, towards the Trajan Fountain.
One thing that surprised me about Ephesus was that the main language of the city was Greek, and everywhere you could see stones with Greek inscriptions on them. Anyone up for translating? 😛
Denis, charming as always, told us all about the toilets, including some fascinating facts: the stone of the latrines could get very cold, so the rich people would hire a slave to sit on the seat to warm it up in preparation for their toilet visit. They spent hours there, so they might as well be comfortable I suppose. Also, in the middle of the toilets was a pool filled with frogs, which would croak and be loud. But why? Denis told us that it was so you didn’t have to hear your friends farting. A sensible idea.
Next we saw the Temple of Hadrian. He had a boyfriend called Antinous (who died in mysterious cicrumstances) who built this temple for him. (And PS, back in the Roman times, a subtle sign that you were gay was having a bust of Antinous in your house.) But anyway, the temple has a relief of Medusa on the front– oh no, I feel another tangent coming on…
You know that if you looked at Medusa, you turned into stone? Well that, in places like Turkey, became the ‘Evil Eye’. You know, those blue eye-like things that people hang up everywhere? They say that if you are rude while I’ve got this Evil Eye with me, you turn to stone, because the Evil Eye is turning away all the bad vibes!
In the temple there were reliefs of other things, including one referencing the mythological foundation story of Ephesus. It says that a man called Androklos was told by a soothsayer that he should found a city in Anatolia (the region of Turkey Ephesus is in). But where? The soothsayer said: “the fish will jump, the wild boar will run away and you will establish a city with a brilliant future there”. So Androklos travelled around, and one day went fishing to get something for dinner. They were frying it up over the fire, and the oil it was cooking in exploded, making the fish jump out of the bowly canteen thing. Some sparks came out too, which scared a wild boar who was hiding in the forest. It ran off, and Androklos pursued it. Once he’d killed it, he realised that the prophecy had come true, so started the city of Ephesus right there.
There were also other reliefs, like gods, mythological people and some Amazon warriors, one of whom gave Ephesus its name (she was called Ephos, and she was a queen of the Amazons). Some other cities in Turkey are also named after Amazons (I can’t remember the details though).
We also saw some rich peoples’ houses, which are even now being excavated. There was a very nice mosaic which we could see, but not much else.
We continued walking down the street, and as we got further down, a spectacular structure came into view.
It was the most intact thing in the city, and probably the best ruins I’ve ever seen. It was massive, and incredibly pretty. It was built by Tiberius Julius Celsus, a governor of the province of Asia (Asia Minor I assume) in the 2nd century AD. The library had over 12,000 scrolls back in the day! 🙂 On the front, there are four statues, of Sophia, Arete, Eunoia and Episteme, which represent different parts of Celsus, like his knowledge and virtue. One of the statues still had most of a nose, which is not something you see on many Classical statues.
And you could see some red paint on the building, but I suspect that was a later addition, since there was an engraved bit of stone inside which was dated 1978, talking about the restoration– the paint in the carved letters was exactly the same colour. But it was still cool.
Inside it was not so exciting, but Denis told us that there was a tunnel underneath the library that led to the brothel. So when a husband told their wife that they were going to do some reading at the library, they may not have been telling the whole truth. But adultery was not illegal for men back then (but for women, it was. How sexist.)
To the right of the Library of Celsus was a massive street. First we went through the Mithridates Gate, which was inscribed with some of the only Latin I saw all day.
It was a really long road, and on one side were the remains of a marketplace. You could still see some stones showing some of the things they sold there.
On the other side of the road was the brothel, and on the floor was a little engraving showing exactly where it was. There was a picture of a pretty lady, a footprint, and the Greek word for ‘follow me’. At the end of the road we saw a MASSIVE theatre, like the ones you see in documentaries. It was absolutely enormous. It was first built in the Hellenistic Period, since the theatre was built into a hill– that means it’s Greek. If the theatre is built on the ground without a hill, it’s Roman. I never knew that before!
See how big it was? We walked up quite a lot of the steps, and as we did this a very Roman horn blast was heard. Denis had said there was a ‘show’ every ten minutes… was this it? We tried to look for where the sound was coming from, and saw a tiny little group of weird people, and a throne-like thing. So once we’d finished at the theatre, we wandered through this little corridor to where the show was. By the time we got there, it had ended, but the street we were on was impressive enough anyway!
We spotted the people in the show, relaxing in the shade. How hot it must have been for them, in the blazing sun of Ephesus! I was boiling hot, and I wasn’t wearing a toga or army uniform or anything. It must have been hot work to do this show every TEN minutes.
Soon, a couple of Roman soldiers wandered down unassumingly.
Then the sound that we’d heard earlier began to play, and behind us a procession of Romans began to walk. It was pretty crazy!
I think Antony and Cleopatra were there (it could have been Julius Ceasar though) and they sat on the thrones. And then, oh my goodness gracious me, there was a gladiator fight! Two guys came up, got ready and had a brilliantly well-choreographed and practised fight! At the end, one of them lost, and everyone wanted him killed, but I was like ‘no, let him live’ and thankfully they did.
I wanted to video it, but stupidly my camera did not have enough battery to do that. I managed to get two pictures of the next part– Egyptian ladies dancing– and then it died for good. SO annoying, and what was more annoying was that my dad had another camera in his bag and he didn’t think to use it. Clever.
So after that we dispersed, and only had a bit of time left until the coach came. We went into the shop, where I bought a pen and a really cute pencil with a gladiator on top of it. Then we got back into the coach, which took us to a ceramics place. I’d forgotten we were going to do that!
As soon as we got into the ceramics place, we were showered by some light sprays of water which came from sprinklers above us. Now THAT was refreshing. Then we went into a cool room where the owner of the workshop showed us how they make their products– which are made out of a unique clay-like thing, only found in that part of Turkey, which has quartz in it, which makes it stronger than normal clay. They showed us some of the unpainted stuff, which was still very pretty, and then we moved to a long table where some women were painting– BY HAND!– all the products. The designs are so intricate, and the paints used are natural dyes from things like ochre, which is what they used to paint things with hundreds and hundreds of years ago. He said it was because it had the best colour and didn’t ruin the clay. Then he invited us into the shop, which was astounding. First, it was huge, and second, everything in it was so beautiful, and ALL genuine and handmade. It took a long time to look around the shop and decide what to buy. Jada bought a bowl with flowery designs on it, and I bought a candle holder/bowl for our mum which looked like a pomegranate and cast pretty shadows on the walls if you put a candle in it and put on the lid. But there was SO much choice in the shop, and it took ages to finally decide on something.
It was just after lunchtime when we finally returned to the hotel.
Now, our First Choice (that was the company we went with) representative guy said that the ladies staying in the hotel should try and get a Turkish bath sometime. And that afternoon we did. Jada and I went down with our bikinis on and had a Turkish bath together. First we went into this HOT room made of stone, and waited there for the person to come and do our bath. Eventually she came in, put some towels on a thing that looked like a sacrificial altar, and made us lie on them face-up. The stone, even under the towel, was BAKING hot, but soon we got used to it. First she sloshed some water on us, which was just the right temperature, thankfully. She made us turn over, and she sloshed more on us. Then she put on one of those exfoliating glove things and scoured us– not the most comfortable experience I must say. Then she did something weird– I didn’t quite see what she was doing, since I was lying face-down, but I believe she dipped a sack or bag in some soapy water on something, then she squeezed it on us and LOADS OF FOAM came out! After a bit of that, we were covered in foam. Then she massaged it off, which was very relaxing, and made us sit next to a basin, where she sloshed yet more water on us. Then we put some towels on (FYI, we were not naked, we had our bikinis on!) and went out onto these lovely loungy chairs, where we sat and relaxed. Overall it was very nice, and definitely an afternoon well spent.
So I will see you next time for the next instalment, including WATER PARKS! SLIDES! BEACHES!
Your travelling blogger, Jaz