Our full final day included a walk through Ephesus. This really the highlight of any tour to western Turkey. Although Perge and Heriopolis were large sites and restored very nicely, Ephesus has more to see and it is a far more significant location historically.
The drive from Izmir approaches the city at the upper entrance at the Magnesia Gate. There is an Odeon dating to A.D. 150 just inside the entrance to the site, but the first thing to interest me is the Square to Domitian, an indication of the strength of the imperial cult in Ephesus at the end of the first century and the early second century. In the Square to Domitian there is a reproduction of a Nike relief (the real on is in the Ephesus Museum). From this spot tourists can get a great photo of the sloping Roman street (the “Avenue of the Curate”) leading to the Library of Celsus and the Agora.
There are several interesting things to see on this street, including a public toilet and bathhouse. The entrance to the bathhouse has inscriptions dedicated to both the Empire and Artemis. For some reasons people love to see the ancient toilets, although Ephesus has roped these off so tourists can no longer take those awkward photos. The Hadrian temple has been largely replaced with replicas, but still offers a view of the imperial might of Rome in Ephesus.
Although an additional ticket is required, the Terrace Houses were a highlight for me. These six residences are across from the Hadrian Temple and demonstrate how the wealthy and elite citizens of Ephesus lived in the Roman period. These houses look like modern condos, with open air courtyards, water pipes (and at least one indoor toilet). Many of the walls have the original art and a few have ornate mosaic floors. The entire complex is covered to protect it from the elements, and the stairs work their way up the hill, exiting with a view of the street which passes by the agora, leading to the large theater. From this point on the hillside you could hike to the Cave of Paul and Thecla, assuming you have arranged for the visit (and paid the fee).
Terrace Houses at Ephesus
The Library of Celsus dates to the second century (completed about A.D. 114), so this is not the place Paul rented space from Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). Although the library was destroyed in a earthquake in A.D. 262, the reconstructed façade of the library is spectacular, with replica statues of Sophia (wisdom), Episteme (knowledge), Ennoia (intelligence) and Arete (virtue). The library was eventually converted into a bathhouse, although only a large pool remains.
Next to the library is the entrance to the entrance to the agora. This is the largest we have visited on this trip (525×240 feet), although very little has been excavated or restored. The Hellenistic agora sits lower than the street running from the Terrace Houses and the theater (Roman period). This theater seats up to 25,000 and is the location of the riot in Acts 19:21-34. Since it faces the harbor, the noise of the riot would not have been heard in the boule near the Magnesia Gate, explaining why it took some time for the town clerk to arrive. A street leads from the theater to the ancient harbor.
After our tour of Ephesus, drove a short distance to what is left of the temple of Artemis. There is not much to see, only a single pillar and a few stones remain. The temple of Artemis at Sardis was a far better was to see the grandeur of this kind of temple.
Following Artemis, we ate lunch at a Turkish rug factory. This is fairly typical of a tourist visit, and the shop gave a very interesting demonstration on how they obtained from the worms and how the women who make the rugs work the loom. They brought out about 50 rugs while we waited and I am glad someone in our group bought one to offset our free lunch. I would have preferred to skip the rugs and spend another hour at Ephesus, but that it was not a total waste of time.
We tried to visit the Basilica of Saint John, the traditional burial site of the apostle John. Despite a sunny morning during our walk through Ephesus, a serious rain storm rolled in while we were entering the church as we needed to retreat to the van.
It was much warmer in the Ephesus museum, and there is a great deal to see there. The museum houses some of the major finds from Ephesus, including two statures of Artemis, one dating to the first century. These are on display at the very end of the walk through the museum along with the gigantic head and forearm from a statue of Domitian (or possibly Titus). In addition to these more spectacular displays, the museum has a large display of statutes from Ephesus, all very clearly arranged and labeled. A number of displays were dedicated to items discovered in the Terrace houses. These illustrate the lifestyle of the wealthy in the city. In the courtyard between the two buildings are several important inscriptions, but these lack transcription and translation.