Our full final day included a walk through Ephesus. This is the highlight of any tour to western Turkey. Although Perge and Hierapolis were large sites with many restored buildings, Ephesus has more to see and it is a far more significant location historically. Paul spent up to three years in Ephesus, Timothy was in Ephesus when Paul wrote 1 Timothy to give him instructions on how to deal with elders who were defecting from the faith, John likely wrote his Gospel and the three letters of John from Ephesus and the Book of Revelation was written from Patmos and sent first to the church at Ephesus (Rev 2).
Since we are staying in Kuşadası, we had a short easy drive to the Ephesus Museum. Why did we start at the museum rather than the archaeological park? There was a slight chance of rain in the morning, so by going through the museum first we were able to miss any sprinkles. Unfortunately one of our group was not feeling well and had to go back to the hotel. The rest of us walked through the museum. 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.
The highlight is the room with two first century Artemis statues. Both are impressive, the smaller is slightly older and is in better condition, the larger has her full crown and is significantly larger.
Just beyond the rooms with the two Artemis statues is a display of items from the Imperial Cult, including a portions of a monumental statues of Domitian. Or is it Domitian? The head and forearm are usually identified as Domitian, but more recently scholars have suggested the head looks more like Titus. In fact, at the Imperial Temple site in Ephesus the sign has it both ways. I am intrigued by the possibility the statue is Titus since he was the general in charge of the destruction of Jerusalem. If John was influenced at all by the Roman Imperial cult in Ephesus when he wrote Revelation, then calling the emperor who destroyed Jerusalem “the beast” who was inspired by Satan has a bit more anti-imperial venom.
After the Museum we drove to the upper entrance to Ephesus 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 site of the Imperial Temple (dedicated to Domitian? Titus? the Flavian Dynasty?). The massive structure is an indication of the strength of the imperial cult in Ephesus at the end of the first century and the early second century. In this square is a a reproduction of a Nike relief (the real on is in the Ephesus Museum). Be sure to see the caduceus in front of what would have been a health clinic near the entrance to the Imperial cult center. If you are interested in Greek inscriptions, there is a collection in this area although the main gallery is locked and you would need to have special permission to enter (which I did not have).
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 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 is a major highlight of a tour of Ephesus. Sadly, only about 1.5% of all visitors to Ephesus pay the extra ticket price to walk through the six residences are across from the Hadrian Temple. These are large homes for the wealthy and elite citizens of Ephesus, occupied as early as A.D. 25 through the seventh century. The 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 and can make the hike. It is too muddy in March to even attempt to see the cave).
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. Unfortunately for us there is an extensive renovation project so the area in front of the theater is closed, We sat on the steps and read through portions of Acts 19 and talked bout how Paul’s Gospel impacted the culture of the city, including the magicians of Ephesus.
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 ended out day at the Basilica of Saint John, the traditional burial site of the apostle John. There are a few things of interest at this site, including the tomb of John and a large baptismal room. It is also a good place to see what is left of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus: a single reconstructed column (with a stork nest on top).
We start the long journey home tomorrow at 8AM, should back to Chicago in the late afternoon. This has been a good trip, but it was made greater by my traveling companions, the hard work of our tour guide and driver. Thanks to Tutku Tours for making out time in Turkey so memorable!