After Istanbul, we were dead tired. Luckily, the next day we got to sleep in. The ship didn’t pull into Kusadasi until 1:00 pm. Kusadasi is a resort town on the west (Aegean) coast of Turkey. They even have a water park. (We didn’t go; but we saw the advertisements.)
Picture of the town from the ship.
Kusadasi is also the closest port to Ephesus, one of the world’s best ancient sites. Ephesus was a port town, originally established in 1000 B.C. It peaked in importance in the 1st – 3rd centuries A.D. after it was conquered by the Roman Empire. It was the home of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, this one column is all that remains of the Temple.
In ~263 A.D., invading Goths destroyed Ephesus and the Temple. During the Byzantine era, Emperor Constantine I rebuilt a lot of the city and Ephesus retained importance as a commercial, harbor town. But, over the centuries Ephesus declined dramatically. An earthquake in the 7th century destroyed part of the city. Silt from the Cayster River slowly clogged up the harbor despite repeated dredging. (As a side note, Ephesus is now ~5 km from the coast.) Additionally, an epidemic of malaria decimated the population. By the 15th century, the town was completely abandoned. Earthquakes and landslides covered what remained of the city. Archeologists re-discovered the town and started excavations in the late 1800s. Despite the fact that only ~15% of the city has been unearthed, it is said to be one of the largest excavated sites in the world.
We joined a group of 6 other people from Cruise Critic for a tour through Ephesus and the surrounding area. We used Ephesus Shuttle, which provided a private guide, driver, and 12 person minivan for a very reasonable price. The first stop on the tour was Ephesus. We started at the upper entrance, which I would highly recommend to anyone thinking of visiting. By beginning the tour at the upper entrance, you start at the top of the hill and walk down (through the city) to the lower entrance. I would also suggest that you put on plenty of sunscreen, wear a hat, and take water because there is not a lot of shade inside the city and it gets hot.
The open area in the picture below served as an agora, an open air marketplace where the people would shop, meet friends, and talk politics. Note the pipes stacked in the lower left hand corner. Ephesus had one of the most sophisticated water systems in the ancient world. Water from the surrounding hills would drain into a system of four aqueducts. The aqueducts funneled the water into a reservoir, where gravity and an extensive plumbing system would transport the water into the city’s bathhouses, fountains, and homes (well, to the homes of the wealthy, anyway). The pipes in the picture are some of the original clay pipes used by the city.
Next to the agora is the Odeon, a theater that was used for plays, concerts, and meetings of the city council. Some of the lower bottom seats still have the original marble. (Note: When the site was found, the theater was buried in dirt up to the top steps.)
Down the road (the Sacred Way) from the agora, are the remains of the Prytaneion, one of the most important buildings in Ephesus. The Prytaneion was the site of the city’s sacred, eternal flame. The priests kept the flame going to ensure the prosperity of the city. Additionally, the Prytaneion was a civic building, serving as the city hall and the place where official guests were received by the religious and political leaders of the city.
Across the road from the Prytaneion is this great view of the valley and surrounding hills.
Continuing down the road, we got additional “previews” of what was ahead.
As we continued downhill, we passed by Domitian Square to the left. The remains seen in the picture below are those of the Temple of Domitian.
The arch and the area below it was a public water fountain, one of many that were scattered around the city. Since the lower classes couldn’t afford to have plumbing, they used the public fountains as their main source of water.
I’m not sure what this was…maybe part of the Temple?
Parts to an arch or doorway?
To the right, is a carving of the Greek goddess Nike giving the wreath of victory to the Romans. See the swoosh?
Heading back down the road, we passed through the Hercules Gate. It was the boundary between the pedestrian only upper city and the commercial, lower city.
This structure was Trajan’s Fountain, another public fountain. It was built in the 2nd century A.D. and once had a statue of the Emperor Trajan with his foot on an orb and an inscription to the effect of “Trajan ruled the world.” Essentially, this shows how the ancient Greeks and Romans believed (knew) that the world was round.
The stores catering to the upper class residents had (once covered) sidewalks decorated with mosaics.
As I mentioned previously, Ephesus had a sophisticated plumbing system. There were several bathhouses in the city. Most people could not afford to have plumbing and toilets in their houses. So, Ephesus built public toilets, usually in conjunction with the bathhouses. However, there was a charge to use them. This (once covered) latrine room has marble seating for 40. There was even a platform for musicians to play to cover up any, umm, noises your neighbor might be making. Additionally, there was running water under the toilets to flush the waste away and a second stream with clean water for washing. Each toilet would have a stick with a sponge attached. After a person finished, he would get the sponge wet and use it to clean off. According to our guide, this is how the phrase “the wrong end of the stick” got its start. Let us all give thanks for the invention of toilet paper.
Across the street from the bathhouse are the Terrace Houses. There is an extra charge to get into this part of Ephesus; but the extra fee is worth it. The Terrace House portion is enclosed to protect the ongoing restoration and excavation process and consists of 7 homes of the upper class, built during the 1st – 2nd centuries A.D. Once you enter into the enclosure, you follow a path through the different houses. It is interesting because you can see the work being done to restore the structures.
A puzzle of marble pieces.
The houses had three stories, with the living areas on the bottom floor, the bedrooms on the upper floors, and a courtyard in the center.
There are frescoes and intricate mosaics throughout the houses.
Upon exiting the Terrace Houses, is this wonderful view of the commercial agora, the main market and shopping area of Ephesus. This agora was much larger and housed more shops than the agora located near the upper entrance.
From there, we continued down the road to the Library of Celsus. The Library held 12,000 scrolls and is said to have been the third largest library of the ancient world, behind the libraries in Alexandria and Pergamon. It was built ~120 A.D. by Gaius Julius Aquila in honor of his father, Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, who is actually buried in a sarcophagus underneath the Library. The façade was built facing east so that the windows would catch the morning sun. The four statues in the nooks of the façade represent Wisdom, Knowledge, Intelligence, and Virtue. The Library was destroyed by fire in the 3rd century A.D.; but the façade was saved. Unfortunately, earthquakes eventually toppled the façade. It was restored in the 1970s to its current state.
At the Library, the road turns to the right and heads past the commercial agora to the Great Theater. Originally built by the Greeks in the 3rd century B.C., it was expanded and improved upon by the Romans. The Theater holds ~25,000 people and the acoustics are so good that performers on stage do not need microphones to be heard by the audience, even in the nosebleed seats.
From the Theater, we continued on to the lower entrance (the exit in our case). There is a nice little gift shop located at the lower entrance and local merchants have stalls set up outside by the parking lot.
From Ephesus, the guide took us to Sirince, a little village with shopping and cafés located in the hills surrounding Ephesus (~15-20 minute drive from Ephesus).
The men stayed at this café while the women went off exploring (shopping).
Jerry even got to try some Turkish coffee, made with an ibrik (cezve).
We stayed in Sirince about an hour. After leaving Sirince, we stopped by a carpet showroom to see how the carpets are made. I had originally asked that we not make this stop (as we didn’t want to feel pressured to buy anything). But, several of the people in our group were interested in seeing the demonstration. So, we gave in and went. And, I have to admit that it was pretty neat to see how the silk is gathered.
We were running out of time after the demonstration. So, we had the driver take us back to the port.
We had a great day. The guide was good, Ephesus was fascinating, and the countryside was beautiful. We enjoyed this stop much more than Istanbul. I would highly recommend that anyone taking a Mediterranean cruise make this one of their stops.