FROM THE TOP OF THE GREAT THEATER
The Great Theater of Ephesus is a magnificent place from which we can enjoy privileged views.
Located on Panayi Hill, the theater is the largest in all of Turkey and was built with a capacity for 25,000 spectators, supported on the slope of the aforementioned hill by the Greeks in Hellenistic times, although it was the Romans who expanded the entire structure by enlarging it and restoring it in the IDC century to give it its current form. It was used above all for theatrical and musical performances and also in shows of fights between animals or between gladiators. It was also used for discussions on philosophy and religious and political matters were also settled. With an arch or cavea of 220 degrees and a diameter of 151 meters, the theater is made up of three main parts: The stage with three floors and a height of 18 meters whose façade facing the spectators was adorned with statues, niches and windows. It was there that the actors performed. The orchestra gave the sensation of a larger stage. The stands for the public had 66 rows of seats divided into two parts and 3 horizontal sections. The section dedicated to the emperor was in the lower part and covered with marble stones, as well as seats with backs that were also used for the most influential figures in society.
Once in the theater, go up to the highest part of the stands. From there, you will have a magnificent view of the entire theater and Calle del Puerto that led to the sea.
As a curious fact, we highlight that from here, Saint Paul preached to the local inhabitants, the Ephesians. These preaching angered the city´s goldsmiths´ guild who dedicated themselves to making sculptures of the goddess Artemis for pilgrims. It is said that in a public protest, the goldsmith Demetrius and others of his guild shouted: "Great is Diana of the Ephesians" against the preacher, causing him to march.
Address: Panayir Hillside, in front of Calle del Puerto, Ephesus
IN EPHESUS… DOES EFES MAKE A BEER?
If you like beer, and especially if it´s a very hot day and you can afford a break, don´t hesitate, have an Efes beer. It is the most sold in Turkey, the group that manufactures it produces 80% of all the beers that are drunk in this country.Efes Pilsen beer belongs to the Efes Beverage Group, which was founded in Turkey in 1969 and takes its name from this wonderful ancient city that is Ephesus, which is close to the company´s factory in Izmir.
This beer has the characteristic of being made with rice and malt, reaching an alcohol content of 5°. It is a beer that has won numerous awards in different competitions around the world, receiving medals for its quality. One of them was the “Monde Selection” of 1979 in Brussels, the beer capital par excellence. In addition, it is distributed not only in Turkey but also in other countries in the Middle East and throughout Europe.
In its flavor, rice stands out, as well as malt and hops, and they say that its aggressive bittersweet flavor makes it ideal to accompany any cooked dish, so it is highly recommended for a quiet dinner.
Turkey has long been a Muslim but secular country. It has been very open in the sale of alcoholic beverages and in their consumption, as long as they have reached the age of 18. You may not find it in small local restaurants, but you almost certainly will find it in the touristic places and in the hotels. It is also true that since 2013, the Islamist government has restricted advertising, sale and consumption. Many viewed this provision as an attempt by the government to re-Islamize the country. Likewise, the different brands of alcoholic beverages were forced to warn potential health risks on their labels, just as in many countries it is done with tobacco packages. All this was accompanied by the government´s excuse of not wanting to create a generation of young alcoholics, but it caused quite a bit of controversy.
THE ART OF BARGAINING
Shopping in Ephesus, throughout Turkey and throughout the East is something different. Always remember the art of haggling, something that if we are not used to, will not do us any good, but once we have got the hang of it, it can become something almost addictive or at least fun.
Around the archaeological zone of Ephesus is the city of Selçuk where fewer tourists arrive and therefore, as there is less demand, it is easier to find better prices than in the stalls of the same ruins. But if you don´t have much time because you prefer to enjoy archeology and at the same time buy something typical, don´t worry because in the same archaeological site and in the surroundings, you can buy everything. And if you are a little skilled in the art of haggling, you can get prices as low as in the city although it may take you a little longer and share some teas with the vendors, especially if you are looking for a rug or something of more value than a mere souvenir.
In almost all the stalls you can find everything, from simple souvenirs such as magnets for your refrigerator with the image of the Virgin Mary, the Library of Celsus or the temple of Hadrian, to wool kilims or carpets of all qualities made by hand or not, going through all kinds of crafts, leather work such as belts, bags or jackets, goldsmith products such as finely carved trays and plates, marquetry utensils such as boxes or blankets. You can even find bags with different spices to give an oriental flavor to your dishes when you return home and surprise family or friends, or the famous apple teas. You may even find saddles to ride on camels, sometimes in leather and sometimes in wool.
But remember, whatever you buy, but especially if you are going to buy something of quality and expensive, take your time and enjoy the hospitality of the merchants to close a deal. The only thing, yes, if the merchant accepts your monetary proposal, do not come back later. They won´t care too much if you don´t reach an agreement after a long push and pull. That´s part of the game and it´s been done for centuries, but they won´t like feeling like they´ve wasted their time if once your proposal is accepted and you later give up.
A PRECIOUS TEMPLE FOR A HISPANIC EMPEROR
One of the best-preserved places in the ancient city of Ephesus, if not the most, is the Temple of Hadrian, and in it, you will find beautiful corners with fine sculptural carvings in which you can take a beautiful photograph.
This temple, located on the main street of the city, called Curetes, is dedicated to the cult of the Hispanic emperor Hadrian and its construction was carried out by P. Quintilio in the year 138 A.D. to honor his memory. Hadrian, buried in a mausoleum in Rome that today is the Castle of the Holy Angel next to the Tiber River and very close to the Vatican, was one of those considered "good emperors of the Roman Empire" along with Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Antoninus Pius and Nerva. Hadrian, of Hispanic parents from Italica, was born in Rome in 76 A.D. and was a lover of literature and the entire Greek culture. His strategic talent was in protecting and preserving the empire´s borders rather than enlarging them.
Four Corinthian pillars supported a semicircular arch in the center where the goddess Tyche or the goddess of fortune appeared.
Inside, there is a figure of the goddess Medusa with acanthus plants that acted as protection. The goddess Medusa turned anyone who looked into her eyes to stone and only the hero Perseus was able to defeat her by cutting off her head, which he would then give to Athena to place on her shield.
Inside, we will also find finely sculpted friezes detailing the mythical origin of the city, when Androcles, son of the last king of Athens, took refuge in these lands. As he had been predicted in a prophecy, founded this city in the place where while roasting a fish, an ember jumped into a thicket that burned and from which a wild boar came out, which Androcles killed.
Dionysian ritual processions, worship of the Amazons, and a frieze in which Hercules, Androcles and the god Apollo appear can also be distinguished.
Although the friezes present in the temple are replicas of the originals found in the Ephesus Museum, their quality is very good and will allow us to find very beautiful angles to photograph the essence of sculpture, mythology and the Greek world.
Address: Calle de los Curetes, Ephesus
A TEMPLE TO AN ANCIENT FOREIGN DEITY THE TEMPLE OF ISIS
On top of the Ephesian State of Agora are the ruins of a temple of which virtually nothing remains standing except a few columns. It is the temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis.
Isis was one of the main goddesses of ancient Egypt whose cult already existed at least in the Old Kingdom of this North African civilization. Isis, sister and wife of the god Osiris, is the one in charge of resurrecting him by joining the pieces that his other sinister brother, the god Seth, had cut and scattered everywhere. Divine mother of the pharaoh who in turn takes the role of Horus, Isis helped the deceased in the passage to the afterlife. Portrayed wearing a throne-shaped headdress, during the New Kingdom she came to have attributes of the goddess Hathor such as the sun disk on her head between the horns of a cow. Her main temple in Egypt was on the Island of Philae, very close to Assuan.
When the Greeks conquered Egypt in the Hellenistic age, their cult, together with that of the god Serapis, spread from the country of the Nile to the entire civilized world of the Mediterranean world, although it must be said that previously in Athens, there was a temple dedicated to the goddess created by the community Egyptian who lived there.
When the Greek culture is absorbed by the Roman world, around the first century before Christ, its cult would extend to the most remote regions of the empire such as Britain and Hispania, celebrating mystery cults similar to those of the Greeks. The end of this cult came between the fourth and fifth centuries of our era with the acceptance of Christianity by Constantine and the subsequent prohibition of any pagan worship with the emperor Theodosius. Some say that some attributes of the Virgin Mary could come from this ancient Egyptian cult.
We can say that her presence in Ephesus combined very well with that of the patron goddess of the city, Artemis or Diana, as well as with the goddess Cybele, as they are all very ancient cults that are lost in the mists of time and all worship to the feminine divinity of the Mother Goddess.
They were all a true symbol of syncretism and Roman openness to other ideas and cultures.
Address: Very close to the eastern entrance gate to the ruins, next to the State Agora and in front of the Odeon.
DISCOVER A RECYCLED DESTINATION AND THE 7 WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD
Ephesus was famous for hosting a wonderful temple of which little remains today, the temple of the Greek goddess Artemis, called Diana in Roman mythology. This temple, known as Artemision, was started by the Lydian king Croesus and its construction took 120 years and would be destroyed by a fire caused around the year 356 B.C. by Erostratus, with the sole purpose of gaining fame. Located in a place where the geographer Pausanias affirmed that a sacred cult existed long before the Ionian migration, probably dedicated to the goddess Cybele, the construction of the sanctuary went through several phases beginning probably around the 8th century B.C. and dedicated to Artemis, the sister twin of Apollo, the god of light. The temple was rebuilt after its fire but in the year 262, the Gothic invaders razed it again and it was totally destroyed by the hordes of Saint John Chrysostom in the 5th century.
Here we propose the first challenge (1): In what other super important historical monument are some of the recycled columns of this ancient temple? As clues, we will tell you that it is in a large Turkish city, and that in its day, the new building had the largest dome ever built in the world.
And now the second challenge: The temple of Artemis was considered one of the SEVEN WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD by Antipater of Sidon, who was the one who drew up this list. Doyou know what the other 6 wonders were?
As a clue, we will tell you that only one of the seven is still standing today in an African country, as well as another that have already disappeared, another one being in the old capital city of some important Greek games that are still celebrated today, another one in a Greek island, another one in Babylon and another one in Turkey itself.
Answers: Try to solve it by yourself, but if you can´t, here are the answers:
(1) The answer is the Basilica of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, today in Istanbul
(2) The other six wonders were: The Pyramids of Egypt (the only one standing today), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Of these, Antipater extolled the temple of Artemis as the most beautiful.
THE GATE OF HERCULES AND THE LION OF NEMEA
The famous Gate of Hercules is right on the edge of the road through which the carriages could reach the city of Ephesus and following Curetes Street, where it was already necessary to go on foot, takes us to the famous Library of Celsus. The Gate of Hercules, from the 2nd century A.D., was brought from another place to the current one in the 4th century A.D., and only the two columns on the sides remain of it. In them, the figure of the demigod dressed with the Nemean Lion is clearly distinguished. Nemea was a Hellenic city located south of Greece in whose forests lived a feared lion that was killed by Hercules in one of his twelve labors. (Hercules in Roman, or Heracles, as this demigod was previously known in Greek times.)
Mythology tells that Zeus, supreme god of Olympus, impregnated Alcmene of human origin, and proclaimed that the child born of both would become king of the house of Perseus. As Hera, legitimate wife of the god, found out about this, advanced the birth of Eurystheus, who was seven months old, and delayed that of Hercules so that the former could govern the Argolis. Despite the anger of Zeus when he was informed, Hera went further and provoked an attack of madness in Hercules that killed his wife, his children and his nephews, marching into isolation after being aware of what happened. His stepbrother Iphicles convinced him to go to the ancient Oracle of Delphi, and there, he was told that he should put himself in the hands of the usurper Eurystheus to do some work and thus atone for his crimes.
These works were twelve in total and the first of them was to kill the Lion of Nemea, although some classics considered the monster also to be the son of the supreme god and Selene (the moon). As his skin was very thick, weapons could not penetrate it. Hercules tried to defeat him with a bow and arrows, an olive wood club and a bronze sword, as all weapons were useless. So, Hercules looked for another solution: he blocked one of the two entrances to the cat´s lair, and once inside he strangled it with his bare hands. The Greek hero took the body of the lion to Mycenae before Eurystheus, who fearfully sent a herald out of the city to communicate to Hercules the next task to be fulfilled.
Other works were the death of the Lernaean Hydra, stealing apples from the Garden of the Hesperides and taming the Cretan Bull among others.
TO STROLL THROUGH THE AGORA AND THE MARBLE WAY
The Commercial Agora of Ephesus was the main market place of the city and should not be confused with the State Agora near the Odeon.
The Commercial Agora was built around the 3rd century B.C., of Greek origin, from the Hellenistic period to be more exact, although what we can witness there today dates from the beginning of the 3rd century A.D., when Ephesus had long been dominated by Rome, in the time of the emperor Caracalla, the same emperor who ordered the construction of his famous baths in Rome.
From the famous and monumental Library of Celsus, this popular market was accessed through the Mazeus and Mithridates gate, a magnificent gate that you will see on your right if you look at the library façade from the front. This gate has three access routes, and was dedicated to Augustus, the first Roman emperor who ruled from 27 B.C. until his death in 14 A.D. It was ordered to be built in the year 40 by Mazeus and Mithridates, two freed slaves as thanks to their emperor. There is still a plaque written in Latin with bronze inlays that refers to this emperor, his wife Livia, Agrippa and the daughter of Julius Caesar where the two freed slaves thank their master and the people for their freedom.
From this magnificent door, we will access the Marble Path that takes us from the Library of Celsus to the theater. This door would be the south side of the commercial Agora, a square-shaped space of about 110 meters on each side and full of columns. The east, south and west parts are surrounded by a portico in which there are shops as it was two millennia ago. Long ago, this market had a sundial and a water clock in its center.
Agora in ancient Greece as well as in Rome had a mainly commercial function although over time, it was also used as a political center. In the case of Ephesus, there are two well-differentiated Agoras, this commercial one of older origin, and another political one that is located near the eastern entrance to the archaeological site, very close to the Odeon.
If we continue walking along the Marble Road, we can reach a point where a foot is clearly drawn, and less clearly a heart and a woman´s face that are supposed to indicate the direction to the brothel.
Later we would reach the theater and also the road to the port and what remains of the temple of Artemis.
WHERE BEAUTY AND THE BUSY OF TOURISTS COME TOGETHER
A good place to take a break and watch life go by is the stairway leading to the Library of Celsus, one of the most spectacular monuments in the entire city. It is located in a very central point of the same place, at the beginning of the avenue of the Curetes.
This magnificent library, an excellent example of the very few that survived of its kind, was built between the years 117 and 135 of our era in honor of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemeanus, who was a Roman senator and proconsul of Asia. The most curious thing is that the tomb of Celsus himself is in a marble sarcophagus under the library itself, more specifically under the apse. It is something very unusual. Celsus was the first Greek to attain the title of Roman consul, and it was he who paid for the construction of this monument.
The Library of Celsus was the third most important in the Roman world, after that of Alexandria and that of Pergamon, being able to house 12,000 parchment rolls, since that is how the writings were kept in those times.
Sitting on the nine-step access stands, we can take a short break to enjoy the wonderful façade of the building that was rebuilt after the 70s of the 20th century, with original materials scattered around the area.
On each side of the entrances there are four pairs of columns on pedestals, with another eight on the first group, which frame the windows where the four Roman virtues were housed. Standing out among the columns of the first level are the statues of four virtues with their names, from left to right: Sofía (Wisdom), Episteme (Knowledge), Ennola (Intelligence), and Arete (Excellence). This facade reminds us of those used for the stage in Greek and Roman theaters.
The facade looks to the east, following the recommendations of the classical architect Vitruvius, so that the morning light favored the students who got up early. That´s fine for former students, but if you go in the summer in the morning, bring a hat or any sun protection. While you rest and contemplate on the beauty of the library, you will not get bored as you will see many tourists passing by who pose for their photos and selfies.
Address: At the beginning of Avenida de los Curetes, Ruins of Ephesus
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