The Greek Goddess Nike, with wings all aflutter, hands over the wreath of Victory to Rome… which is appropriate since Rome took over Greek Ephesus and turned it into the second largest city in the Roman Empire. Note the muscular arms. Not even Arnold Schwarzenegger would mess with this woman.
Artemis, The Greek Goddess of the hunt, chastity, virginity and fertility was big in Ephesus. Her temple, built in the sixth century BC, was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Each May the local Greeks would honor her with a Festival of Roses, which brings Mother’s Day to mind. As part of the festival they would sacrifice a number of bulls and then hang their testicles over her statue. It represented fertility. Modern time Mother’s Day has dropped this part of the ceremony.
Artemis wearing her vest of Bull’s testicles. Other statues suggest that the bulb-like objects are breasts. Either way… it’s weird. Check out the bulls in her hairdo.
Artemis is only a part of the Ephesus’ family of powerful women. Before the Greek Goddess Artemis became top female in the area, the Hittite mother-goddess Kubaba and the Anatolian goddess Cybele reigned supreme. Amazons, the large warrior women who thought of men mainly as a source for making baby girls, were also known to frequent the region.
Following Artemis, the Virgin Mary was reputed to spend her last days in Ephesus. A German mystic dreamed it and there is some historical support. Various modern Catholic Popes have backed up the supposition and Pope John Paul II declared the site where she supposedly died to be a shrine for Christian pilgrimages. Moslems, who call her Mother Mary, also make pilgrimages to the area. It stands on a hill above Ephesus.
Ephesus is located on the western coast of modern-day Turkey. We took a tour bus out to the site with a very talkative tour guide who shared with us that Santa Claus originated in Turkey, as well as a number of facts about Ephesus. The city had been an important part of Ionian Greece and included such luminaries as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. In case you’ve forgotten your philosophers, Heraclitus, whose nickname was the Obscure, claimed that only change is permanent. “You never step in the same river twice,” he said.
This was certainly true of the Meander River. Ephesus was located on its banks and the curvy waterway kept moving to new locations, forcing Ephesus to move. And yes, the Meander River happens to be where our word meander comes from.
It was the Romans who brought Ephesus to its height around 100 AD with a population of over 250,000, making Ephesus the second largest city in the Roman Empire. Most of the photos of ruins featured below came from that period.
The iconic Ionic Greek column with its simple scroll like top is said to have originated in Ephesus.
This handsome Ephesus cat conveniently posed for me in front of another Ionic column.
Greek and Roman columns, BTW, did not come in one long section. They came in chunks like this column and were then put together.
The most impressive use of columns among the existing ruins of Ephesus is in the beautiful Library of Celsus, which happened to be the third largest library in the ancient world and contained over 12,000 books.
I took this photo while standing in front of the Library of Celsus and shooting upward. To provide a size perspective, the column on the left is 40 feet tall.
The Library of Celsus used ‘leafy’ Corinthian columns shown here as opposed to the Ionic columns shown above.
My wife Peggy, another powerful woman, poses on a pedestal inside the Library of Celsus that may have once accommodated the Greek goddess Athena. I didn’t tell Peggy she was dancing on the grave of Celsus.
Unless you were wealthy in Ephesus, you used the common toilets shown here where you could line up with your buddies and discuss the day’s news while taking care of business. The men’s toilet house could accommodate up to 40 people at once. Water flowed constantly under the toilets to remove wastes and deposit them in the Meander River.
Speaking of plumbing, these clay pipes ran underneath the city of Ephesus and provided a sophisticated means of supplying water as well as removing wastes.
This is Hadrian’s Temple. Hadrian (76-138 AD), one of the greatest of Roman emperors, was known for his building projects, the most famous being Hadrian’s Wall in England. Hadrian loved everything Greek including the young man, Antinous, possibly shown on the first arch. The woman shown on the second arch was likely Medusa, whose hair was made of writhing snakes and whose mere glance could turn a man to stone. How much more powerful can you get? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
The Great Theater of Ephesus provided seating for 25,000 people. Acoustics are excellent. Modern performers have included Sting and Diana Ross. Ancient performers included St. Paul, who apparently caused a riot.
It’s showtime! Peggy and I, John and Francis Dallen and Lee Saage are ready. Bring on the gladiators.
Walk this way for a good time. Sailors arrived in Ephesus from all over the Mediterranean and not too many could read or write. Our guide told us this was and a visual ad for the local brothel that provided a convenient map.
NEXT BLOG: We continue our cruise of Mediterranean Ports and explore the city of Kusadasi, Turkey where Peggy lusts after a Turkish rug and her brother, John, buys two.