“You return from a trip, but not from a true journey.” ~ Regal Princess
If you’ve read the New Testament, you’re familiar with Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, one of the most quoted chapters. We are here today to see another historical wonder of the ancient world. Again, we have an excellent guide, Hadim, who shares with us some interesting facts; for instance, Turkey shares a border with more countries than any other country in the world: Bulgaria and Greece on the European side and Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria on the Asian side. It is also bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the south, the Aegean Sea on the west, the Marmarra Sea on the northwest and the Black Sea on the north. With some ruins uncovered as far back as 5000 B.C., Ephesus is in southern Turkey, about a 35 minute drive from the port city of Kusadasi, which, for most of its existence, was a sleepy little fishing village. Today, because of the tourism coming to see Ephesus via cruise ships, it’s a large, thriving city. At one time, Ephesus, after it was first a Greek city and then the Roman provincial capital, was a significant sea port and trading center. The sea receded several miles, taking away its importance as a bustling metropolis, reducing its population from 300,000 in the 2nd century to a ghost town.
As we enter the city, you can sense what a major city it must have been. It’s an archaeological wonder, with marble streets and once-glorious structures. The Celsius Library housed thousands of manuscripts. The Roman Imperial Temple of Hadrian is a testament to the Romans’ love of all things large and impressive. The Great Theater seated over 25,000; this is the site where in the 1st century Paul preached to the Ephesians to relinquish their pagan gods and accept Christ. Ephesus attracted tourists even then and selling small images of the goddess Artemis was a thriving business; the merchants wanted nothing to do with the new religion that would affect their pocketbooks. Because it was an open city where all religions co-existed, Paul came to Ephesus and, in spite of commercial opposition, made many converts before he was forced to flee. Ephesus is also important as the place where the Apostle John brought Mary, the mother of Jesus. Although we didn’t have time, you can visit her house, a short distance away, where she lived out her life. The Basilica of St. John and John’s alleged grave is here too. Hadim makes a point of telling us that Muslims in Turkey do not adhere to any radical practices in other Muslims countries. He also wants us to know that Turkish Muslims consider Jesus a prophet and appeal to Mary for healthy children.
Ephesus, in spite of all the tourists, is a serene and quiet place. Surrounded by hills and pine trees, it was a progressive and educated city, with public toilets, fountains, and the colossal Celsius library. It is always undergoing excavations to unearth more hidden treasures of an ancient time.
Our bus takes us back to Kusadasi, where we wander through the local bazaar. I find a Pandora store and buy a charm for my bracelet; it’s an “evil eye” believed to bring good luck. Along with Pompeii, Ephesus opens our modern eyes to ancient civilizations and makes us wonder about life 2,000 years ago. Definitely worth the trip half way around the world.
Tomorrow we arrive in Athens, the third of our ancient world stops.
Fortunately, I’m now able to share some of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken of our travels. Here are a few from Ephesus.