An Incredible Library, a Regal Cat, and Powerful Women: Ephesus… Armchair Travel

I am adding to my armchair travel series today as Peggy and I continue to shelter at home hiding out from Covid-19. For today’s post I went traveling back in time through my blog archives and landed in the ancient Graeco-Roman of Ephesus, Turkey. It is located across the Aegean Sea from Athens. Peggy and I traveled there in 2013 along with her brother John Dallen, his wife Frances, and their/our friends Lee and Kathy Saage.

The Greek Goddess Nike, with wings all aflutter, hands over the wreath of Victory to Rome... which is appropriate since Rome took over the Greek city and turned it into the second largest city in the Roman Empire.
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 iron-pumping Arnold Schwarzenegger would mess with this woman.

Artemis, The Greek Goddess of the hunt, chastity, virginity and fertility was big in Ephesus. (Somehow, being the Goddess of chastity and virginity— while also being the Goddess of Fertility— doesn’t compute.) 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 to encourage 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.
Artemis is looking rather weird, to say the least. She looks like she is offering a hug. If so, I pass.

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 had 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 have spent 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. Muslims, 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. I am rather fond of meandering.

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 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.
The iconic Ionic Greek column with its simple scroll like top is said to have originated in Ephesus.
This handsome Ephesus cat conveniently sat in front of another Ionic column.
This handsome, regal-looking 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.
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.
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. People provide perspective on size.
I took this photo while standing in front of the library and shooting upward. To provide a size perspective, the column on the left is 40 feet tall.
I took this photo while standing in front of the Library of Celsus and shooting upward. The column on the left is 40 feet tall.
The Library of Celsus used Corinthian Columns shown here as opposed to the Ionic columns shown above column show.
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.
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 friends and discuss the day's news while taking care of business. The men's toilet house could accommodate up to 40 people at once.
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.
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 () was one of the greatest of Roman emperors and was known for his building projects, the most famous being Hadrian's Wall in England. Hadrian loved everything Greek including the young man, Antinous, featured on the front arch. The woman featured on the second arch was likely Medusa, whose hair was made of writhing snakes and whose look could turn a man to stone. How much more powerful can you get?
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. 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)
Walk this way boys. Sailors arrived in Ephesus from all over the Mediterranean and not too many could read or write. Our guide told us this was and advertisement for the local brothel that provided a convenient map.
Sailors arrived in Ephesus from all over the Mediterranean and not many could read or write. Our guide told us this was a visual aid for finding the local brothel. Walk this way.
The Great Theater of Ephesus provided seating for 25,000 people. Acoustics are excellent. Modern performers have included Sting and Diana Ross.
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 for the gladiators.
It’s showtime! Peggy and I, John and Francis Dallen and Lee Saage are ready. Bring on the gladiators. (Photo by Kathy Saage.)

NEXT BLOG: Since we are in Turkey, my next post will explore the city of Kusadasi, where Peggy lusts after a Turkish rug and her brother buys two.

35 thoughts on “An Incredible Library, a Regal Cat, and Powerful Women: Ephesus… Armchair Travel

    • Of course they do, AC. I wonder if that is why they always seem to be found among ruins in Europe. Laughing… Peggy really isn’t a pedestal type person. Put her in a garden. and she is up to her elbows in dirt in no time. Put a backpack on her and up the mountain she goes. This didn’t mean she doesn’t like a bit of spoiling. Or more. 🙂 –Curt

  1. I’ve learned something from this post and then some. But I really appreciate the photos. I’m also glad we don’t sacrifice bulls to celebrate Mother’s Day, but that’s another story. The columns fascinate me — as they did in Rome, Athens, etc. And those acoustics — everywhere we’ve seen an arena such as this one we’ve been amazed at how voices carry beautifully! Great post!

    • My pleasure, Kelly. Peggy and I are having a great time as well as we revisit some of our favorite places we have visited for our shelter in place posts. Judging from your posts, I would say you are having a similar experience! Thanks. –Curt

  2. You and Peggy have been busy experiencing the world. I do love this post and
    wish I could give a comment that reflected this. There are so much to re-learn about Greek mythology. You came across some powerful women there 🙂 .
    Artemis with the dual personality, goddesses might get away with it.
    Medusa now, you better look away…
    Peggy makes a happy and beautiful goddess.

    Keep travelling in the armchair for a while.

    Miriam

  3. Great photos. The visiting sailors must have been so grateful to be pointed towards the brothels. I remember at Pompeii seeing a mural showing a seductive woman holding up a set of scales whereby the fee charged by the madam would be in direct proportion (and in gold) to the weight of the phallus resting on the scale.
    Amazing!

    • The Ancients appear to have been much more open about sex than we are, Gerard. Peggy and I also traveled to Pompeii. I’ll include a photo or two of the brothel there. –Curt

  4. This was a great refresher history for me after a trip to Ephesus in 2005 with our kids and my parents. I had been feeling a little “ruined-out” by the time we got to Turkey, but this place knocked my socks off, especially the library and the walkway to it. I laughed out loud at your comment about Artemis!

    • Greek and Roman ruins can start to look alike after a while Lexi. 🙂 As for Artimis, I left out the detailed description about bull’s anatomy. All the more reason not to hug her! –Curt

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