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.
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 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.
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.