Monday, September 17, 2012
The Ancient City of Ephesus
[On our next trip to Turkey, we will skip Ephesus because we visited in 2008 and would like to see some other things in the area. Here's what I wrote about our 2008 visit]
Ephesus dates back to 2000 B.C. when it is mentioned as being near the temple of Kybele who was later called Artemis. It was said to be founded by Amazons. In the 11th century B.C., Ephesus was conquered by the Ionians. At that time, it was a coastal city full of temples honoring the Greek gods and goddesses.
The historical period probably remembered most is during the Roman rule of the city which began in 190 B.C. During that time, it became the capital and most important commercial center for Rome's province of Asia. It was during this time period that the city's history was linked with the history of Christianity through John, Paul, and Mary, mother of Jesus. As a Christian, one cannot help but imagine the people of the times as they crowded the market places and lined the streets in this once bustling city and be in awe of how a faith, a religion, could grow under such dire persecution.
Only one-third of Ephesus has been uncovered so far. Our walk through the city streets on some of the original marble slabs stretched a distance of two miles. In some ways it is like walking through a giant jigsaw puzzle of many parts as archeologists try to piece together the buildings and structures of the past.
The most impressive of the structures is the large theater (one of two in the city) that is built into a hill. It seats 24,000 people and is so acoustically perfect that it still attracts modern day performers for concerts. This was the scene of an uproar found in Acts 19: 29-41. It took place when a silversmith named Demetrius felt that Paul and his disciples were a threat to his income. You see Demetrius made and sold silver images of Artemis (the Greek name for the Roman goddess Diana). He was likely the head of a guild and incited the members.
The Ephesians felt they were the guardians of the temple for Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. All that remains standing today is a large column. The statue of Artemis can be found in a museum nearby. It looks like she is made of many ostrich eggs. Perhaps that is because she was to symbolize fertility.
Along Curetes Street, you pass many columns and pedestals that adorned this place where so many wealthy Ephesians lived. The pedestals at one time held statues that honored its more prestigious citizens. Curetes Street leads down to the next most impressive restoration, the Library of Celsus. The library dates back to the 2nd century A.D.
Passing through the arches of the square in front of the library takes you into the area known as the agora--the marketplace. This is a huge open square that was surrounded by shops and on market days was filled with local produce and supplies for sale. It was here our guide stopped to explain to us the Christian symbols we would see in the marble slabs along Harbour Street.
I knew that the Greek letters for fish also stood for Jesus Christ Son of God but he showed us how the early Christians had taken those Greek letters, laid them on top of each other and created a secret symbol that resembled a wheel with spokes. This symbol was carved into some of the marble stones and helped to identify the path to safe homes for Christians being persecuted.
Ephesus was at one time a port city but over many thousands of years, the river flowing down to the sea deposited silt and formed a delta which has now put the ancient city about 4 miles away from the sea.
Ephesus is a must see for anyone with an appreciation for history. For me, it was an opportunity to bring some of the scriptures in my Bible to a fuller meaning. To my surprise, I learned much history surrounding my Christian beliefs from our Muslim guide.