The Lost City of Ephesus

Our new friend Giljan was eager to show us around the ancient ruins of the lost city of Ephesus in Turkey. Sure, it was her job as tour guide, but she was young and fairly new at her job and was still enthusiastic.  She kept mixing up the apostles John and Paul.  I cut her some slack considering that she’s a Muslim.

She met us at the port of Kusadasi and her driver took us 20 minutes inland to the entry gate high in hills near the city of Selcuk.  Ephesus was a thriving metropolis of approximately 250,000 people in the first century A.D.  It was largely destroyed by a massive earthquake and the ruins of the city were covered by dirt for centuries until partially excavated in the 20th century.

Temple ruins in Ephesus
Excavated temple ruins in Ephesus, Turkey

Entering the high gate and walking downhill through the main street of the town was awe-inspiring.  The wealthiest people of the time lived in a sophisticated fashion with many conveniences. Some of these people lived in fancy condos built into a hillside.  The walls were covered with painted scenes and the surviving floor mosaic patterns were very intricate.

Excavated remains of ancient condos in Ephesus
The ancient condos had painted walls and fancy mosaic floors

The leaders of the city owned slaves.  Of course the slaves did all the work, including cooking for the leader’s families.  Most of the condos did not have kitchens.  The food was “take-out” food prepared elsewhere and delivered by slaves.  The condos had private bathrooms for the women with indoor plumbing.  The men went down the street to a communal bathroom.  In winter, slaves were commanded to sit down and warm up the marble of the cold toilet prior to the master’s bowel movement!

toilet seats in Ephesus
Warm my seat for me!

One of the most important buildings in Ephesus was the library.  The library contained thousands of scrolls with all of the knowledge of the area.  In Roman times, Marc Antony pillaged the library by shipping all of the scrolls to Egypt as a present to Cleopatra.

library facade in Ephesus
The facade of the Library in Ephesus

Since Ephesus was such a large city, it was the major trading center for the entire eastern Mediterranean region.  The marketplace was a bustling place where goods were bought and sold from all over the ancient world.

Market gates in Ephesus
Gates to the marketplace in Ephesus

Just down the street from the market, a woman’s footprint is etched into marble on the side of the road.  It is the image of left foot, and there are two intersecting lines above it.  Farther down this road was the port of Ephesus on the Aegean Sea (the Sea is now eight kilometers away due to falling water levels in the Sea over the centuries).  Sailors and traders would leave their ships and walk up this road to the big city.  The footprint informed them that the brothel was on the left side of the road up ahead by the intersection.

The great amphitheater where Paul preached as described in the Bible is near the end of the road in Ephesus.  The amphitheater holds 25,000 people and is still in use for concerts.  They only allow classical and jazz now.  A few years ago a rock concert was held and vibrations from the loudspeakers caused a small landslide of part of the upper portion of the ampitheater.  That’s rock and roll!

Great Ampitheater in Ephesus, Turkey
The Great Ampitheater in Ephesus where Paul preached

After the tour of Ephesus we stopped at a outdoor café for a traditional Turkish lunch.  First came various salads with fresh bread, followed by grilled chicken skewers and meatballs.  Desert was a plateful of fresh fruit.  Giljan told us about her city of Selcuk and attending a university quite far away.

“Would you like to see how Turkish carpets are made?  They are a specialty of this region.” she asked.

“OK. I have no idea how that’s done.” I said.

We were driven to a local weaver’s co-operative where rural women were taught how to weave carpets.  A first demonstration showed how silk is harvested from thimble-sized pods.  The silkworm eats the leaves of a Mulberry tree and spins silk into a pod.  It must be an enormous amount of work for the silkworm.  The pods are harvested and put into a bath.  A worker teases the pod with a brush to get the outer silk thread of the pod.  A dozen or more of these first threads are gathered into one starting point and hooked to a spinning machine.  The spinning machine unravels all of the pods at once and combines all of the individual threads to make silk yarn.

The silk yarn can be dyed and are then woven by hand on a backing matrix of threads made from cotton or wool.  The work is typically done by a woman who sits hunched over the loom for months on end to make a single carpet. The price of the resulting carpet depends on the complexity of the pattern, the material used (lamb’s wool, sheep’s wool, goat’s wool, or silkworm), and the density of the weave.

making carpet in Turkey
This woman is making a carpet for me

Back at the port, as I was walking through the shopping area, I noticed this sign.  I’m not quite sure what it means!

Turkish watches for sale
I'll take two in case one breaks
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