Monday, May 10, 2010

EPHESUS: Ancient City That Lost Its Port

Ephesus, the grand archeological jewel of Western Turkey (37°56'N, 27°20'E) nestles in a canyon in a pine forest. During its heyday in 100-200 AD, 200,000 people lived in this Roman capital of Asia Minor. Notables from history such as Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, Saint Paul, and the Virgin Mary all are tied to the history of this great city on the hill. Though founded as a harbor-town, with a man-made port at the mouth of the Cayster River, that critical tie with the outside world eventually ended, which doomed the city itself because a flawed harbor design caused river sediments to accumulate. Today, from the top of the huge theater, the sea is barely a gleam in the distance, about 5 miles away. Hints of the city's watery history do remain, with a "Harbor Boulevard (paved with marble)," harbor gymnasium and baths, and wetland marshes where the port used to be. Beside the edge of the marsh on an old church site we saw several little frogs on the stone floor.

The Celsus Library of Ephasus, built in 117AD, was breathtaking. Terrace houses , replete with frescoes and mosaics, were being pieced back together by workers , like giant jigsaw puzzles. Our new Turkish friend, Omar Degirmenci, from the Liman Hotel in Kusadasi, told us that what impressed him the most about Ephesus was how they could construct such buildings “without any sticky stuff” (i.e. mortar) or modern measuring instruments.

One of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World was the nearby Temple of Artemis. Only one column remains of the once majestic temple with127 columns; much bigger than the Parthenon of Athens. A stork was in residence on top the day we visited! The fertility goddess known as Artemis was the symbol of Ephesus. Perhaps, by the time we finish this around-the-world exploration, we will generate our own list of the “7 wonders of the 38th Parallel.”


  1. What a coincidence! Ephesus was a clue on a recent crossword we completed. Your pictures and updates are great -- enjoy yourselves and safe travels.

    John and Doris

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