ancient ephesus

Ephesus-2012-Rene Morley-SRS

Ephesus, Turkey, is considered one of the most important ancient archaeological sites in the world.*  Its history dates back 8,000 years and encompasses several locations, many earthquakes and phases of rebuilding. In its heyday of 200,000 or more inhabitants, it was the fourth largest population center in the region. It’s the same city Paul visited, lived in, and referred to throughout his New Testament writings. I knew all of that, but I was still completely unprepared for its expanse or the excitement those old stones would impart!

In ancient times, the city was a significant port. Most travelers entered from the sea-side. The landscape has shifted, the shoreline is now several miles distant, and tourists enter the site from the east. This makes for an easy walk downhill most of the way. Even so, I was glad we’d arrived early in the day as a fierce August sun made her steady ascent.

Near the entrance is a curbstone carved with one of the earliest Christian symbols. In ancient Greek script, all five letters fit within and form a circle. We know it as the sign of the fish: Jesus Christ, Savior, Son of God. A pile of hollow clay fixtures was stacked nearby. These fragments once served as plumbing or heating pipes throughout the city.

Ancient Romans were famed for moving water around, to, and through their cities but that was just part of their engineering skill set. Not far from the entrance were the distinct Roman arches of the baths. There were separate temperature zones for the bather’s comfort and health: a frigidarium (cold), a tepidarium (warm), a calidarium (hot), a sudatorium (sweating), along with a dressing area, a bathing pool, and public restrooms. The stone floors were heated by hypocaust, circulating hot air underneath. It’s no wonder the baths were also a place of business! But in fact, we saw ample signs of creature comforts among the ancients as the tour progressed.

Many stones along the street were carved with names and symbols to signal the purpose of the local practitioner. Bulent interpreted, linking the Greek root with a recognizable modern day word. For a moment it seemed we were on the set of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Everything traces back to Greek something!

Impressive as it is, you have to use your imagination on site at Ephesus; there are a lot of missing pieces. Among the most stunning ruins was the famed Celsus library, a strikingly beautiful structure — even in current skeletal form. Excavations reveal a hidden passage from the library to the ‘love house’ for those merely feigning scholarly interests. Hmmm.

Ancient Ephesus was also Paul’s Ephesus. And that, to me, is where it really gets interesting! Read on, part 2 of Ancient Ephesus…

~René Morley

Exploring Turkey Series: Turkish DelightAngel EyesHouse of MarySt. John’s Basilica, Ancient Ephesus and the Terrace HousesPaul’s Ephesus, and Hereke Carpet.

*Our brief visit to Turkey was infinitely more interesting in the company of a private guide, Bulent, through Sea Song Tours. An archaeologist who worked in his early career at Ephesus, his insider’s perspective and expertise, along with deep pride in his beautiful country, made a world of difference in our experience.

paul’s ephesus

I’ve shared some photos and thoughts from an amazing day in Ancient Ephesus. It was profound — and mostly because I believe.  We who know the scripture, who have faith to believe, tend to lose sight of the remarkable cultural transformation that the apostles sparked in their journeys to places like Ephesus, Athens, and Rome. Spending a few days in their footsteps this summer, I was reminded of the influence of mythology on the ancients. It was a dizzying array of gods and goddesses eventually displaced by Christianity.

It was particularly obvious in Ephesus, walking from Kuretes to Marble Street. We passed remnants of fountains, temples, monuments, government buildings, and stoa with a steady stream of gods and goddesses. Pagan culture was so pervasive.

The Grand Theater, built into the slopes of Mount Pion was the end point of our exploration. This amphitheater held 25,000 people and remains mostly intact. Originally constructed for the arts, populist interest and thirst for blood eventually brought the gladiator games to town.

We paused there, in the shade on the steps of the entrance to the Grand Theater, and gazed out upon the huge agora. It once bustled with merchants and the business of every day life. Perhaps Paul’s impassioned pleas echoed here; perhaps he spoke from this very spot? Quite likely, it seems. It was surreal to consider our paths crossing, except for a couple thousand of years.

It was here that the prosperous silversmith, Demetrius, nearly started a riot in defense of the goddess, Artemis. (Acts 19 ) The entire city was in an uproar, many gathered in the amphitheater to hear Demetrius praise Artemis and rage against Paul. (Spoiler alert: Artemis goes down!)

Fortunately, Paul’s companions persuaded him not to enter the fray. No doubt they saved his life. Not far away, however, is a hilltop structure in which he was later imprisoned. I can hardly imagine the oppressive heat and deprivation he suffered there. But so it went for him, from town to city, flogging to stoning, shackles to prison.

Yet He was fearless in his determination to share the good news of a known God and his son, Jesus. He had been transformed so powerfully that he could not help it! It struck me then, midst this journey to early Christendom: Paul, with personal experience of the power of a resurrected Savior was in many ways more a threat to the establishment than Jesus himself had been.

When the one God of the Jews spread his arms wide in a warm welcome to Gentiles, a cosmic blast of energy roared forth, rippling across time and space. Artemis was one of many casualties. Christianity was and is an amazingly disruptive force!

~René Morley

Exploring Turkey Series: Turkish Delight, Angel EyesHouse of MarySt. John’s Basilica, Ancient Ephesus and the Terrace HousesPaul’s Ephesus, and Hereke Carpet.

*Our brief visit to Turkey was infinitely more interesting in the company of a private guide, Bulent, through Sea Song Tours. An archaeologist who worked in his early career at Ephesus, his insider’s perspective and expertise, along with deep pride in his beautiful country, made a world of difference in our experience.

terrace houses

 

The biggest surprise of ancient Ephesus were the terrace houses, a beehive of archaeological activity underway for thirty years.  In this series of closely connected homes of wealthy citizens built into the hillside, archaeologists have uncovered intricate mosaics and frescoes, indoor pools and fountains, central heat and indoor plumbing, and a surgical practice with waiting room. I was especially struck by the juxtaposition in that these homes seemed to have both private studies for scholarly work and slaves’ quarters. So enlightened, in some ways, yet in this the ancients were blinded. Two thousand years later, our nation’s founders had not progressed much.

The entire site is situated inside a superstructure to protect from the elements as excavation continues. Archaeologists work side by side, piecing together thousands of fragments of artifacts unearthed, as curious tourists peer over their shoulders. A lengthy glass walkway protects fragile mosaics; extensive metal scaffolding and stairwells climb three or four stories high to allow fantastic views of the site and work at hand.

Later we would view the most fragile artifacts at the Ephesus Museum — a treasure trove of discovery where ancient life is restaged. Architectural artifacts, statues, and finds from throughout the city are also placed here for safekeeping. Among Bulent’s personal finds on display were a blue patter he’d reassembled from many pieces, an intact gold idol, and a bronze pitcher containing wine sediment, aged two thousand years. Bulent laughed as he recalled the conversation with his colleague over testing those ancient spirits: a day in the life of an archaeologist!

~René Morley

Exploring Turkey Series: Turkish DelightHouse of MarySt. John’s Basilica, Ancient Ephesus and the Terrace HousesPaul’s Ephesus, and Hereke Carpet.

*Our brief visit to Turkey was infinitely more interesting in the company of a private guide, Bulent, through Sea Song Tours. An archaeologist who worked in his early career at Ephesus, his insider’s perspective and expertise, along with deep pride in his beautiful country, made a world of difference in our experience.