Ephesus - the Rome of the East

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May 9th 2014
Published: May 22nd 2014
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Up early and of course Em wanted a sleep in… never when we want it! Anyway we had a quick breakfast and went straight to our tour bus. The ride to Ephesus was short and pretty soon we were trying to listen to our guide telling us the history while chasing Em around the ruins. Ephesus was the second largest city of the Roman Empire and the capital of Asia Minor housing around 250,000 people. Built on an ancient river 8km from the sea, the port eventually silted up and trade dwindled spelling the end of the city’s importance. Some time later, a large earthquake shook the region and landslides from the surrounding hills buried what was left of the city for centuries. It was finally excavated in the 19th century and several of the structures have been partly restored including the façade of the library, which is the image most associated with Ephesus today.

We wandered down through the ruins and the access is marvellous, being able to climb the steps of the theatres and walk through many of the ruins. One of the highlights was the public toilets (I know it sounds weird). 1500 years before Paris thought of putting in sewers to keep the filth off the streets, these guys had fully functioning sewers using recycled bath water from the public bathhouses. These were basically a square building with a bench all the way around the wall, facing inwards. This bench had holes for the business but there was much more going on here. In the centre of the square would be a water feature and a small stage where musicians would be performing. People would come to discuss politics and business with their friends and colleagues from all across the city. A funny anecdote was that the rich did not like to sit on the cold marble benches so those that could afford it would pay slaves to warm the seat for them!

The main attraction is of course the library façade, with its huge columns and ornate carved marble capitals and lintels. The early start paid off as we were the first tour group through. We even managed to get a couple of photos with no one else in them – a real rarity here. We visited the main theatre with a seating capacity of around 25,000 people located at the head of the wide boulevard from the harbour. It is said that Alexander and Cleopatra spent a summer here and you can easily imagine them in royal procession coming up the marble paved roads in their chariots with the crowd cheering and the Legionnaires lining the roadway. Much of the site, like other similar sites, is still under metres of dirt. It’s a pity that the harbour area was not excavated as that would have been the centre of trade and where all the action was. You can actually still see the harbour area as it is a big deep green grassy patch amid more hardy grasses surrounding it.

Tour over, we bussed it back to the port for the obligatory quick demonstration of Turkish rug making. It is actually quite amazing to think that these rugs can take up to 7 years to complete. Some were a bit out there but many were really beautiful. Wool, cotton or silk, years of labour cost a fortune! One of the beautiful royal blue silk rugs was about 1m by 2m and the price - $50,000US. But if we buy it today just $22,000US. What a bargain!

No we didn’t get it!

Em was getting a bit tired so we went back to the boat for lunch. Since we were still in port for the afternoon, Mel went shopping while Em and I stayed aboard to go swimming. Two hours later, Mel was back all shopped out and we were still in the pool. Em was exhausted so we had dinner and even squeezed in a movie after she went to sleep.

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