"" Writer's Wanderings: Kusadasi, Turkey--A Visit To Ephesus

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Kusadasi, Turkey--A Visit To Ephesus

Roman Bath 

 It is always a gamble to revisit a place that you've been before especially if the visit was outstanding. It could be a disappointment. Back in 2012 we made a port stop in Kusadasi and opted to take the excursion to Ephesus. It was an amazing experience. We had a Muslim guide who took us through the scriptures that applied to Paul's visit there and told us what life would have been like in those days.

Today we revisited the ancient city with a Greek Orthodox guide who seemed more impressed with the fact that we were going to be some of the last tourists to walk on the marble roads than he was with anything else. It was a bit disheartening not to have a similar commentary as our first visit but still amazing to see the ruins again and the continuing work of restoration. 

While the marble roadway may be difficult at times to navigate, it's smooth and slippery on inclines and broken pieces can cause a problem, it will soon be covered with a boardwalk of sorts that was already a bit treacherous as well on the portion we walked. The planks are a bit warped and boards stick up. On either surface, you have to keep an eye on where you're walking and stop if you want to look at something rather than look while you walk.

So, okay, I was impressed with the fact that we were still walking on marble slabs that were thousands of years old. Each marble piece was labeled with initials that identified the craftsmen who had quarried the marble so that if a piece needed to be replaced, it could come from the same quarry and have the same color. 


We passed some ruins, archways, of a Roman bath and a pile of ceramic pipes that had been used to channel water throughout the city. One was still visible in the wall of a structure, maybe part of the bath.

An interesting fact that I remembered from our previous visit and was reminded of by this guide was that ancient Ephesus actually sat at the water's edge. Over the years however, silt was deposited from the river that fed into the sea and eventually the harbor that ships came into was too shallow for them. 

Our guide today said that the bay became a swamp and the city of Ephesus fell victim to malaria. In those days, they thought it was just bad air but eventually they moved the city to where the modern city of Ephesus, Selcuk, now stands. The old bay that is now filled in is useless for farming probably because of the high salt content in the soil.

Bay of Ephesus now filled in

There were several places our guide stopped to point things out. One was the temple of Hadrian with the image of Medusa above the entrance.

Another stop was in front of the stone relief that shows the winged Nike, the goddess of victory. He made several references to Nike shoes to induce a few chuckles.

There is a place as you descend the street to the iconic library of Ephesus where the street narrows. Not only did it stop horses and chariots from going down the hill at breakneck speed, it also created quite a crowded passageway for the pedestrians of today to navigate. Back in Roman times, our guide said, the area in front of the library was pedestrian, no chariots and horses.


The library of Ephesus was built between 114 and 117 BC by Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaemanus and held 12,000 scrolls. It was quite impressive in its day and today it is impressive for the monumental job archeologists did in restoring it. It is said that the senator was buried beneath the library so it is also a mausoleum of sorts.

Across from the library are the remains of what was a nightclub or brothel or both. A tunnel was discovered leading from the library to the nightclub and there is a marking on one of the marble slabs nearby that is a footprint, a heart and a woman, They think it advertised the tunnel.


By the way, there is still a lot of restoration and digging going on in Ephesus. We witnessed a group of men shoveling and dusting an area that was being uncovered and on our way out, our guide said the parking lot where all the buses were would soon be closed for excavation as they uncovered more of the ancient city.

There are two theaters in Ephesus. We passed the smaller one near the entrance but the large one that is mentioned in Acts where Paul addressed the crowd is near the exit. It is huge but the acoustics are so good that some of the modern day singers who have held concerts there have not used their amplifiers. Probably a good idea especially if they were rock bands. We were warned about climbing up the rows of seats as some of the stones were coming loose. Can't imagine what vibrations from an amplified bass would do to it.


It was nice to revisit the ancient city but I missed the commentary of our first guide who connected it to Paul and John and even Mary, who is said to have lived out her last days on a hillside not far away. I remember him drawing in the dust the symbol that the Christians used to identify safe places. It was the Greek letters of Jesus' name placed on top of each other and it formed a wheel of sorts. Those were some of the things I missed today as we listened to this guide.

The thing that had not changed though was the eagerness of the vendors who now have a nice covered area with stalls for their merchandise. In 2012 there were just makeshift displays of merchandise and a dirt pathway under some trees where tourists passed through to get to their buses. There is even a restaurant there now for snacks and sandwiches. 

And as we walked past the vendors, I tugged on Bob's arm. "Look it's still there." 

Hanging on the front of one of the vendors stalls was the sign that had made us laugh the last time. Only back then it hung from a tree branch. It is truth in advertising. "Genuine Fake Watches." 

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