If you’re Turkey-bound, why should Ephesus be high on your agenda? From my various visits to Turkey, the ancient site stands out as a top-tier highlight. Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Med. Slowly but surely, the city is being unearthed and restored. Two thousand years ago it was one of the most powerful cities in the Eastern Roman empire. All manner of ancient VIPs swanned through Ephesus, from Cleopatra to Saint Paul.
Just how big was Ancient Ephesus? When Augustus became emperor, he made Ephesus the capital of Western Asia Minor. After Rome, it was his next biggest and most important city. Academics reckon the population peaked around two hundred thousand. And over the past sixty years, the Austrians have led the restoration effort, slowly but surely unearthing and rebuilding the classic city. It’s like a broken Christmas present being unwrapped and repaired, on slow-mo. About 20 per cent of the city has been unearthed and restored so far.
Guide us through the prize draws. Marble Street and the brothels? Main Street Ephesus is called Marble Street. A long sweeping street, paved in the finest quality marble, that snakes its way through the city’s heart. You can see the Romans’ revolutionary roadside sewer system One of the first buildings to be unearthed were the ancient brothels and baths. Ephesus was a stickler for health and safety. You had to bathe first, before you could get your rocks off in the brothel. And Ephesus has also coughed up the oldest known advertising hoarding in the world, which was a billboard for the brothel.
Speaking of advertising, Nike is in town right? Indeed. One of the most famous finds at Ephesus is of Nike, the goddess of victory. The site is scattered with thousands of slabs and chunks of stone, like a ridiculously large jigsaw puzzle. You’ll often American tourists at Ephesus say, oh my God – not more rocks. But yes, the relief of Nike was a big discovery. It’s the oldest known marble depiction of the Roman goddess.
The Library of Celsus. That’s the poster child of Ephesus, right? Very much so. This multi-storied marble marvel, is 19 hundred years old. Celsus was the regional governor, and it houses his perfectly preserved mausoleum. The ornate pillared facade collapsed in a major quake 1000 years ago, but the building was was one of the first restoration projects to be completed about eighty years ago.
What about the Great Theatre? A monumental masterpiece from the Roman Empire. Nero commissioned its construction which took decades to complete. The arena seats 25,000. The acoustics are sublime. One of the most famous orators who spoke here was St. Paul , who tried to convert the Ephesians to Christianity. As his preaching started to reap results, the increasingly twitchy Roman rulers chucked him in prison.
Tell us about the Virgin Mary House. Adjacent to Ephesus, it was only discovered in 1892 after a German nun received a “message” on where Mary’s house was located. Carbon-dated as being 2000 years old, the stone house was converted into a chapel and shrine. The Vatican believes this is where Mary spent her last days, after being escorted by Saint John to Ephesus from Jerusalem.
Where is Ephesus in relation to Istanbul? Is it easy to get to? It’s about seven hours south of Istanbul on the Anatolian Coast. The tourist port city of Kusadasi is very close by, so if you’re doing a cruise on the Med, that’s the easiest way to get to Ephesus. Or, if you’re doing a tour of Turkey, its four hours south of Gallipoli.
Just finally – I understand there’s been an announcement about the Gallipoli Centenary.Yes, the government has just announced the registration details for the 2015 ballot. Registration opens on Friday, (15 November) for the two thousand tickets, allocated to Kiwis. You can register until the end of January. The website is www.gallipoli2015.govt.nz
Mike Yardley has been recruited as an international group tour leader for the Centenary at Gallipoli, by Innovative Travel. For further details, jump to http://www.innovativetravel.co.nz/mediterranean/turkey/gallipoli_2015_information
Mike Yardley’s travel notes from Newstalk ZB’s Jack Tame Show.
For more travel tips, advice and inspiration, check out the website of New Zealand’s premier travel magazine, For the Love of Travel. www.fortheloveoftravel.net.nz