I spent two very pleasant nights in a little hostel/guest house outside of Selçuk living the backpacker life among American and Australian travellers who sat up late around a bonfire drinking local beer and comparing all the other places they’ve traveled. They were all really nice people and one group of them offered me a 6 hour lift in their rental car as I was leaving (I ended up going another way) but I have generally found it a little hard to relate to my fellow American travelers, especially those who are just out for a week or two doing the visit more as a vacation than a visit and eager to tell me about the great hot springs they found two stops ago. I guess I can regard the experience as yet another ethnographic study.
The main attraction of Selçuk, naturally is the archaeological site of Ephesus (or Efes, to the Turks) so that is where we were all making our way. I walked from the hostel taking a really beautiful back road path that the owner pointed out and spent the best part of a day wandering around the excavated site and appreciating the beauties if white marble against green hillsides. Ephesus has a very long history – it was once a very important port and has been occupied since the bronze age. It was a Greek city – Alexander the Great was welcomed there in triumph after his conquest of Persia – and then a Roman one – Antony lived there with Cleopatra for a while before they were defeated by Augustus at Actium in 31 BC . Constantine rebuilt it following a destructive visit by the Goths in the 3rd century AD and Justinian (of Hagia Sophia fame) repaired earth quake damage in the 6th. The silting up of its harbor (which is now 6km away) during the Byzantine era led to a decline and eventual abandonment with the locals carting off marble for their own construction purposes or to burn for lime and by the time the Seljuk Turks arrived to conquer it in 1090 it was an unimportant village and it was abandoned completely by the 15th century.
For modern purposes this was all to the good. Contemporary residences and construction would mask or prevent archaeological excavation and might have lost much of the historical value of the site. Excavation begun in the late 1800s and continuing today has unearthed an amazing amount of (mostly Roman era) buildings. Most impressive of all is not the beautiful Library of Celsus facade but the Roman Terrace housing which is protected under a large roof structure and has some amazingly restored/preserved dwelling places complete with sub-floor heating structures in private houses, frescoed walls and mosaic floors on three levels. I spent hours wandering around it and then sitting and sketching – I managed to create a pencil sketch I didn’t hate. Its really been one of the highlights of the trip – far more impressive than any of the Roman sites I visited in Italy.
After I dragged myself out of the cool protection of the terrace housing I put up my umbrella against the blazing sun and walked out into early afternoon to find the site nearly empty of tourists – all gone away on their buses to get lunch in town or on to the next site – so I wandered around for another few hours and then rode to town on a local minibus rather than walk the 4KM as I was out of water. All in all, a splendid day of tourism.
The walk from my hostel involved a winding farm track which was really quite lovely
Anyone know what kind of flower these are?
I couldn’t help but wonder if this bridge was roman but it could also simply have been anything over a hundred years old. That’s more likely.
The picturesque approach to the archaeological site.
When I got closer there were more tour buses but I did enjoy the fact that most of them were trapped beyond a barrier of recalcitrant sheep
Of course the first thing I encountered there was a cat. Cats and Turkey go together like peanut butter and ladies.
The details on classical columns continue to take my breath … and put their NEO-classical successors to shame.
The city was originally founded by Greeks but you can see the later roman influence everywhere in the exposed brick structure. The Greeks did not build with brick this way.
The former odeon – it would have been covered with a wooden roof originally.
I thought that Ephesus in general was displayed a little hap-hazardly but there were a fw very nice arrangements of fragments.
And of course there were hoards of tour groups. In a way they help imagine this as a main thoroughfare teeming with busy Roman citizens but in another way they just got in all my shots.
More tourists giving scale to the facade of the great library.
The temple of Hadrian. He really did get around didn’t he?
This mysterious structure looked like some sort of construction work area from the outside but was actually the BEST thing about the whole day.
Inside it (and past a barrier costing another 15 Lira) were the Roman terrace houses – six dwelling units built into a hillside at three levels and sporting some amazingly preserved and/or reconstructed frescos and mosaics.
At the lowest level they have a bunch of work tables with fragments laid out as if in progress. I’m not sure if they’re still piecing or if its a demonstration but the work they’ve done is impressive.
Some reconstructed marble from the marble hall.
Here you can see the marble, the work tables and some of the plaster fresco bits above.
I was charmed by the many contrasting materials, stone, plaster, brick and tile from the Roman period and wood, metal and glass from the modern interventinos.
I couldn’t tell if these frescos had been repainted – if not they are AMAZINGLY well preserved.
The workers access structure isn’t as shiny as the tourist pathway.
The mosaic tile floors were marvelous.
So many patterns, so much detail.
This belongs with the floor collection – these strange little stacks represent the supports for a raised floor that would have had heated air pumped through to warm the space above – a private bath chamber. I overheard a couple of people wondering if the paired bathrooms marked on the plan were “his and hers,” Actually they were hot and cold – the Romans like temperature contrasts in their bath chambers.
The ingenious structure which protects the interior spaces but still lets plenty of air flow through. Outside it was as scorching hot day in the sun and inside it was so cool and pleasant I stayed for three hours.
The museum hasn’t scrupled to use bits of roman building as stair treads.
Miraculously, when I came out of the Terraced houses it was lunch time, or high noon or something and all the tours had moved on.
The interior would have been a large reading room, rimmed by an elevated walk way with many doors leading back to
The arched entry from the forecort into the forum.
Modern graffiti – people WILL do it
The main forum. At its height in the Roman period Ephesus had a population of 250,000 people, more than my home town of Madison, WI and was a major seaport so this would have been quite the gathering place.
The massive theater – mostly used for drama but not immune to the occasional violent spectacle.
On the way out at the other entrance I had to run the gauntlet of eager sellers of tourist oriented junk. This one did catch my eye though.
I caught a local mini-bus (Dolmus) into town and spent the end of the afternoon wandering pretty little Selçuk.
There are some roman remains here – most notably the viaduct.
Now its home to storks.