Ancient City in Anatolia – Ephesus1 November, 2010
There are lots of ancient cities (which are all lying in ruins now) in Turkey and the most famous one of them all is Ephesus which is featured in almost all travel agents’ itineraries for a Turkey trip. Based in the heart of Turkey of Western Anatolia, Ephesus was a 2000-year old Greek ancient city which boasts some of the best preserved ruins (thanks to contributions of visitors through the relatively expensive entrance fees at 20 TL). During the Roman period, it was the second largest Roman city (population of over 250,000 in 1st century BC), after Rome, the empire’s capital. Ephesus covers quite a big area with almost no shelter (everywhere is in ruins – so don’t expect to find a roof) so bring along an umbrella if you intend to explore these ruins.
One of the more interesting sites and surprisingly well-preserved areas are the Roman toilets. These are classic examples of Roman ingenuity in city plumbing. If you were there during Roman times and you are rich enough, you will first send your slave to warm up the seat by sitting on it (stone structures can be quite cold during winter). Once the seat is ‘prepped’, you then proceed to do what you have to do, with your output going straight to the drain underneath the seat. To wash up, scoop up the clean water flowing along the smaller “drain” in front of your seat. Unfortunately, this system no longer works in the present day so if you need to go to the toilet midway through your tour, you have to either hold it in til your tour ends or go to the toilets located at the entrance/exit which is quite far away. Don’t think you want to do it in front of all the camera-totting tourists either. 🙂
The Library of Celsus is the most prominent structure in Ephesus – its facade was reconstructed from all original pieces. It was built around 125 AD and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls. It was designed with an internal ventilation system which kept the library cool at all times. Besides being a library, it had also served as a tomb for a wealthy Roman citizen, Celsus who was a governor of Asia back then.
Interestingly, located just across the road from the Library of Celsus lies a brothel. There is nothing much left of the site except for ruins and the only reference to the brothel is an ancient advertisement, possibly one of the earliest form of commercial graffiti. On one of the marble paving stones leading to the brothel, there is a print of a heart (labelled as 1 in the picture below), a womans head (2), a left foot (3 – left foot meaning turn left) and cash (4). It can be loosely translated as ‘turn left at the cross roads where you can buy a woman’s love’. It is interesting to see how liberal the ancient Greek/Roman society was back then with such open advertisements and location opposite the library.
Ephesus also boasts a huge Roman amphitheater – while most of it lie in ruins except for the seats – it still maintains its excellent acoustic capability 2000 years since it was built. Theatre shows, plays were performed here and it was critical that everyone in the audience can hear the performers clearly especially at an era with no microphones and amplifiers – thus the Romans had designed the amphitheater such that sound is reflected from the right surface at the right angle for maximum acoustic pleasure. For a sample of how well the acoustic is in this amphitheater in the present day, check out the video below of a lady singing at the stage area – she just felt like testing her vocals and sang out loud – also note the structure of the amphitheater i.e. its seats and stage area: