On our next port stop on the Aegean Sea we took an excursion to the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey (as of 2022 the United Nations agreed to change the spelling to Turkiye as requested by the Turkish President)
The ancient city of Ephesus was one of the largest and most important cities in the ancient Mediterranean world. Once an ancient Greek port city, it is one of the oldest Greek settlements on the Aegean Sea. It was the second biggest city in the Roman Empire. Today it is one of the largest Roman archeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Temple of Artemis, built in 550 B.C., is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In the 4th century B.C. a fire destroyed the temple. Workers completely rebuilt the temple twice. It was twice the size of any other Greek temple and had 127 columns, sixty feet high and four feet in diameter. It took workers 120 years to finish the temple. Today only the foundations and one column remains of what was once this greatest temple in the ancient Mediterranean.
Other main sites in Ephesus include The Temple of Hadrian, The Temple of the Sebastoi and the Library of Celcius.
In 17 A.D. an earthquake destroyed Ephesus and when the city was built back once again, the library was built and housed over 12,000-15,000 scrolls.
Ephesus was abandoned because silt built up in the harbor and eventually no ships could reach the city. Without ships there was no trade and therefore no city.
Unfortunately the day we visited, a steady rain developed during part of our tour. The walkways are made of marble which are very slick when wet. So we had to creep along, trying to stay dry, take pictures, listen to the guide and not fall.
There were several stray dogs and cats wandering around. The dogs appeared friendlier than the cats.
Next we went to the House of the Virgin Mary, located not far from Ephesus, high on a mountaintop. Quite an adventure in the rain and the fog.
Ephesus is an important site in Christianity, mentioned multiple times in the New Testament. It is the site of the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Mary, mother of Jesus, spent the last years of her life in Ephesus with Saint John. At the time of his death, Jesus put Mary under the care of John (John 19: 26-27) On this mountaintop is the small house where Mary lived until her death in 48 A.D. (some believe it was 57 A.D.) . The setting is very quiet and peaceful. We were allowed to walk through the simple, modest house but no pictures were allowed.
A water fountain or well from a nearby spring under the house is said to have miraculous healing powers. Some people come here and fill small bottles of water to take with them. There is also a “wishing wall” where people write down their wishes and attach them to the wall.
Our guide said that each year on August 15th, the day of Mary’s death, pilgrims leave home early and walk six miles up the mountain to this site. They have a mass and meal and then make the long trek back home.
Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II visited here and held sermons.
Our guide pointed out a small fortress on a distant mountain where she said Saint Paul was kept prisoner. Paul made several journeys to the area to let others know about Jesus Christ and spread Christianity around the world. (Acts 19:1) He arrived in Ephesus in 52 A.D. and baptized twelve followers of John the Baptist.
Some objected to Paul’s Christian teachings while others who made a living selling statues of Artemis objected to his teachings which they believed took away their business. Paul was brought to the Great Theatre of Ephesus where he was judged and found guilty.
He was imprisoned high on that mountain. It is believed that Paul wrote the Books of Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon, known as the Prison Epistles, while imprisoned here.
On our way back to the ship we stopped by a weaving school and saw how heating silk “eggs” fibers are then pulled into a larger and stronger tread.
It was a fascinating day, in spite of the rain and fog.
Next up: A day in Istanbul