We arrived about 7:00 AM in Kusadasi, Turkey, a coastal city of about 100,000 people located on the country’s western coast. The first human settlement at Ephesus occurred during the Neolithic period, c. 6000 B.C.. The area is famous for its art, culture, history and especially its magnificent ruins. We were fortunate as we arrived at the very beginning of the tourist season, our guide told us we were the first cruise ship this year. The weather was cool, but comfortable in the high 60’s. That is much better that the 110-114 which may be reached during the summer.
Beautiful overcast morning as we sailed into port.
Our tour today took us to three major sights, the house where Jesus’s mother Mary is thought to have lived the last years of her life, the fabulous ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus and finally to the Basilica of St. John.
A view of a peach orchard along the way to the Mary’s house. The many valleys of the area are fertile and a number of different crops are cultivated.
It’s hard to believe that this scene is only about 30 minutes from the coast.
The persecution of the Christians by the Romans and the conservative Jews increased during the reign of Roman Emperor Caligula (37-41 A.D.). It reached the point where the Apostles could no longer remain in Jerusalem and they decided to scatter to various lands in order to save their lives and spread their beliefs. Roman Asia Minor was given to St. John. The Apostle John, took with him the Virgin Mary who had been entrusted to his care by Jesus. They arrived near Ephesus between 37 and 42 A.D. A number of historical documents attest to the fact that they were here during this period. The “discovery” of the ruins of this house has a long and interesting history which I will not go into on the blog but those interested might Google “Gregory of Tours” and “Katerin Kmmerik” go find starting points of research.
Mary’s house as reconstructed for the foundation which dates to the 1st century.
Supplications and prayers to Mother Mary.
After leaving the mountain with Mary’s house we traveled into the valley between two mountains to begin our exploration of the ancient city of Ephesus. The history of Ephesus can (and does) compromise volumes of books, but I will attempt a very brief outline of its history. Many of you I am sure will want to skip this section and for those of you who do read it, please keep in mind that many details and great gaps of history have been omitted, but if it sparks your interest I invite you to obtain one of the many books of the history of Ephesus.
As stated previously, the earliest human occupation has been dated to about 6000 B.C. Artifacts indicate that a Mycenaean settlement was in the area during the Bronze Age and the Hittite Period. At this time the city was called Apasas. Around 1200 B.C. with the wave of migrations from Central Europe there were Dorians, Aeolians and Ionians passing through the area. It is supposed that Andorklos established the Ioanian city of Ephesus and his rule was successively followed by rule of oligarchy and tyranny and then democracy. The first information about Ephesus dates from the 7th century B.C. that the city was a member of the Panionion, the Ionian League. There were a number of wars and rulers until the city was conquered in 34 B.C. by Alexander the Great and a period of prosperity for about 50 years began. Later when the Romans defeated the Syrian King Antiochus in 189 B.C., in his last testament, Ephesus was left to Rome. Again there were several rebellions but in the Augustan Period, Ephesus became one of the most important cities of Roman Asia. When the aqueduct was built between 4 and 14 A.D, it made the city the largest and most important city of the Roman Empire in Anatolia. In the meantime, Christianity was rapidly spreading in the city. In 57 A.D., the Roman population who opposed what St. Paul taught rioted against this new religion in the theater of Ephesus. (where we heard the concert tonight!). In 262 A.D. the Goths sacked both Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis and after this disaster the city was unable to return to its former prosperity and glory. However Emperor Constantine I, built a bathhouse and Emperor Arcadius constructed a street extending from the grand theater to the harbor. In 431 A.D. the Third Ecumenical Council gathered at the Church of Mary in Ephesus where the definition of the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God was accepted. By the beginning of the Middle Ages the port of Ephesus had silted up, with the deposits made by the River Cayster and consequently Ephesus was no longer a seaport and center of trade, thus reducing its importance When Ephesus was conquered by the Seljuks in 1090, it was only a small town and after the short lived golden days of the Aydinogullari Emirate in the 14th century, Ephesus was abandoned.
The upper bath house on the northern entrance into the city. These baths were ruined many times due to seismic activity but were repeatedly repaired.
The city had an extensive water system as can be seen by some of the original pipes.
A part of the “Royal Walk” which was covered, as were many of the streets for protection from the fierce summer sun.
A long range view of the Library of Celsius.
The monument of Memmius. Constructed in the third quarter of the 1st century B.C. In 1960 an inscription was found which recorded the name Memmius in both Greek and Latin. It was erected in honor of C. Memmius, the nephew of the Roman dictator Sulla, by Gaius Memmius, one of the prominent residents of the city. The virtues of the Mimmius family are depicted in a personalized manner.
An early symbol of pharmacy.
The goddess Nike.
Only about 20% of the city has been recovered during excavations over the past 150 years.
Another view of the Library.
We visited the latest excavations to open, the Terrace Houses. This is the first of the excavations of the hillside where most of the prominent families lived. The area is enclosed by a roofed pavilion to protect the delicate mosaics from exposure.
There were dozens of tables where fragments were laid out in an attempt to assemble this huge jigsaw puzzle.
The largest house so far uncovered is about 3500 square feet in size.
Our guide Oktay Elsever. Oktay was one of the best guides we have had on this cruise.
Some of the beautiful mosaics on the floor which date back 2000 years.
This one was at the home entrance and was probably 15 feet long.
Some of the clay pipes used for the water system.
Kay in front of the Library.
I know there are a lot of photos of the library, but it was truly incredible. Known as the 3rd largest library in the Ancient World.
The public latrines.
In the private homes, the masters would have their salve sit on the cold marble to warm it for them!
The Grand Theater which seats over 25,000 persons. The exact date of construction is unknown, but from a small fountain located in the theater dates from around 100 B.C. A decorated stage was added between 87 and 92 A.D. There are three sections with different slopes to accommodate the most people and afford good sound. There are inscriptions on the different levels which indicated where specific groups were to sit.
As we left the site, there were many vendors. Even those who sold “Genuine Fake” watches.
Basilica of Saint John
There were a lot of storks in the area. The city provides nesting supports atop the power poles.
We stopped by the mandatory Turkish rug sales room. Seeing how the rugs are handmade in what is basically a cottage industry was fascinating. Some of the silk rugs were beautiful but expensive!
We make it back home around 3:00 PM and have to be ready to travel back to Ephesus at 6:00 PM for our corporate sponsored party and concert in the Great Theater.
In just a few hours the site had been transformed into a beautiful party venue. This is only a fraction of the hundred tables set up along the old Harbor Road.
Sunset on the theater was beautiful.
To see the ruins at night was truly special.
We learned that we were the first group to actually use the Great Theater for a concert in the past 10 years. Previously it was a venue for many famous performers including Sir Elton John and even Sting. The authorities became concerned about possible damage caused by the amplified music.
It was cool, but beautiful…
We had a performance of a traditional dance group.
Then a few words from Holland America Lines, CEO Stein Kruse and President Orlando Ashford.
This was followed by a concert performed by the Aegean Chamber Orchestra.
I must say that I truly enjoyed my day in Turkey. The western coast is beautiful, the people are warm, friendly and welcoming. The visit to Ephesus was incredible and to be able to finish it off with a concert in the ancient Grand Theater where so many famous people have orated over 2000 years ago was really something special.
We rest tomorrow on Day 94 as we sail to Piraeus, Greece, the port city of Athens. Here we will be debarking for a three day overland journey and rejoining the Amsterdam in Katakolon, Greece on Sunday the 12th. I am not sure when my next post will be.