When I read the Gospel of Paul, Letters to the Ephesians, I had never thought about Ephesus as being an actual city populated with people living within the confines of the Roman Empire. We visited Ephesus yesterday on the southwest coast of Turkey, or at least the excavated city of the fourth Ephesus, the same one that Paul preached in. In fact I stood at the base of the amphitheater that Paul presumably addressed the residents of Ephesus as he delivered one his sermons that got him in so much trouble with the Roman officials. The apostle John also spent considerable time in Ephesus, using it as a site for writing his Gospel and also, according to local tradition, bringing with him, Mary Mother of Jesus to live. In fact there is a stone house high on a hill above Ephesus that is known as the Home of Virgin Mary that is presumed to be the last home of Mary based on somewhat tenuous historical information and also visions of an 19th century German nun that effectively described the setting of a stone house that was revealed to be Mary’s. Of course scholars continually debate all of these claims but it made for some very interesting visits to the Home of Virgin Mary and Tomb of St. John. One must be realistic in visiting these ruins considering that up to about one hundred years ago before archeologists started to excavate these sites, there was nothing more than a few piles of rocks and several feet of dirt covering most of the ruins. Putting all of this rubbles and fragments of collapsed structures must be similar to constructing a jigsaw puzzle. Another interesting site visited was the Temple of Artemis, Greek goddess of fertility. This temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but unfortunately today is reduced to a single pillar and various piles of rubble. It seems that marauding invaders and zealous Christians didn’t take kindly to page worship and Artemis’ Temple suffered from this wrath. These ancients though were good at recycling and repurposing as many pillars, stones, and archways from Artemis temple can be found in several other later buildings including the Church of St. John and even a 400 year old mosque in Selcuk.
This is purported to be the House of the Virgin Mary on a high hill overlooking the ancient city of Ephesus. Obviously there were no legal title stating that Mary Mother of Jesus resided here, but circumstantial evidence of the disciple John preaching near here, John being given the task of carrying for Mary (as per the Gospel), and the vision of an invalid German nun showing Mary living here was enough to convince many people that truly this is where Mary lived until her death in the first century A.D. Regardless of the arguments for or against this claim, it was a very peaceful site, with a lovely ancient building, and an adjacent Greek Orthodox chapel that was preparing for a Sunday morning mass.
Annabelle is pondering her next move in this impressive amphitheater at Ephesus. This is the very same venue that Disciple Paul addressed the Ephesians in his sermons followed by his Letters to the Ephesians in hopes of Christian converts. If you stood down on the stage area and spoke in a soft voice, it easily carried to the upper benches. In modern times this was used as a music concert venue until the sound equipment started to deliver too many decibels, such that the vibrations were damaging the masonry.
This stone placed in the street leading into Ephesus was the original ancient billboard advertising some of the local service industry. The foot engraving shows the general direction, the image of a Roman woman in headdress on the right indicates the merchandise, and the heart in the upper left indicates you can find true love at this facility. Apparently, there was a tunnel that connected the Library of Celsus to the local brothel so the men could dutifully go to the library to conduct their studies but in truth were planning a visit to their local lady friends through the tunnel.
Well this is it, the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. At one time this temple covered acres of area and was coveted as the major temple in the Asia Minor area. These two columns are reconstructed from fragments that were excavated here. Many of the other temple components were salvaged after destruction by the Christian church officials to build other public buildings, like the Basilica of St. John and a Turkish mosque up the hill. Annabelle was a little disappointed at this site as Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt, was one of her favorites and expectations were high. The marvel of this area is witnessing the evolution of culture and changing of power from one civilization to another - Bronze Age Mycean to Classical Greek to Roman Empire to Byzantine Empire to Ottoman Turk Empire to present day Turkish democracy.
This is the view from inside the Basilica of St. John in Selcuk, Turkey looking to through the front portico. Due to earthquakes and later scavenging of the building materials for a Turkish fort and mosque, there were no intact buildings left. But apparently this was one of the major churches of Christendom in Asia Minor after the Roman Empire converted from Zeus-based god/goddess worship to Christianity in the 4th century A.D.