Posts Tagged ‘ancient’

Ephesus, an ancient Roman city near Kusadasi, and just outside Selcuk, was quite an experience. Because of its size and level of preservation, the city is a main tourist attraction in the area, with many cruise ship passengers taking a day trip to the site from the port at Kusadasi. Despite the hordes, it was enjoyable and impressive to see. There are two entrances to Ephesus, and for the most part the sights are laid out in a linear fashion, so the entrances are more or less at either end of the city. It’s built on a hill, so if you park at the top entrance, you can walk downhill through the city and then take a taxi back up to your car. I suppose you could walk back up the hill to your car, but it was hot and the taxi seemed like a better plan. Inside the city, you can also visit a covered section of terrace houses that are well-preserved and under continuing excavation. You have to pay an extra entrance fee to see this part of the city, but it’s worth the price because there are many interesting murals and floor mosaics. There is an extremely large theatre at the lower end of the city, but it is impressive mostly for its size. There is a lot of unsightly concrete and metal fences around this part of the site, making it not so photogenic—the much smaller, but ornate and tourist-free theatre at Priene was much better. Probably the most impressive single section of Ephesus is the library; the façade is more or less intact and it is really amazing to see. It does help to enter the site at the top because then you see the library near the end, so you build up to the best part of the city rather than starting out strong and getting less interesting as you go!

The hordes of tourists

Inside the Terrace Houses

One of the intricate floor mosaics in the Terrace Houses

In addition to Ephesus, the Selçuk area also is the site of the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, there isn’t much left of the temple at all. One lone column stands in the middle of a marshy area, where you can see traces of stone foundation and some fallen bits of column—that’s it. As with the parts of ancient aqueduct which are strewn throughout Selçuk, the last column is topped by a stork nest. It’s both interesting and sad to see how the ancient architecture has just been incorporated into the fabric of the town—it is surprising to turn a corner and come across a bit of aqueduct, but they also seem to be completely unprotected and as such may not be around for long.

The library at Ephesus is shown here. Unfortunately, most of my photos turned out overexposed (the sun was blinding and my camera settings were off), but this is what we salvaged with a little editing.

Part of an aqueduct in Selcuk

The lone standing column at the Temple of Artemis


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I was quite excited about our first visit to an ancient Greek ruin, and Priene really met all our expectations. First, it’s not packed with tourists like Ephesus, so you are able to experience and contemplate the antiquity around you without feeling like you are at Disneyland. This might seem trivial, but it really makes a difference in how you experience an historic site. Also, it doesn’t hurt that you are able to take photos without any other tourists in the background! I think part of why this changes the experience is that you feel like you are discovering something—even though you paid an admission charge and you know it has all been discovered and catalogued—because you are experiencing it more or less by yourself.

Inside the Byzantine Church

The second reason why Priene was amazing is because it is set on a rocky hillside overlooking a plain, so the feeling of being high up and able to see very far adds to its allure. What is interesting is the huge valley which Priene overlooks used to be covered by the sea, and Priene itself used to be a port city in its heyday. This explains a lot of questions a visitor might have about why people would build a city on such a steep and rocky mountainside! It’s funny to walk around and think that this city once sat just above sea level, when now it seems so high up.

Broken columns at the Sanctuary of Athena

Exploring the "backstage" area of the theatre

Front row seat at the theatre

The city has been well excavated, with the most impressive parts of the ruins (in my opinion) being the Temple of Athena, a Byzantine Church (much newer than a lot of it, but you can’t really tell by looking) and the theatre. Most of what you see in the city is from the 4th century BCE, so that is really, really old! In the Temple of Athena, five of the columns have been reconstructed and stand upright, while the rest are scattered around in disks, like the pieces of a child’s construction playset. A really, really big child, I suppose. This is the most breathtaking part of this ancient city, because as you walk amongst the temple ruins you have the best view of the surrounding valley below you, and of the mountain that rises above you. The theatre is very well-preserved, and even features special seats in the front row where the most important people must have set. In all, Priene was a really interesting place to explore, and though smaller and less magnificent than Ephesus, we found it more enjoyable because of its atmosphere.

The columns at the Temple of Athena

Looking out over the plain that used to be the sea

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