Day of Rugs and Ruins
Turkey was the third stop on our trip.
My first impression of Turkey was surprise at the vast
expanse of greenery. This was a very pretty area.
The port of Kusadasi was located at the edge of a
lush green valley. I had always thought Turkey was
arid and rocky like Southern California.
Little did I know that I was being tricked. If
you look at the picture of Turkey on the right, you quickly
realize the country is indeed arid and extremely mountainous.
NOAH'S ARK AND
THE GREAT FLOOD THEORY
As you all remember from your Bible History, Noah's Ark came
to rest on Mount Ararat in Turkey. If you are in the
mood for amusement, here is an interesting story about the
Black Sea (see picture above).
Back in the mid-Nineties, a fascinating theory was
postulated that might explain the legend of the Great Flood.
The Black Sea
the name of a hypothesized prehistoric flood that occurred
when the Black Sea filled rapidly circa 5600 BC.
The Genesis narrative tells how God, grieved by the
corruption of the Earth, decided to destroy all life with a
flood. However, Noah, a righteous man who "found grace in
the eyes of God", was instructed to prepare for this flood
by building an ark and to retreat to it with his family and
with male and female representatives of various animals. As
the flood waters rose, those sheltered inside the Ark
survived as the rest of humanity and animal life perished.
One of the interesting aspects of the
Noah's Ark story is that all the major religions have
references to a great flood. This myth has been
subject to extensive elaborations in Judaism, Christianity
and Islam. In addition, from ancient Mesopotamia, the
cradle of civilization, comes the Babylonian Epic of
Gilgamesh and the Gilgamesh flood myth. Scholars have
long noted striking similarities between the Gilgamesh and
Genesis flood accounts. They suspect the Israelites
derived their version from the Gilgamesh epic or
independently from a common tradition that might have
stemmed from a real catastrophe long ago.
Unfortunately, back in the 1800s Science reared its ugly
head and debunked much of the Noah's Ark myth. Don't you hate
those Scientists for ruining all our fun? Sure enough, by
the 19th century, the discoveries of geologists,
archaeologists and even some biblical scholars (traitors!) led most
scientists and many Christians to abandon a literal
interpretation of the Ark story.
However, not everyone was discouraged. To this day,
Biblical literalists continue to explore the region of the
mountains of Mount Ararat, in northeastern
Turkey, where the Bible says Noah's Ark came to rest.
It turns out that not all scientists are poopheads.
What science taketh away, sometimes it gives back. In
December 1996, the New York Times made huge headlines when
it published a hypothesis known as "The Black Sea Deluge".
Geologists Link Black Sea Deluge To Farming's Rise
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Published in NY Times: Tuesday, December 17, 1996
the splendid palaces and minarets of Istanbul lined its
shore, the Bosporus Strait was little more than a narrow
spillway where fresh water from the ancient Black Sea
flowed out to the Aegean Sea and on to the
Mediterranean. Then rising sea levels worldwide brought
about a cataclysmic reversal. Suddenly, sea water
cascaded through the Bosporus with a force 400 times
mightier than that of Niagara Falls, the terrifying
sound of the roar carrying for at least 60 miles.
In perhaps less than a year, the Black Sea turned
brackish and rose several hundred feet, inundating
former shores and river valleys deep into the interior.
The relentless waters encroached on the land at a rate
of half a mile to a mile a day. More than 60,000 square
miles of land were soon submerged, a 30 percent
expansion in the Black Sea's size, which essentially
gave the body of water its modern configuration.
So what about that? Did a great flood once surge into
the Black Sea, forming the basis of the Biblical tale?
It sounds like a question more suited to the history of
religion than science. Yet this theory is now the driving
force behind a whole field of geological research.
Columbia University geologists William Ryan and Walter
Pitman wondered what could explain the preponderance of
flood legends. Their theory: As the Ice Age ended and
glaciers melted, a wall of seawater surged from the
Mediterranean into the Black Sea.
During the Ice Age, Ryan and Pitman argued that the Black
Sea was an isolated freshwater lake surrounded by farmland.
Then about 12,000 years ago, toward the end of the Ice Age,
Earth began growing warmer. Vast sheets of ice that sprawled
over the Northern Hemisphere began to melt. Oceans and seas
grew deeper as a result.
As the Earth thawed out from the Ice Age, Glacial meltwater
had turned the Black and Caspian Seas into vast freshwater
lakes. However sea levels remained lower worldwide.
Therefore the fresh water lakes like the Black Sea were emptying their waters
into the Aegean Sea.
That situation changed. As the glaciers retreated
northward, rivers emptying into the Black Sea reduced their
volume and found new outlets in the North Sea. The
water levels in the Black Sea lowered through evaporation.
Then, about 5600 BC, as sea levels rose, Ryan and Pitman
suggest, the rising waters of the Mediterranean Sea began to
exert dramatic pressure against a thin natural dam that
separated the Bosporus from the Black Sea. Finally the
waters broke through and began to spill over a rocky sill at
the Bosporus. Water poured into the Black Sea at a
rate two hundred times what we see at the Niagara Falls for
nearly an entire year. The event eventually flooded
60,000 square miles of land.
This theoretical swell of the Mediterranean Sea would have
happened 7,000 years ago. Seawater pushed northward, slicing over and through the thin
gap that separates the Black Sea from the Aegean Sea into what is now
Turkey (see red
arrow in map).
Funneled through the narrow Bosporus Straits, the water hit
the Black Sea with 200 times the force of Niagara Falls.
Each day the Black Sea rose six inches and flooded the
Seared into the memories of terrified survivors, the tale of
the flood was passed down through the generations and
eventually became the Noah story.
The Bible says the whole world was flooded. But they
didn't have CNN in those days. Maybe in fact just the
Black Sea flooded and the victims felt like the whole planet
had gone Waterworld on them.
Although the jury is still out on Ryan and Pitman's 1998
hypothesis, a great deal of circumstantial evidence
continues to be found in support of their idea. The
Black Sea indeed may have been the location of the Great
Now as for how Noah's Ark ended up on the top of Mount
Arafat, a 17,000 foot mountain, well, I guess we will worry
about that some other time.
The Legend of Noah's Ark
is located in Eastern Turkey near Armenia
THE TROJAN WAR
Throughout our trip, I was always aware that I was visiting
areas rich in historical, cultural, and religious
significance. Like the Noah's Ark/Black Sea Flood
theory, it is pretty amusing how science first tells us none
of this stuff ever really happened, then turns around and begins to
uncover clues that suggest many of the Greek myths and the
Bible stories may have indeed been true after all.
One of the best examples of an ancient story coming back to life
is the Trojan War. Back in the early 1800s, the story
of the Trojan War was considered a tall tale by the
thoroughly modern scholars of the day. If there was a
Trojan War, then where is Troy? Good question!
Heinrich Schliemann, a wealthy German businessman, wanted to
know the answer to that question himself. Schliemann
not only had a family fortune, he had gotten even richer as
a military contractor to the Russian government during the
Crimean War in the 1850s. The Crimean War was fought
in the Black Sea area between the European powers and Russia
over the lands once held by the declining Ottoman Empire
After the Crimean War, Schliemann had two things going for
him - he had money and he had time. By 1858,
Schliemann, 40, was wealthy enough to retire at an early age.
But he wasn't the retiring sort. His wealth enabled Schliemann to become a thrill
seeker with the freedom to indulge any passion. So he began
to travel a great deal, seeking out ways to visit famous
cultural and historical icons. Sometimes the places he
wished to visit were forbidden. That didn't stop
Schliemann. One of his most famous exploits was
disguising himself as a Bedouin tribesman to gain access to
the forbidden area of Mecca, the holy Muslim city off
limits to all Westerners.
It is not certain by what path Schliemann arrived at either
archaeology or Troy. Schliemann's greatest interest seems to have been
finding the location of Troy.
Just where exactly were the great battlefields of Hector and
Achilles located? Or did Homer, author of the Iliad,
make the whole thing up? In the mid 1800s, Troy's very existence was
Frank Calvert was a British expatriate living on a family
farm in western Turkey. In 1847, Frank's brother
Frederick had bought this farm of 2,000 acres. By
chance, the acreage included a large hill named Mount Hissarlik. Calvert owned the eastern half of the Hissarlik
mound and the Turkish government owned the western half.
As Frank Calvert worked the farm and learned to speak
Turkish, he came to learn there
were many local legends that the Trojan War had taken place
over at Mount Hissarlik. Calvert began to wonder if
this peaceful area with its rolling hills could possibly be the
site of the ancient city Troy.
During the 1850s while his brother Frederick was off fighting in
the Crimean War, Frank began to make careful, exploratory
excavations on the family-owned land which incorporated the
mound of Hisarlik. He soon uncovered systematic rock
formations that very likely were the tops of buried walls. Calvert became convinced that this
was indeed the site of the ancient city of Troy. He
kept digging in his spare time, but only on a very small
scale because he had a farm to run.
Nearly 20 years passed.
In 1868 Heinrich Schliemann heard the rumor about Frank
Calvert and Troy. Schliemann decided to pay him a visit on
his farm. That is when Calvert confided his views to
Schliemann. Schliemann offered to collaborate with
Calvert. Excavations cannot be made without funds and
are done in vain without publication of the results. Schliemann was able to provide both.
Schliemann brought dedication, enthusiasm, conviction and
his immense fortune to the work.
The digging began in earnest in 1871. Schliemann began
his work before archaeology had developed as a professional
field. By present standards, the field technique of
Schliemann's work left much to be desired. Schliemann
was in quite a hurry. He basically dug his first holes much too
fast and with little regard for the objects he was
encountering on the way. Schliemann's haste upset
In 1872, Schliemann and Calvert had a falling out.
that Schliemann was in much too big of a hurry to hit it
big. Thinking that Homeric Troy must be in the lowest
level, Schliemann and his workers had dug hastily through the
upper levels and basically destroyed everything they came to
that wasn't clearly "Trojan". Schliemann
agreed to slow down a little. Finally Schliemann reached
fortifications that he took to be his target. Here
again Calvert disagreed with him. There was no
proof that this ancient fort was really Troy. Calvert
published an article stating that the Trojan War period was
missing from the site's archaeological record. This
sent Schliemann into a fury.
Undaunted, Schliemann continued his work. As if
to confirm Schliemann's views, a cache of gold appeared in
1873. Schliemann began to dig up gold
masks of ancient warriors and other valuable artifacts.
Schliemann named this discovery "Priam's Treasure" (Priam
was the legendary King of Troy).
Worried about theft, Schliemann dismissed the
workmen so that he and his wife Sophie could excavate it
themselves. Sophie removed the valuable objects by
hiding them in her shawl.
Sophie would later create a sensation when she wore "the Jewels
of Helen (of Troy)" for the public. Schliemann also
published his findings in 1874 in an article titled "Trojan
Antiquities". Schliemann detailed how he had seen the
gold glinting in the dirt. That's when people began to
pay attention. Until Schliemann's
excavation, not many people believed in a real Troy.
But the pictures created a
sensation throughout Europe. Now maybe Homer's Iliad wasn't such a tall
tale after all!!
However this publicity backfired in a way. The Turkish
government revoked Schliemann's permission to dig and sued
him for a share of the gold. However, it was too late
- the gold was gone. Collaborating with Calvert,
Schliemann had smuggled the treasure out of Turkey,
alienating the Turkish authorities in the process.
Schliemann defended his "smuggling" in Turkey as an attempt
to protect the items from corrupt local officials.
Even today "Priam's Treasure" remains a subject of
international dispute. The relics had resided at a
museum in Berlin till 1945. At that point Russia's Red
Army emptied the museum and took the treasure to Moscow.
Russia refuses to return the artifacts. They are
keeping the looted art as compensation for the destruction
of Russian cities and looting of Russian museums by Nazi
Germany in World War II.
Some of Priam's Treasure can be found in Turkey as well.
Schliemann yearned to dig again. Schliemann managed to persuade the
Turkish authorities to
let him resume by returning some of his artifacts. For the next six years, he kept
digging. Fortunately this time Schliemann had learned to be a bit more
careful. Throughout his 1873-1890 excavations, Schliemann would
recover many more artifacts from the mound of Hissarlik.
Schliemann made sure to document these discoveries in
professional circles as well as share his discoveries with
the media of the day. Thanks to his knack for
publicity, Schliemann was eventually given all credit for
the discovery of Troy.
Frank Calvert on the other hand was never officially
associated with the discovery. His omission seems
curious given that it was his suspicions that first opened
the door. Calvert had worked on the hill for twenty years
confirming his hunches before Schliemann had even shown up.
Furthermore, Calvert had been right at Schliemann's side
during all the glory years of the early 1870s. However,
despite thirty years of effort, Calvert got only a small
footnote in one of the most important archeological
discoveries of all time. Isn't it a shame that the
rich people and
loudmouths of the world get all the credit?
Personally, I am grateful to both Schliemann and Calvert.
These men did humanity a real favor. Here is a quote
from Manfred Korfmann, a modern-day excavator at Troy.
"When Homer created
the first epic from the myths handed down to him, he
changed the world. It was really because of him that
these Trojan ruins were so long the symbol of rivalry
between East and West. Troy has been a source of
The thought of Troy is why Xerxes of Persia sacrificed 1000 oxen
at King Priam's former stronghold before he embarked on
his Greek campaign. Alexander the Great always
kept a copy of the
under his pillow. During his world conquest, he
made sure to stop and offer up a sacrifice at the
reputed grave of Achilles, his personal hero.
Caesar himself made sure to pay his respects at Troy
before continuing his pursuit of Pompey in Egypt.
Be it Greeks, Romans, Persians, Christian Crusaders or the Ottoman
conquerors of Constantinople - they all acknowledged
their Trojan heritage, erected their holy shrines and
made the heroic site both a place of pilgrimage and a
I completely concur.
As a kid, I was totally immersed in the Iliad, the story of
the Trojan War, as well as the Odyssey, one of the great
sequels of all time. Thanks to the hard work of
Calvert and Schliemann, at least
when I opened the pages of Homer's Iliad I had the
satisfaction of knowing I was reading HISTORY as well as
Now if someone would just hurry up and find Atlantis!
BACK TO THE
Let us return to 2008. Now that our cruise ship had landed in Turkey, I burned with
desire to take a taxi and drive up the coast to visit Troy.
After all, the battlefields of the Trojan War were
only a couple hundred miles north of Kusadasi where our
cruise ship docked. Achilles, Odysseus, Hector, Paris,
Helen, Agamemnon, and all the other heroes of the Iliad were
calling to me. Maybe Athena or Aphrodite would appear
to walk me around the ancient walls of Troy and show me
where my hero Achilles died.
My trip to Turkey was excruciating knowing how close I
was and yet so far from the glories of ancient Greece.
Troy was not my only demon. Indeed, throughout the trip I was consumed by my constant
unsatisfied curiosity to see the battlefields of Troy, to
retrace the Marathon path in Greece and to see the narrow
pass at Thermopylae where the Spartan 300 kept the mighty
Persian army at bay. And what about a visit to Mount
Olympus? So many things to see and so little time!
Yes, we did visit museums and yes, we did see relics, but it
was all so very unsatisfying. Visiting places of
historical significance is always an exercise in
frustration. All you can get is a peek into the past,
but never the whole picture.
Still, it is better to Travel and see a little than to stay
at home and remain completely in the dark. It is
human nature to wish to explore the past and to understand
it. This is a powerful instinct indeed.
Why else would people spend their lives trying to prove the
existence of the Great Flood? Why else would people
literally live in tents up on Mount Ararat in a year-round
search to find Noah's Ark? Why else would modern
scholars try to find locations mentioned in the Odyssey?
Because humans are a curious bunch. We want to know
everything. That is what makes us happy and that is
what drives us crazy with our inability to find the complete
truth. Why else would Schliemann devote his life
to proving the Trojan War really did take place?
The answer is simple - humans are obsessed with the unknown.
We want to know the past. What happened? Why did
it happen? Is there any clue that will help us prevent
similar problems in the future? What can we learn that
will help us control our own destinies?
In some ways, today's
trip to Ephesus reminded me of Troy. Like Troy,
Ephesus had once been a mighty city. Like Troy,
Ephesus had disappeared off the face of the earth only to be
dug back up again.
Ephesus had been a famous port.
At one point, with a population of
Ephesus became the second
largest city in the Roman Empire.
At the time of the Apostle John, Ephesus
was said to have the
greatest harbor in all of Asia.
Over the centuries, Ephesus became known as the
gateway to Asia.
Its position as a central
trade route had made Ephesus
wealthy and great in the ancient world.
Ephesus had once been ruled by King Croesus. Alexander
the Great had passed through on his world conquest tour.
Ephesus was the home to the Grecian Temple of Artemis,
one of the original Seven Wonders of the World.
Ephesus was a major stopping point for many Biblical
figures. The Virgin Mary lived out her final years
nearby. The evangelist Saint John finished out his
life here as well.
And then Ephesus was abandoned. Why? Was it
conquered? Was there an earthquake? Sure
enough, as the centuries rolled on, Ephesus disappeared from
sight just like the city of Troy. It became covered
with dirt and rocks and weeds. Ephesus became
invisible to the naked eye. The second largest city in
the Roman Empire had completely disappeared off the map.
So as our bus departed from the port of Kusadasi, I had two
questions that I wanted to answer:
What in world happened to Ephesus? And how
did this land-locked site ever become a port?
Horse. Odysseus' trick works - there are
Greek warriors hidden inside that horse!
Xerxes may have
sacrificed 1000 oxen at Troy, but it didn't do him any good
thanks to Leonidas and the brave Spartans.
The Battle of Thermopylae is the true story of how a Spartan
rear guard consisting of only 300 men kept a gigantic
Persian army at bay for several days in a narrow pass.
This heroic action gave the rest of the Greece enough time
to muster a better defense. Over the centuries, this amazing
feat has become an enduring symbol of courage against
mighty Achilles parades before the walls of Troy
Ordinarily you sign up on the cruise ship
for a Tour to visit Ephesus. However Iqbal Nagji had arranged a bus for us on his own. Not only was
spacious, modern, and comfortable, it came complete with a
charming tour guide and plenty of air-conditioning. All
about half the price we would have paid the cruise line. Iqbal did
the group a huge favor!
If you remember, Iqbal had led our group through
well. I don't think there is much doubt about it -
Iqbal was far and away the Most Valuable Player on this
cruise to Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Not only did he
constantly show us where to go, quite often he knew more
about the places we visited than the tour guides themselves.
Our group was fortunate indeed to have Iqbal to guide our
fortunes on this trip. Thank you, Iqbal!
would estimate the distance from Kusadasi to Ephesus was
about 20 miles. As we drove along the coastline, the
countryside was beautiful. There were rolling hills
everywhere and lush green meadows. As we approached
the large hills, thick pine forests appeared as well.
This valley was very lovely indeed.
Our first stop was a visit to the shrine of the Virgin Mary.
Apparently Mary had lived out her final years in a small
home near Ephesus. Her home was up in the high hills
among lovely pine trees. The cool hillside breeze was
wonderful. The area reminded me a lot of Colorado.
It was very pretty.
Ephesus was about two miles away from the shrine. The
area around Ephesus wasn't nearly as pretty. Now that
we were out of the high hills, the trees were shorter,
stubbier and fewer. There was plenty of grass, but it
was brown rather than green. This was an area that
obviously could have used some rain.
As our bus pulled up to Ephesus, I noticed a veritable army
of buses. Apparently every tourist in Turkey was
visiting the same place today. Who would have ever
thought a bunch of ruins could be this popular?
I bought an Ephesus tour guide book. As I looked it
over, I read some of the most peculiar text. I asked
Iqbal about it. Iqbal smiled. He said the book
had been written in Turkish and translated into English.
I looked again. This is English? Obviously
they had chosen the lowest bidder for the job. As I
scanned the book, I frowned. There was no explanation
why Ephesus had disappeared off the map. Hmm.
Iqbal Nagji, Joan Mastrangeli
Here is a picture
of Iqbal explaining things to our group. He was so
Notice the tunnel heading into Mt. Pion, the large hill in
Do you suppose there are more structures hiding inside Mt
looked there were ruins. My whole day was
ruined! Again notice how these structures
appear to be dug right out of the hill. What else is
under the there? How did these giant structures get so buried in the
Here is my
daughter Sam next to
a sculpture looking for a home. There are lost rocks
laying on the ground
everywhere looking to reconnect with their original
building. I am guessing you have to be a jigsaw puzzle
expert of the highest caliber to put all of humpty-dumpty's pieces together again.
Marla and Joan (in
blue) plus Joan's sister & niece from North Carolina.
Notice how the archway above is in five pieces. This
whole place looks like it
was put back together with glue, paste and duct tape.
Those women were braver than me - I would have never had the
guts to stand under that arch.
As you can see,
this place was crowded! They came because
Ephesus is one of the best examples of Roman architecture in the
world. Do you see the "canyon effect"? Situated
between two large hills, Ephesus was buried for a long time
under a protective cover of rock and dirt.
That is Mt
Koressus in the background. As I said, Ephesus is
sandwiched in a canyon of sorts between two very large
hills. Mt Pion is on the other side. Many of the
structures were built right into the mountains. I
imagine the sediment run-off from these two semi-mountains
is what buried Ephesus.
This is the Temple
of Hadrian. When the excavators discovered it,
this structure was found in pieces; the arch was rebuilt one
stone at a time. I was impressed.
Restoring this complex arch could not have been easy.
Every piece was
laying on the ground in every direction. The arch looked
pretty flimsy to me. I suppose I should admit I
refused to lean on anything, sit on anything or stand under
anything the entire day. I am such a coward!
There are many
"pieces" that fell down and have not found a new home yet.
Wherever you walk in Ephesus, there are long rows of
unmarked stones waiting to be sorted. How they put
this place back together is quite an accomplishment.
amphitheater was built right into Mt Pion, it is virtually intact.
All they had to do was dig it out. This immense
structure is very impressive.
The mountain in the background is Mt. Koressus, the other
side of the canyon.
Google Earth, I was able to get an overhead snapshot of
the area around Ephesus. As you can see from the picture, much
of Ephesus was built inside a wide canyon with Mt Pion and Mt
Koressus on either side. Indeed, it seemed to me that many of
the structures were built right into these large hills for support.
The Amphitheater, for example, appeared to be carved right out of
the side of Mt Pion.
Thanks to the amazing recreations of buildings at Ephesus, you actually get the sense of being in an
ancient Roman city. The structures at
far more impressive than the nearby
Temple of Artemis,
which today is little more than
few tumbled columns. We should
thank the canyon. Sediment coming down from above formed a
protective layer over the fallen buildings.
Do you see the large white roof? That is
the building where work on current restorations is being done today.
Great effort is being devoted to excavating this
5,000-year-old site. There
are many people here dedicated to uncovering the
history of the ages through restoring the
ruins of Ephesus.
The British engineer J. T. Wood directed the first
archaeological investigations from 1869 onward under the
auspices of the British Museum.
Later D. G. Hogarth continued the excavations
as well as Wood's quest for the
Temple of Artemis
from 1904 onward.
One of the mysteries of
Ephesus for me was its reputation as the second busiest port in the
Roman Empire. Do you see any water? Me neither.
When our guide pointed out "Harbor Street", I nearly blew a gasket.
There's no harbor here!
The excavations of the Austrian Archaeological Institute,
which continue to this day, began in 1895 under Otto
Benndorf. He received permission to excavate from the
Ottoman Sultan. It was Benndorf who
brought up a good part of Ephesus in the course of his
research. Then came a major regime
Modern Turkey is not that old. The
Turkish Republic was established in 1923.
Kemal Ataturk, the first president of modern Turkey, is
worshipped in Turkey with the same affection we reserve for
government transferred everything
at Ephesus to state ownership.
Fortunately the Austrians
were allowed to continue. The Austrian
excavations have been ongoing
except for the two world wars.
Since WW II, they
resumed in 1954 and have
Not only did the Austrian
Institute resume their work, but
archaeologists of the Ephesus Museum
began to assist in the excavations and
restoration . In the past 60
years the two teams have uncovered and
restored many important
structures. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism
accelerated this cooperative work in 1979 through
its program "Selcuk-Ephesus Excavations,
Restorations, and Systematization of its Environs."
In recent years, the
main accent no longer lies so much on the excavation
of further buildings and public spaces, but more on
the care and preservation of the buildings that have
already been discovered. Accordingly,
the project has restored important structures and
monuments in the past fifteen years.
course of the excavations, which have now lasted
over a century, only ten percent of the ancient city
of Ephesus has been unearthed.
Excavations will go on for many years
together with restoration works.
THE LIBRARY OF
As far as I was concerned, the most impressive structure at
Ephesus was the
Library of Celsus. The Library of Celsus was built for Tiberius Julius Celsus
Polemaeanus. It was completed in AD 135 at the height of the
Roman Empire. Celsus son, Gaius Julius Aquila (consul AD
110), built the library in honor of his father who was
consul in AD 92 and governor of Asia in AD 115. The
library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a
monumental tomb for Celsus.
The building is important as one of few remaining examples
of an ancient Roman-influenced library. It also shows that
public libraries were built not only in Rome but throughout
the Roman Empire. In a massive restoration which is
considered to be very true to the historic building, the
front façade was rebuilt and now serves as a prime example
of Roman public architecture. To me, the restoration of the
Library of Celsus was amazing because there was no blueprint
to follow. Every piece of this structure was found
knocked down and laying under piles of dirt.
This part of Ephesus was abandoned sometime around 500 AD.
For the next 1400 years, Ephesus was left to nature.
Earthquakes, a well-known Turkish curse, knocked down the
tallest structures and strong winds did the rest.
Fallen rocks were strewn everywhere. Thanks to the
high hills on either side of Ephesus, every rain storm would bring sediment down from the
surrounding hills. Slowly but surely the gaps between
the fallen rocks began to fill. Now vegetation took
hold in the sediment. This made it easier for more
sediment to settle rather than be washed away. At some
point, Ephesus turned into a giant mound covered with grass
and shrubs. The naked eye would never have guessed
there was once a giant city on this spot.
Although Troy and Ephesus surely existed together at one
point, Troy was destroyed in 1200 BC. That means Troy
had a 1700 year head start on Ephesus at going 'underground'.
Although the location of Troy became a mystery, the location
of Ephesus was never in doubt. In a way, the
burying process at Ephesus was a real benefit because it helped
preserve these structures.
THE MYSTERIOUS MISSING HARBOR AT EPHESUS
Let's have some fun. Thanks to Google Earth, we can
take an overhead look at Ephesus and the Turkish countryside
in PICTURE ONE above. First locate the
Amphitheater. Extending from the Amphitheater is a
white line. That white line is an ancient Ephesus road
known "Harbor Street".
Please note the three yellow question marks placed atop
heavily wooded area at the end of Harbor Street.
We will come back to this spot.
That long yellow line is drawn parallel to a river known as
(see the dark winding line). The Cayster River goes
all the way to the Aegean Sea. From Ephesus, this is a
distance of about 3.5, maybe 4 miles.
So here is my question. Can you see a harbor at the
end of Harbor Street? If you don't see a harbor,
don't feel bad. I can't see one either. Now
let's do close-ups.
This is Harbor Street facing to the East. Inside Mt
behind the amphitheater is where I suspect many other
Ephesus structures are hidden underground. I have to
tell you - I was never very interested in archeology before,
but Ephesus really captured my imagination.
This is Harbor Street facing to the West. Four miles
on the other side of the Big Hill is the Aegean Sea.
Back in the old days, there was supposed to be a harbor at the
end of Harbor Street. Considering how dry this area
is, I find that very hard to believe. I
just wish I had walked out there to look for myself!
THE MYSTERIOUS MISSING HARBOR AT EPHESUS
Fortunately, thanks to
Google Earth, I got a second chance to investigate.
Let's look at PICTURE TWO below. There's the
amphitheater and there is Harbor Street. So is there
are Harbor at the end
of Harbor Street? Let's go see.
PICTURE TWO above is a close-up from PICTURE ONE.
As you can see for yourself, there is no "Harbor" at the end
of Harbor Street. Just a big grassy plain with some
woods behind it (TRIPLE QUESTION MARK AREA).
Furthermore, there isn't any river there either. At
least not an obvious one.
During our visit to Ephesus, I pulled Iqbal aside and asked
him what had caused the downfall of Ephesus. Without
hesitation, Iqbal explained that Ephesus was once one of the
most important ports in all of the Roman Empire. A
port? You have to be kidding. This place is
drier than Southern California!
Just where was this port supposed to be? Iqbal
pointed down Harbor Street and said the port was at the end
of Harbor Street.
I remember looking at Iqbal in astonishment. A major
port? At the time, I kept my thoughts to myself, but
inside I thought Iqbal was out of his mind. The
ocean had to be a good four miles away!!
I was more than slightly skeptical. Still, over
the years I have learned that Iqbal is without a doubt the
most knowledgeable person I have ever met. Who needs
Google when Iqbal is around? If Iqbal said there
used to be a port there, then who was I to say he was wrong?
Still, he was definitely stretching my credulity this time.
But I bit my tongue. Iqbal does not tease or engage in
BS. That is not his style. If Iqbal said there
was once a harbor here, then I wasn't going to argue with
Iqbal must have
sensed my consternation. He said that once
upon a time, there was a mighty river known as the
that connected the Aegean Sea to Ephesus. Back
in those days, of course, ships weren't quite as big
as they are now. For example, the Roman grain
ship in the picture was 25 feet wide
Iqbal continued. He said the problem for Ephesus came when the Meander River
began to silt up. Silt is earthy matter, clay
and fine sand that is carried downstream by running
water. The silt becomes deposited in the river bed as sediment.
Over time, the sediment gradually silted the harbor
Iqbal said the citizens
fought the problem by dredging the harbor many
times, but the problem extended all the way to the
ocean. The time came when the river was no
longer deep enough to allow ships to sail inland.
Without its harbor, Ephesus had lost its main source
of revenue. Its fate was sealed.
just a matter of time.
HISTORY: THE RISE AND FALL OF EPHESUS
After I returned to
Houston and I decided to write the story of our visit to
Ephesus, naturally I was curious to see if Iqbal was right.
Here is what I discovered:
(RICK'S NOTE: THESE
TAKEN FROM WIKIPEDIA and other sites. I took the liberty of condensing
A visit to
Ephesus is a must for those
who are interested in archaeology and culture.
Today Ephesus is one of
the largest and best-preserved ancient cities in the
world. It is a rare treat
indeed to view the magnificent reconstructions of Roman
Ephesus is situated in the
Meander Valley, a plain
that lies southeast of the mouth of the
River where it empties into the Mediterranean. To the
southwest of the city is Mt. Koressus (modern Bülbüldag),
to the east Mt. Pion (modern Panayirdag), while
a plain of
arable land lies to the north between the city and river.
The ancient port lay inland from the Sea about four
miles and was accessible via a man-made canal cut to run
eastward from the Cayster River.
A brief history of Ephesus
shows it was inhabited
as far back as 6000 BC. Over
the centuries, Ephesus has seen many different rulers as
different empires rose and fell. In its
earlier years, Ephesus and Troy were part of the
Phrygian Empire which stretched along the west-central
part of Anatolia (modern day Turkey) under Hittite rule.
Ephesus began its rise to prominence in the Tenth
Century BC during a period of Greek expansion by the
Attic-Ionian culture. In a short time,
merging together with the
native population, the Greek
newcomers created a brilliant civilization there.
It was during that time
that Ephesians started the construction of the great
temple dedicated to Artemis, the main goddess of the
city. The temple was so beautiful that it became one of
the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
In later years the Lydians
(King Croesus) and the
Persians ruled the city until Alexander the Great took
control of it in 334 BC.
Alexander's death, the city became part of the Pergamum
Kingdom. Soon, it
became the main trade center
in Anatolia, the ancient name for the Asian part of
Ephesus was bequeathed to the Roman Empire in the 2nd
century BC. The Roman Period was the
for the city.
The people were rich.
Construction projects abounded. With a
population of 200,000 - 250,000,
grew to become the second
largest city in the Roman
Empire. It was during
that time that Christianity started to spread into
Anatolia (Turkey) for the
first time. Ephesus was the city to which Mary the
Mother and St Joan fled following the death of Christ.
St John and St Paul also visited Ephesus,
emphasizing its role as a
religious center for
When the Roman Empire was divided into two
parts in 394
AD, the city came under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. This was not a bright period
for Ephesus. The city
was still a sacred place for
Christians, but it was not a
trade center anymore. The
had silted up the area and the
harbor had become
a marsh land. Disease
people died of malaria. This
brought an end to the inhabitation of the city by the
Ephesus had long enjoyed a
privileged geographical position.
However, its main asset was its harbor. Its lost
was soon to become
the cause of the city's decline and fall.
The prosperity of the
Ephesus had been based on its possession of
the sheltered natural harbor.
However by the Roman Period,
ships began to have trouble reaching
the harbor. These ships were forced to approach
the harbor to the west of Mt Pion 1.5 km from the
Temple of Artemis through a very narrow and
The cause of this
narrowing was the
Meander (Cayster) River.
emptied into the Aegean a little to the west of the city
of Ephesus, where it created a delta formed by the
alluvium carried down by the river over thousands of
years. By the late
Byzantine era the channel had been so silted up as to be
no longer usable. The sea gradually receded
farther and farther, while the marshy lands
around the harbor gave rise to a number of diseases,
The good thing about the Cayster River was that it
had once brought trade from upstream.
Turkish farmers east of Ephesus
brought their crops inland on barges down the Cayster.
thing about Cayster River was that it also brought silt
that kept on filling the Harbor at
After dredging the silt
deposits for centuries, Ephesians would eventually move
their city to the Cayster River's new water line and
then repeat the process all over again.
Ephesus was in fact moved 4 times during its
history before being abandoned in the 13th
century; the last Ephesus harbor now sits 6
miles from the Cayster River.
Although the silting of the river was calamitous
for the Ephesians, there
was a silver lining of sorts.
Thanks to Ephesus' serial displacement in
pursuit of the Cayster
River's receding water line,
unlike most ancient cities, old
Ephesus was simply abandoned instead of rebuilt
upon. This left
Unfortunately, Ephesus was plundered by
the locals looking for building materials and by
foreign archeological expeditions alike until
just a few decades ago.
when compared to
the sad single column
of the nearby
a former Seven Wonders of the World structure
(pictured), it is easy
to appreciate just how well Ephesus was
During the Roman
Era, Ephesus reached a population of 200,000.
But that is all gone now. Were it not for
historical documents, no one would ever suspect this
dry, unassuming spot in the middle of nowhere once
housed the second largest port in the Roman Empire.
Today the harbor of Ephesus is miles away from
the Aegean. This is due
to the silting caused by the action of the river
which carries huge amounts of sediments from the Anatolian plateau:
is the Turkish word for the Latin
which means the winding course of a river through its
So there you have it. Ephesus was a victim
of the capricious Meander River.
As you can see, Iqbal was 100% correct (I swear
the man is brilliant!) While I am at
it, remind me to ask Iqbal where Atlantis is.
If anyone knows, my money would be on Iqbal.
And yes, you have correctly guessed where our modern word "Meander"
comes from! I bet you will never be
able to think of the word "Meander"
again without being reminded of Ephesus.
Etymology: Latin maeander, from Greek maiandros,
from Maiandros (now Menderes), a
river in Asia Minor
1: a winding path or course ; especially :
2: a turning or winding of
3: to wind, turn, or
twist; to make flexuous; to wander
The stream meandered through the valley.
maeander, circuitous windings, from
Greek maiandros, after Maiandros,
the Maeander River in Phrygia, noted for its
ANOTHER LOOK AT THE
TRIPLE QUESTION MARKS
Before we leave our story about Ephesus, let's take another
look at the area of the the Three yellow Question Marks.
At first I just thought this was a heavily wooded area. But then I got to thinking... why isn't
the rest of the countryside covered with trees like this
area? Why is this area so green when everything else
is so brown? So I asked myself, "What might cause a specific
area to have lots of trees?" The moment I asked
the question, I realized the answer was simple: WATER!
Now I got very suspicious. So using Google Earth I
zoomed in... let me tell you.... Google Earth is AMAZING!
That is how I discovered this wooded area is actually a
combination LAKE and MARSH. This area is where
the Ephesus Harbor used to be until it became filled with
silt! That dark green stuff is stagnant WATER!
Google Earth has a feature where little blue icons indicate
photographs people have taken of specific areas. There
was a blue icon over the Green Marsh, so I clicked it (see
picture below). Now you know what I know -
this marshy area has a name... Lake Kocagoz, aka the
Harbor of Ephesus. This marshy area is part of
the Cayster-Meander River. This marsh was once the harbor that
made Ephesus powerful. But as you can see, that water
looks stagnant. I imagine that is because the stream
below has silted up.
This Green Marsh created the malaria that spelled doom for
The rise and fall of Ephesus is right here!
picture of the Green Marsh area helped me appreciate
how something as simple as the silting of a harbor can erase
the usefulness of such a place to the Romans.
From now on, whenever they ask for bonds to dredge our
nearby Houston Ship Channel, I will know exactly why this is
such an important issue. If you depend on a waterway
for survival, then you have to protect it.
RICK ARCHER'S FOOTNOTE
One thing I did not make clear is that
the Meander River appeared to change course several times
over the ages. Read this passage:
"Short, fiery and
intense, Ephesus' history has all the makings of an ancient tragedy.
Out of devotion to its patron goddess Artemis, it stayed close to
her colossal temple rather than sidestep certain death as its harbor
steadily filled with silt.
Ephesus was in fact moved 4 times during its
history before being abandoned in the 13th
century; the last Ephesus harbor now sits 6
miles from the Cayster River.
attempts to battle the Cayster River's indefatigable silt-depositing
tyranny, the recession of the sea had sealed the city's fate by the
The harbor deteriorated into a marshy morass, which eventually
became infested with with malaria-carrying mosquitoes, triggering a
massive epidemic that resulted in nearly 200,000 deaths ...."
I found a remarkable
picture to share. It completely changed how I saw the problem of the
The entire time I wrote this article, I admit I was confused.
I thought ancient ships floated up the Cayster River just like modern ships
come up the Houston Ship Channel here in Texas. Wrong!
Ships didn't come up the Cayster River... the sea came right up to
the doorstep of Ephesus!
When the books wrote of a "silting problem", I had no idea the
silting was so intense that it literally pushed the sea back 4
miles!! Let me explain something... when I visited Ephesus, I
could not even see the ocean from this spot. There was only an enormous valley
everywhere I looked.
Perhaps you remember Mt.
Pion and Mt. Koressus from my earlier photographs. In this
drawing, Bulbul Dagh is Koressus;
Panayir Dagh is Pion.
These are the hills that form the canyon. The
Cayster - Meander River
was located to the north of Ephesus. Its sediment filled in the entire Bay
This begins to make a
little more sense now. The various writings indicate the
"river moved". I am guessing the river didn't move
so much, but rather that as the Bay of Ephesus filled in, access to
the existing harbor became more difficult. So the entire city
moved to adjust to changing nature of the Bay. In other words,
the harbor was always moving! The Ephesians literally had to
move the city to follow the moving harbor.
I am flabbergasted at this evidence of nature's power. The
Roman Empire in geological terms was not that long ago (2,000 years).
But Turkey is so mountainous that I imagine vast amounts of sediment
are carried to the sea by rivers such as the Cayster-Meander.
Obviously it took the Cayster River just 2,000 years or so to fill in an
entire bay and turn the area into a lush valley instead.
One of the reasons
Ephesus is intact is that the Ephesus of Roman era was literally
abandoned when the river moved. Rather than tear the city
down, when the river changed course, the citizens simply moved to
where the river went. So in a sense, the original Ephesus was
left behind. Without a harbor, the location was useless.
The bad news is that the silting of the Bay turned the harbor into a
very shallow lake. Trees grew in the muddy lake and millions of mosquitoes
were spawned. Those poor people got sick; Ephesus became a
The only good news is that today the ruins of Ephesus are the best
preserved of any Roman site in the Mediterranean. The
wonderful reconstructions create what is
probably the most realistic surviving example of life in an ancient Roman
city. All thanks to a crazy wandering river named Meander.
THE STORY OF THE OBNOXIOUS
TURKISH RUG TRAP
After we got back on bus to leave Ephesus, our tour guide
began to talk about the "Free Meal" we were going to get at
the nearby Rug Factory.
I was, of course, instantly suspicious. There is no
such thing as a "Free Meal" in this world. Sure
enough, this place was indeed a trap.
Six months after the trip ended, I was playing around with Google Earth
preparing to write my Ephesus story. I
noticed another one of those mysterious blue icons. I
Surprise Surprise. Lo and behold, I had just discovered the
location of the Turkish Rug Trap!
So here is how the
Obnoxious Turkish Rug Trap works.
First the Tour Guide promises you a wonderful free
Next you go for an
educational tour to see how these beautiful rugs are made.
As we walked through the Factory, we got to see the ladies do
however, the time comes when you are ushered into the Trap.
You knew it was coming, but you are
still helpless to prevent it unless you are willing to hijack
the bus. And don't think I didn't consider it.
measure, they bring out the "free" wine to soften you up.
One by one the
salesmen began to unroll the carpets before our eyes.
Everyone oohed and aahed. We may have been a captive
audience, but there was no denying the rugs are
very beautiful. They offered wine; like a fool, I
accepted. Those carpets started to look even better.
For a moment even I thought for a moment about getting one.
Fortunately Marla said no. She was sober.
Next we began to
take our shoes off and walk on the carpets.
on the right conducted most of the tour and delivered the sales pitch.
The one part of
this racket that I never quite figured out was why our
particular bus went to the Rug Trap. At the time, I
assumed all Kusadasi-Ephesus buses were diverted here, but
when I thought back about it, I realized I didn't see any
other buses pull in here. We were stuck here for
nearly three hours, but not once did I see another group.
So if you are
worried about getting stuck in the Rug Trap, check your
itinerary. Maybe we suffered this fate because we
scheduled the bus independently. Probably people who
booked directly through the cruise ship were spared this
enormous waste of time.
I didn't mind
the visit at first. What I minded was that our entire
bus was held up while one individual from our group spent 30
minutes arguing about the price. This woman later told
me she tried to back out early, but they literally would not
let her go once they sensed a kill.
I guess my biggest
objection was the incredible waste of time.
The entire group was going to sit there until the salesmen
with anyone who decided to buy a carpet. A couple people
in our group actually went in the back room and tried to
match wits with these guys. This is big business to these
people. I estimate they kept us here for 2.5 hours. I
It is probably no
accident that the Rug Factory was built close to Ephesus.
I suppose one tour bus after another gets directed here. I
can only assume that the Turkish carpet industry
benefits greatly from the captive audience. I
don't know what sort of kickback our Tour Guide got, but he made
it clear he would be happy to help with the bargaining process.
He was definitely "involved".
In addition to
the Captive Carpet Scam, our Tour Guide pulled the exact
same stunt when we got back to Kusadasi - he made a
determined effort to herd every single one of us into a
jewelry store the moment we got off the bus. I had
enough of his nonsense back at the Rug Market, so I just walked out. It
didn't do any good - I was immediately accosted by
aggressive salesman every direction I turned. Walking
through this mall, or 'bazaar' as they called it, was like
walking through a mine field. There was danger
I got attacked... and I mean attacked...
by salesmen from practically every store I passed.
They worked every trick in the book, but their basic move
was to surround me with extra henchmen who tried to nudge me
towards the doorway.
I have never in my life met more
aggressive salesmen than the people in Kusadasi.
High-pressure sales must be part of their national ethos.
It was a deeply unpleasant experience that I will never
forget. Unfortunately it ruined what had started out
as a very pleasant day. My overriding memory of my
visit to Turkey was the presence of the most aggressive
sales people I have ever met in all my travels.