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Posted January 22nd, 2011 at 09:10 AM by chas

“Once I have seen the Temple of Artemis towering to the clouds, all the other wonders lost their grandeur…It is the most beautiful work ever created by mankind.”
--Pausanius, ancient Greek historian

“It would be an insult to call the Temple of Artemis a mere ‘wonder.’ ”
--Halikarnas Balikcisi, modern Turk

One way to find the connection to a human time when spiritual and mundane matters were seen as clearly connected to each other, is to visit the ruins of antiquity which abound in the Mediterranean world. The romance of archaeology is most strong at a site which is set away by itself, rather than adjacent to a modern city or town. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote of the fictitious but evocative ‘dead sea bottoms of Mars, lush with vegetation,’ and when our ship docked at Izmir it was only a short trip to Kusadasi, close by our destination, where a sweeping bowl of green growth marched over the formerly submerged valley floor. These unfamiliar names are in Turkey, a nation supplying us with a friendly woman guide--who had taken advantage of local education programs there funded by the United States, and who praised the aid we had given her nation over the years. This lovely country is an unusual and exotic destination for the average American, relatively inexpensive to visit compared to many others.

Our afternoon ashore took us to the site of the ruined city of Ephesus, an ancient Greek colony. Many ancient landmarks lie here, including the former location of the Temple of Artemis, once one of the Seven Wonder of the Ancient World, discovered in 1869 by British archaeologist Wood. Greek colonies dotted the coast of Asia on the other side of the Adriatic in ancient days. It being just 11 years after 2000 CE (Common Era aka AD or Anno Domini) as I write this, allow me mention that it is accepted that this area was already settled with a shrine to the mother goddess Cybele (a precursor of Artemis aka Diana) around 2000 BCE (Before Common Era aka BC or Before Christ); so we’re talking about worshipping her from 4,000 years ago! Indeed, The Great Mother may have been worshipped there from prehistoric times, history being since writing was invented, and some sources say it was founded by the Amazons, who were a real tribe in this area, long ago! The empty site can only evoke the imagination, although a magnificent artist’s reconstruction in color decorates the back of the local guide book.

The names of the other buildings ring with the history of the area: the gate of Mazeus and Mithradates, the Agora (marketplace), the Grand Theatre (seating capacity 14,000) the library of Celsus, the fountain of Trajan. Cut into stone beneath your feet on Marble Street are a footprint and directions telling you how to reach the House of Love (yes, for X-Rated pleasures)! This complex includes the Baths of Scolastika and the Public Lavatories. It’s on the corner of Curetes and Marble, if you must know. A mosaic recovered there shows three women drinking around a table, with their servant in the background. In the corner a cat plays with a ball, apparently off duty--while underneath the table, a rat blithely scavenges crumbs under the table. Found in the well here and now in the local museum is a statue of Priapus, the god of…well, you know.

A few buildings were almost complete, such as the amphitheatre, cut into the side of a high hill. Others had facades which had been reconstructed enough so you could get the idea of how they had originally appeared. A few odd locations had odd stones columns and cross stones piled up, as if scientists with cranes had been playing with the pieces, trying to make a structure where large pieces stood piled tenuously on top of others! The site stood above the ancient shoreline, overlooked itself by local hills. The gray stone of the old city stood out in contrast to the verdant green both above and below it. Prehistoric and historical followers of the Old
Religion including Greeks and Romans, Byzantine Christians and Moslem rules had walked its streets. St. Paul was here in 50 CE (as in Ephesians) and the town became an important Christian center from his first congregation. The Third Ecumenical Council held a meeting onsite in 431. The Turks first took the area from the Byzantines in 1090 CE and permanently in 1426.

During the Middle Ages and later, The Turks ran the Ottoman Empire, which once ruled all of North Africa and parts of Spain, and once they took Byzantine Constantinople (now known as Istanbul), most of the Balkans, from which would they would eventually even threaten Vienna, where they were driven off by Polish nobility! Highly civilized but sometimes cruel, in modern times they tortured Lawrence of Arabia (supposedly a co-worker of my grandfather) and killed the father of Gurdjieff in the Armenian genocide. A NATO member, the US atomic missiles based here were pointed right at the Soviet Union during the Cold War. When Khrushchev tried to put Russian missiles into Cuba, he would cite the justice of locating missiles as close to our shores as these were to them overland.

Before we boarded the ship to continue our Eastern Mediterranean voyage, we grabbed as much Turkish Delight as possible to take with us. The real thing is an unusual chewy soft candy of nougat and nuts, sweet and delicious. We saw taxi cabs waiting nearby, but the sign on the small white roof bump here was spelled ‘Taksi.’ As New Yorkers, we couldn’t help laugh to each other as we climbed up the gangplank. Instead of yelling ‘Taxi!’ (Tax-eee!) In bad Brooklynese as we would back home, we raised our arms to each other as if to hail a cab here and shouted ‘Taksi!’ (Tock-see!) in mock Turkish accents. Such are the close ancient and modern connections you find everywhere between cultures, if you but look.
Total Comments 1


wow! great
Posted January 24th, 2012 at 11:28 AM by gabriola01 gabriola01 is offline
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