I love history. I love it so much that I chose to get my BA in the subject. I am the dork that binge watches The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents on Netflix. Six hours in one exhilarating afternoon. When I got a Kindle and gave away most of my books, 90% of the survivors are non-fiction historical anthologies or biographies. I love the drama and the personalities and way one decision can have a ripple effect that changes the whole outcome of the world. For me learning about history is like watching a reality show. Except that is it is, you know, reality.
My love of history is one reason why I like to travel so much. I love hearing about events that shaped the world from different perspectives. Any historian will tell you that history is not just a list of static facts, although history classes often present it that way. American perspective on World War II is obviously very different that Japanese perspective. I’m sure Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell would not agree on how exactly the founding of the Church of England came about (nah man, it was MY idea!).
All that being said, I have to admit that ancient history just doesn’t do much for me. And I am not really sure why. According to Wikipedia History of the World (which I am sure is SO accurate) my historical interest falls into what they are calling “modern history”, meaning history that happened after the middle ages. Basically 1500 to present day. With the notable exception of The Mongol Empire (Genghis Khan was a BADASS), history that occurred before the invention of the movable printing press just isn’t my jam.
But if you are in Sorrento, Italy, less than an hour away from Pompeii, do you skip it? Obviously not. If you are in Guatemala and you have access to the ruins at Tikal do you opt to pass on by in search of more “modern” runis? Haha, nope. So when our path in Turkey took us near the Greek ruins at Ephesus we had to take the opportunity to wander around the ancient city and take in a history that I am not very familiar with.
Ephesus was once located along the Aegean Sea and was a very important port city for the various empires which controlled it during its long history (including Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires). Famous for the Temple of Artemis (which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and an extremely complete and awe-inspiring library (well the façade of the building anyway), the ruins are a huge draw for tourists in this part of Turkey.
Ephesus is also important in the history of Christianity. Paul the Apostle lived there and wrote Corinthians in the city that was, at that time, a center of culture in the empire. There is even a legend that claims that Mary (Jesus’ mother herself) retired here with Saint John and there are tombs near Ephesus that bear their names.
The harbor at Ephesus filled with silt so now the ruins sit inland a bit (8 kilometers). Many visitors come to the ruins via the cruise ship port at Kusadasi or from the larger town (with an airport) of Izmir. We chose to stay in Selcuk, the town closest to the ruins, which is surprisingly not touristy. We did get an audio guide for the site, which we usually do at ruins since the buildings are incomplete and it is often difficult to know what exactly you are looking at as you walk around. The Library of Celcus and the Terrace Houses (which you pay for separately) were the highlights of the visit. The gobs of other tourists was the lowlight.
So did visiting these ancient ruins wake up a passion for ancient Greek history? Nah. Ephesus is pretty cool, and I am really glad when went, but a few hours was plenty for us. Honestly, my favorite part of our day was returning to Selcuk and finding a local market winding through the cobbled side streets. We bought a huge sack of cherries, a few peaches, olives, and some fresh undies. I have only three lines written in my journal about Ephesus and seven lines written about shopping and wandering around the Selcuk market. Priorities.