the Mediterranean - Part 6
'This way to the whorehouse'
said that the Virgin Mary spent her last days here
Ephesus & the Virgin Mary Statue
We got back late
from our outing in Istanbul, just in time for dinner. Still scruffy in
our Turkish bathed clothes we sat down to order the evening meal when
I sensed something was not right.
Im at the wrong table, I thought. Dont recognise
It transpired that our Salvadorian friends had found eating late
was too much for them and subsequently booked for the earlier session.
A newly wed couple from the battered and bankrupt country that once defied
the might of Thatcherism had replaced them. Enter Florencia, a teacher
in political science and Facundo, a computer expert come journalist, both
from the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. (I know the question! I didnt
know where they got their holiday money either!). They were to become
our inseparable tour partners and invaluable encyclopaedic emitters of
condensed history on the many sights and ruins we were to visit over the
next few days. They were also young enough to be our grandchildren.
So whats in store for us tomorrow? I asked at the table,
adding, weve left Istanbul - thank you - and on to Kusadasi
which is still Turkey. Right? Looking at my wife I concluded, Isnt
this the place where we pay extra to see the virgin?
The two Argentine Fs burst out laughing. I told them
about my initial queries including the bit about the option to visit the
resting place of the Virgin Mary. Ignoring my comments, Florencia grinned
and said, we agree with you on the value for money on all these
tours. Why dont you join us and well share the costs of going
it alone. Great, I said, looking at my wife who nodded,
agreed and added, by the way, well be exploring one of the
greatest ancient cities of all times; Ephesus. Thats
right. The earliest known organised prostitution in the world. Youll
see! muttered Facundo. I couldnt wait.
Before venturing into the realms of Asian as well as European history
through a quick visit to one of the most famous of Roman conquests, my
brief mention of Kusadasi as a quasi-unknown tourist resort on the Aegean
Sea is unavoidable. Its small but hospitable population, typical
Mediterranean-type mild climate with accompanying beaches and Bazaar style
shopping are encapsulated into a typical off-the-beaten-track tourists
paradise. For 10 euros you can even spend an afternoon in an Internet
café reminding you that Bill Gates is alive and well! Pause for
the advertisement: A visit to the East must include Kusadasi!
Nevertheless, duty calls and I must continue on my historical education
of the Roman Empire.
Like a monotonous loudspeaker at any airport that announces arrivals and
departures, I again emphasize my objection to act as a condensed tourist
guide writer. For 11 euros you can buy, as we did, Dogan Gumus exquisite
guide to Ephesus translated into English by Christine M. Thomas and published
by DO-GU Yayincilik Turizm Ticaret Ltd., in Istanbul. On the other hand,
this little back to front picture narrative was a Godsend as we explored
the ruins of this magnificent ancient city. I say back to front because
Florencia, our announcer soon realised that it had been written
backwards. As you entered and visited the ruins, you had to start from
the back of the book to read the descriptions of each monument. Understand?
As Im a contradictory sod, Ill succumb and tell you a little
bit about this incredible place. To start with, so historic rumour has
it, Ephesus was known as the birthplace of the feminist movement. No,
really! Apparently, many years ago (may I say, thousands!) the queen,
called Ephesia, of a bunch known as the Amazonians founded the city. According
to mythology, she and her ladies were supposed to be great female warriors.
Apart from doing horrible things to men such as amputating their sex organs
as offerings to their mother god, they were excellent horsewomen who could
wield a hatchet or use a bow and arrow with immaculate accuracy. They
spent their time hunting down their masculine counterparts, fornicating
and subsequently murdering them. They literally hated men! No surprise
therefore, that they didnt get very far as the future history of
Ephesus tells a more interesting and realistic tale.
Many supermen, well known to Hollywood movie scriptwriters such as Cyrus
and Alexander the Great, took their turn in besieging and moulding Ephesus.
Greeks, Persians, Romans and finally the Christians destroyed and rebuilt
what was and still is a marvel of many present-day archaeological sites.
Thanks to the investigations of a British architect called Wood, that
were started in 1869, under the aegis of the British Museum and continued
into the mid 1970s, albeit in the hands of the Austrians, part of
the city of Ephesus can continue to be shown as a small mosaic of ancient
history. But what about the city, what is it that really stands out?
What you see today is what you get. Lets take a walk on the
wild side, Florencia said as she began reading Dogans inversed
dissertation in a tone similar to that of an American marketing executive
selling the Ephesus brand. Although only 5% of the city has actually been
uncovered, the magnificence of the restored buildings, roads and monuments
represented a spectacular rich image of past heritage. Florencia read
as we walked through the city: Observe the Odeon concert hall
the Fountain of Trajan
the steam-heated Baths of Scolastika
the Temple of Hadrian and the Latrines
the Library of Celsus and
The Great Theatre, where St. Paul preached, which is the largest theatre
in antiquity having a capacity of 24,000 people. Walk along the Arcadian
Way, where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra once rode in procession
As we meandered through and my wife was enraptured listening to Florencia,
I glanced at Fulgencio. We were opposite the Fountain of Trajan and I
could detect a slight smile of sarcasm emanating from his lips. Take
a good look at this thing. Do you really think the place looked like that
all those years ago?
He was right. Its as if someone tried to fit something
of a picture together with hundreds of pieces from ten different jigsaw
puzzles on the same theme. (With all due respect to present day archaeologists
who try to reconstruct old monuments, this is what they end up with.)
He carried on, Just think about it. These Romans had one hell of
a life. First theyd visit the Theatre at the end of
the Arcadian Way for a session of gladiators and slaves slaughtering
each other to death. Then they would walk down the Marble Way
to the Celsus library for a brief intellectual encounter,
have a quick pee in the communal lavatory before ending up in the Brothel
just across the road.
Crude as it may seem, that is the picture that came to mind as we analysed
the layout of the city. Have things changed much in modern times?
But then came the Christians. Didnt they stop the Romans in their
debauchery? I said to Fulgencio. Im not good on dates
but its said that the Virgin Mary spent her last days here and its
where Paul the Apostle fought against paganism. I understand that John
probably wrote the gospel and is also buried here, I added. True.
I guess they did, concluded Fulgencio.
As we were all walking back down the Arcadian Way which lead
towards the old harbour, my wife suddenly pointed to a small block of
stone embedded in the road. It had the imprint of the outline of a woman
and a human hand pointing towards a determined area. Florencia immediately
looked into her horoscopic picture book. She started giggling. Showing
us the description of the odd mini-monument, it read: THIS WAY TO
THE WHOREHOUSE. About 100 BC!
© James G. Skinner. September 2002.
PART I: WITH OR WITHOUT THE VIRGIN ?
ship was a sixties rust bucket all spruced up for the umpteenth time,
just like Bette Davies in Whatever happened to Baby Jane?
CRUISE Part Two & Three
MANY AMERICANS; FROM BOTH ENDS...
- Cruise Part 4
on Carrys On Cruising The Med
Part 4: my cabin was tucked away between the ships kitchen and the
CURSE OF SULLEYMANS TOILET - Cruise Part 5
dont want to buy anything, says my wife, can we please
continue our tour! Im petrified.
Pink Pelicans and Other Beasts Part Seven
is Colossus day. Prepare thyself for Rhodes
World Travel in Hacktreks
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