Not because anything singularly thrilling happened to me while in Ephesus. But because Ephesus itself was, rather thrilling.
Places have feelings, this is true. Or, this is often true. Sometimes it’s a house with a cozy feeling or a train station with a creepy feeling. These things I can understand. What is harder for me to imagine is the meeting of antiquity and reality in the same place. And that place being under my feet, in the things I see and the air in my lungs. The difficulty is that for many Canadians (especially Western Canadians) antiquity is more of a concept than a personal reality. Canada itself is no older than 157 years (if you date from when it became a self-governing country). Obviously our land was inhabited long before European settlers came, but the aboriginal tribes were mostly nomadic and left few lasting memories in the land itself. I have been to places in Canada where the very land felt old. The feeling was incredible, like a strong current, or a state of being that had made long roots. Land however, ages in a different way than civilization. It has been there for so long before you, and will continue on so long after you are gone that it cares very little for how long you stay or what happens to you. While you stay, it will nurture you just as it nurtures everything else in it’s environment, and when you are gone it will replace you without another thought. Nature has never cared one jot for how people think of it. It simply does what it has always been best at. Growing things. However, civilization depends on validation to continue and thrive. Someone must give a building value, or it will die. This can have an extraordinary effect on how you feel when you visit ruins. (It does seem, that if not enough attention is given to a place over time, that place can die completely, even if their ruins still remain) When you enter the library in Ephesus, with its massive pillars and marble statues of gods once believed in, you can feel, deep in your being, how their desire to learn and to be remembered were so strong that the city, though as ruins, still lives.
But before you get to the library, just below the gate of Hercules, you can gaze down the main street, once paved completely in marble. The gate itself is quite small, designed intentionally to be too narrow for a cart. Apparently they didn’t want work-a-day wagon traffic. It was for the more elite business classes and merchants. It was also made for processions and military displays. Immediately off the main road are places for shops, public toilets and a semi-restored, mosaic courtyard.
What really took my breath away though, was the marble paving. If there’s one thing in the world that makes you feel beautiful, it’s walking down a road paved in large, cool slabs of solid marble. Even patched together with sections missing, I felt absolute luxury beneath my feet.
The road ends in wide steps that feed down into the courtyard of the library. To me, this was the most incredible part of the city. It’s as if the entire purpose of the road is to lead to the library. Like some ancient road to Eldorado. Out the other side of the library courtyard there is more of the city, and when you come around in a sort of U shape, there is the Great Theater of Ephesus. All these sites were interesting, and the Theater was truly magnificent in size, but nothing felt like it possessed soul like the library did. It was the heart beat of the great city, all roads leading in and out of it. Beating – though faintly – urging all who look on it to learn, learn, and never to give up learning.
I hope you get to see it one day!