Saturday, July 28, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 5h - St. John's Basilica ...and the end of day 5 (gasp!)

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The town of Selçuk is built around Ayasuluk hill, at the top of which stands a fortress, originally built in the 6th century:
The fortress has been closed for several years because of safety concerns, so we contented ourselves with a view from the nearby Basilica of St. John:
There's a stork's nest on the pillar (part of the nearby 14th century Isa Bey mosque) in the center of the next picture:
So named because a second (?) century tomb was believed to hold the bones of John the Apostle, the Basilica of St. John was built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It has now been extensively restored. Compare the baptistery in the next picture with the less-restored, but otherwise very similar design in the 5th century Church of St. Mary in Ephesus:
Instead of trees, sacred sites in the vicinity of Ephesus appear to be protected by storks. These two stand guard at the entrance to St. John's Basilica:
We encountered this nest on our descent down the hill:

Turkey Travelogue 5g - Selçuk Archaeological Museum

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Fortunately, it was only a short hike from the ruined Temple of Artemis to Selçuk and lunch. From there we wandered across the street to the Selçuk Archaeological Museum, which has lots to see besides the statues of Artemis, including several nice sarcophagi:
The figures on this sarcophagus are apparently the Muses. Don't ask me why there are five of them:
A nice sundial:
Part of a massive statue of Domitian (reigned 81-96 CE), which goes along with other massive building projects sponsored by Hadrian and Domitian in places like Pergamum:
And shattered statues of Augustus and Livia:
A note on the wall explains: “These were found broken in a room on the eastern side of the Basilica located…in Ephesus. This room was used as the Ceremonial Hall of the Basilica and then demolished during the Early Byzantine Era [i.e., after Constantine converted to Christianity], at which time many statues like these of Emperor Augustus and his wife Livia were broken as well as being Christianized by carving a cross on their foreheads.” If you want to learn more about this phenomenon, Troels Kristensen over at Iconoclasm is writing a Ph.D. dissertation on the topic.

I overheard someone remarking that this kind of iconoclasm is not so different from other modern examples decried in the contemporary West--perpetrated this time by Muslims rather than Christians.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 5f - Sacrifice in the Greco-Roman World

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The carved bulls and wreath in this Bas-relief sculpture, as well as others like it in Didyma and Aphrodisias, reminded us of the story in Acts 14, where the inhabitants of Lystra concluded that Barnabas and Paul were Zeus and Hermes come down to earth in human form, and the "The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city [just like the temple of Artemis outside Ephesus], brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them" (Acts 14:13 NIV).

We must have come close to Lystra (middle green dot on the map below) on our way from Denizli (blue dot on the left) to Göreme (blue dot on the right) in Cappadocia, because the shortest road appears to go through Konya (ancient Iconium; top blue dot). But it was a night bus, and I paid no attention to the stops along the way.

Still, it is safe to assume that sacrifice in Lystra would have been performed in much the same way as it was performed in Ephesus, and indeed, in most of the Greco-Roman world. According to the Oxford Classical Dictionary, "Three main stages [of Greek sacrifice] can be distinguished:
"1. Preparatory. An animal was led to the altar, usually in procession. The participants assembled in a circle, rinsed their hands in lustral water, and took a handful of barley grain from a basket. Water was sprinkled on the victim to force it to 'nod' agreement to its own sacrifice. The main sacrificer...then cut hair from the victim, put it on the altar fire, and uttered a prayer which defined the return that was desired (e.g. 'health and safety') for the offering. The other participants threw forwards their barley grains.
"2. The kill. The victim's throat was cut with a knife; larger victims had been stunned with a blow from an axe first. Women participants raised the cry known as ololyge. In Attic practice it was important to 'bloody the altar'; small animals were held over it to be killed, the blood from larger ones was caught in a bowl and poured out over it.
"3. Treatment of the meat, which itself had three stages. First the god's portion, typically the thigh bones wrapped in fat..., was burnt on the altar fire. Wine was poured on as it burnt....Then the entrails were roasted on skewers and shared among all the participants. Finally the rest of the meat was boiled and distributed (normally in equal portions)....Omens were often taken both from the burning of the god's portion and from the condition of the entrails."
(R.C.T.P., "sacrifice, Greek" OCD [2003], 1344)
Roman sacrifice differed in some respects from Greek, but the basic procedure appears to have been very similar (at least to this novice). Which brings me back to bulls and wreaths:

We were reminded of images like this a couple weeks ago, as someone read from Psalm 118 in our church in Saskatoon:
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. (Ps 118:26-27 NASB)

Update: t. thinks the passage was really Psalm 51:18-19: "Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar" (NRSV).
It helps me to remember that sacrifice offered in Jerusalem to the one God of Israel would also have been similar, in certain important ways, to sacrifice in the Greco-Roman world, for, as E.P. Sanders puts it, "The work of the priesthood proper, put in terms of tasks known today, was a combination of liturgical worship and expert butchery, mostly the latter" (Judaism: Practice and Belief, 79).

Turkey Travelogue 5e - The Great Artemis of the Ephesians

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After an exhausting trek up, down and around Ephesus, we set out along a nicely paved, Mulberry fruit-stained path to the modern city of Selçuk. About 45 minutes later, on the outskirts of the city, we stopped to see the ruins of the great Temple of Artemis:
(Click here for a bigger map.)
Once one of the seven wonders of the world, all that now remains of the Artemision is a couple pillars (the one on the left had a stork's nest on top), and the foundation of a Hellenistic altar: According to Acts 19, Paul ran into trouble with one Demetrius, a tourist salesman silversmith "who made silver shrines of Artemis." Gathering together his fellow artisans, Demetrius declared: "You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her" (Acts 19:26-27 NRSV).

Two statues of Artemis were discovered in the Pyrtaneion of nearby Ephesus, the first is large (2.92m high) and dates from the first century A.D.:
The second is much smaller, and dates from the second century A.D.:
Both statues are now in the air-conditioned (!) Archaeological Museum in Selçuk, where there is also a reconstruction of the Temple:
Outside the museum you can still purchase statues of Artemis, though we didn't notice any silver shrines.

Suggestions about the round objects on her chest range from "bulls' testicles" (Blue Guide) to "egg-like breasts" (Lonely Planet Guide). Scholars believe that Artemis of the Ephesians was originally worshipped as Cybele, the Anatolian mother goddess. She reminded us of Ungit, the (imaginary) goddess in C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces. If you've read the book, you'll know what we mean. Greco-Roman religion was not the tame and neutered rational religion one might expect from studying "classics", where the literature of Greek mythology is kept separate from imagining the practice of daily life. N.B. This comment is directed at the "classics" not the Classics. No offense intended toward the latter.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 5d - The Harbour of Ephesus

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If you should wander from the theatre...
...down the long length of the Arcadian way,
you will find yourself staring into a shimmering hedge of dense green undergrowth. Viewed from above, the undergrowth takes the shape of the harbour of ancient Ephesus:
(The blue marker indicates the harbour, the yellow marker the Arcadian way.)

Ephesus was originally built at the mouth of the Caÿster river, on the coast of the Aegean sea, but the river kept silting up. According to the Lonely Planet guide, Attalus II of Pergamum (160-138 BCE) rebuilt the harbour, a proconsul of Nero dredged it (ca. 54-68 CE), and the Emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE) attempted to divert the river itself, but to no avail. Today the river is a tiny stream and the sea, a good 5 kilometers away:
So what was the harbour like in Paul's day?

According to Acts 18:19, Paul stopped in Ephesus at the end of his second missionary journey en route from Corinth to Jerusalem. At the end of his third missionary journey, however, he landed at the "nearby" port of Miletus and sent a message requesting the Ephesian elders to meet him in Miletus "so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost" (Acts 20:16 NASB). Presumably he was concerned about being held up by the church in Ephesus, although I am tempted to imagine traffic delays because of construction in the Ephesian harbour early in Nero's reign.

In another post, I'll consider how the Ephesian elders got to Miletus: Would it have been expensive to travel by boat from Ephesus to Miletus? What would it have been like to travel by land? I don't know about the former, but I can begin to imagine the latter.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

From Library Master to EndNote

My blogging--not to mention my regular work--suffered from a fit of unproductivity this week brought on by frustration with the bibliography management "productivity" software I was using. Well, that's at least partly true. As this sort of thing happens to me from time to time when I am in the middle of a research project, I should attribute part of the blame to my own procrastination.

Anyway, about five years and thousands of records after starting with Library Master, I have finally made the switch to EndNote. With help from EndNote's technical support, who provided a good initial import filter, I was able to transfer all my data. It only took two days. (The transfer went smoothly once I figured out how everything worked and fine-tuned the filters.)

Technical jargon alert: For the record, Library Master is a powerful, flexible program, but it still doesn't support Unicode (or Greek and Hebrew fonts), and it doesn't interface well with online data sources. Hence, my defection to the industry standard.

Update: One minor problem with EndNote is that the SBL style, which is supposed to automatically format my footnotes as required by the SBL Handbook of Style, is flawed. Hopefully, Michael Pahl, at the stuff of earth, will have finished tinkering with his new and improved version by the time I next need to use it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 5c - The Road Less Traveled in Ephesus

The most enjoyable part of my Ephesus experience was crammed into the last half hour. Aside from the regular tourist pathway, the ruins of Ephesus are not well-marked, and major sections of the site are cordoned off, perhaps in an effort to preserve the past from thousands of trampling feet. When we met up with D.&D. at the Library of Celsus, they described a way to get behind the roped-off section without crossing any barriers, and emerge on the harbour end of the Arcadian Way:
So after we got down to the bottom of the hill, I left t. to rest at the park entrance and started trucking down an unmarked trail. The path led me to the ruins of a massive basilica, built in the early 2nd century and originally used as an administrative center or a museion. In the fourth or fifth century (depending on who you ask), part of the west end of the basilica was converted into the church of St. Mary:

The church of St. Mary takes its name from an early church tradition that the apostle John settled near Ephesus during the last years of his life, accompanied by Mary the mother of Jesus. The church is sometimes known as the Church of the Councils because it was the site of the third Ecumenical Council (A.D. 431), which--rather unecumenically by today's standards--condemned the Nestorian heresy. The less-famous "Robber Council" was also held here in A.D. 449.

On the other side of the wall, there is a plaque commemorating the visit of Pope John VI, who held a service here in 1967.After I took this picture, a man who had been hacking at undergrowth with a machete, pointed at his wrist and said something--in Turkish presumably, because I imagined he was warning me about an impending attack of dangerous Ephesian insects. Once I had done waving my arms in the air, I realized he wanted to know what time it was. There was no one else around.

In broken English he explained that he had been helping with archaeological digs in Ephesus for the last 15 years. Then he pulled some ancient coins out of his pocket, and offered to sell them to me:

Surprised that I only wanted a photograph, he asked why I wasn't interested. I didn't know how to explain nicely that they were most likely fake, for as the Lonely Planet guide remarks, "Some genius discovered that when coins pass through the digestive tract of a sheep or cow, they emerge looking convincingly aged" (221). Even if they were authentic, it would have been illegal for me to purchase them. So I said, "No, thank you" and walked away.

A little further down there is a baptismal for infants:
And a baptismal room with a pool in the middle for adults:
There is another, very similar, albeit extensively reconstructed, baptistery in the Church of St. John in Selçuk:
I'm guessing the three interlocked circles on the stone below symbolize the trinity:

Monday, July 9, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 5b - St. Paul's Ephesus (ca. 55-57 CE)

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According to Paul Trebilco*, excavated buildings that would have been standing in Paul's day include the State Agora: the Temple of Divus Julius and Dea Roma (but not the cross to the left of the picture):
the monument of Caius Memmius:
the Prytaneion:
the Heröon, the temple of Isis, the temple of Apollo, the stadium, the residence of the Roman governor (?), the Magnesian Gate, the monument of Sextilius Pollio, and last, but not least, the theatre--the only surviving building in Ephesus mentioned in the New Testament:
(In case you are wondering, the great temple of Artemis was located outside the city.)

The commercial agora would also have been around in the first century A.D., although much of what you see below apparently dates from renovations in the 4th century:
Of course, to breathe life into these skeletons of a dead city, you will need to use your imagination.
  • Imagine bright colours instead of white marble. If we had been willing to shell out an additional 10 YTL, we would have had a guided tour of private houses in Ephesus whose walls were adorned with colourful paintings. We didn't, so the following picture comes to you courtesy of Todd Bolen at

  • Imagine crowds of people. Imagine animals, goods destined for market and for the ships docked in the harbour. (More on the harbour later.)
  • Instead of monumental buildings, imagine the houses and apartments of ordinary people lining the hillsides. Judging from the Byzantine era city walls, the ancient city would have extended on and around Mount Pion as well as the slopes of Mount Coressus.
  • Finally, imagine religion, and lots of it. Imagine libations to Dea Roma, imagine devotees of Isis, the Egyptian goddess, imagine processions to the temple of Artemis, and, above all, imagine the regular, ritual slaughter of animals as sacrifices in Ephesus's many temples. The strangeness (to us) of Greco-Roman religion came home to us in a more dramatic way when we saw the statues of Artemis in the Selçuk Archaeological Museum. But more on that in another post.
*Source: Paul Trebilco, "Asia," page 307 in The Book of Acts in its first century setting, vol 2 : The Book of Acts in its Graeco-Roman setting (ed. David W. J. Gill and Conrad H. Gempf (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994). Trebilco now has a volume out on The early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius (WUNT 166; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004).

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 5a - Classical Views of Ephesus (June 8)

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Ephesus is justly famous for its extensive, well-preserved Greco-Roman and Late Antique ruins. According to the Lonely Planet guide, it is "[t]he best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean." Excavations over the last 100+ years have exposed the ruins to public view; an on-going publication series entitled Ephesus (1906-), and eight volumes of inscriptions, make the results of these excavations accessible to scholars who read German.

Ephesus is also a major tourist attraction, as t. and I discovered as we forced our way against the tide of people streaming down the hill towards their air-conditioned buses waiting for them in the parking lot below.

We went uphill to get our bearings. Aside from the crucial omission of modern buildings and modern paths, the map of Ephesus in the Blue Guide is excellent. But even a good map is not much use when you are holding it upside down. By the time I concluded that the massive theatre to my left was in fact the Theatre and not the much smaller Odeum, we decided to walk the rest of the way to the south entrance of the site, and take a more leisurely stroll downhill.

To get your bearings, consider the following photograph (taken from Ayasuluk hill in nearby Selçuk):
The hill in the foreground is Mount Pion; the mountain in the background is Mount Coressus. Ephesus is hidden from view in the plain behind the rightmost hills of Mount Pion, as well as in the valley between the two mountains.

Famous views of Ephesus, starting from the top of the valley and working downhill include the following:

The Odeum (built in the 2nd century A.D.), with Mt. Pion on the right:
The temple of Domitian (built during Domitian's reign, i.e., 81-96 A.D.), with Mount Coressus in the background:
The Street of the Curetes:
The Library of Celsus (built in 110 A.D.):
And last, but not least, the 24,000 seat theatre, with the Arcadian Way leading to the harbour in the foreground:
The Arcadian Way was paved in marble by the Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius (A.D. 395-408). The theatre was first built during the Hellenistic period, but it was expanded under Roman rule in the first and second centuries A.D. It was last renovated in the 21st century, as you can see from the crane to the right of the picture.

As in Pergamum, many of the most imposing ruins in Ephesus were built during the second century. In the next entry, I'll post some images of buildings that would have been standing when Paul wandered the streets of Ephesus in the 50's A.D.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 4 - Kuşadasi (June 7-10)

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The bus from Izmir let us off on a main street and, if it were not for the skillful planning of D.&D., I would have been hopelessly lost--even after studying the map in the Lonely Planet guide. Modern Kuşadasi is a resort town on the Aegean, built around an old village with narrow streets designed for people, and used by motorcycles. Most of the pensions, and apparently most of the tourists, are located in the old part of town. In the end, getting there was quite simple: It involved walking down hill farther than we expected. When we arrived, we were exhausted from a long day in Pergamum and several hours of travel. The sun had set, and there was no way we would find our first choice of pension on our own. Enter friendly Turks, who called the pension for us. Despite my referring to it as the "Golden Bear" instead of the "Golden Bed" a representative eventually found us and led us--uphill now--through the maze to the room where we stayed for the next three nights:
And for the next three mornings we enjoyed Turkish breakfast on the rooftop terrace:On our final evening in town, we strolled down to the waterfront for a photo-op:
I wish we had taken more pictures--of the Eros Clothing store, for instance, which advertised clothes for "Man, Women, and Baby"--but ruins, not resorts, were my main reason for visiting Turkey.