Monday, September 26, 2011

The places are ruined.

Why do busloads of tourists from all over the world visit ruins and pose for photographs like idiots (see above)? I don't know, but here are my thoughts upon visiting Ephesus, Aphrodesius and Olympos.

Ephesus was a great world city, with a population of 250,000. Like many ancient sites, it has the great sports stadium and a smaller odeon for civic debates. In that respect, nothing has changed: more people enjoy sports than debates. Because of St Paul's visit in about 52 A.D. and his writings, Christians enjoy walking the same streets of stone. Ephesus's main street was what struck me most.

The great library facade (pictured at top with the tourist), dominates the street, but what we found most interesting was the "Terrace Homes," which were the equivalent of New York Co-ops on Central Park: Lifestyles of the rich and long dead. Work continues on restoring the marble walls and mosiac floors. Some of the brick walls, covered with plaster, still have the paintings. The delicacy of the art and the taste of the owners survives these millenia later.

Aphrodesius has no great harbor to account for its founding and growth, which was more modest than Ephesus. It did have the temple of Aphrodite. Celebratory orgies might have been enough to attract and keep people there, at least until the Christians shut down that stuff after 500 A.D. The temple is not much to look at these days, but the three stadiums: sport, civics and theater, are in terrific shape. The museum at Aphrodesius displays gorgeous marble sculpture. The skill and delicacy of the work amazes. Earthquakes caused the fall of Aphrodesius and Ephesus. No FEMA to help rebuild.

Olympos lies just off a pleasant and partially sheltered beach on the Mediterranean Sea. Freshwater streams flow through the site (pictured above), which is overgrown. It would make for a beautiful hike even without the ruins, but the ruins make it look like something out of Indiana Jones. Pirates had much to do with the fall of Olympos.

My thoughts upon seeing formerly great cities and considering rise and fall of civilizations include the importance of wise & beneficent leadership and how necessary it is to deter pirates and invaders. It seems as though people have not changed over time in terms of appreciation of art and archeticture, the desire to build or plunder, and devotion to beliefs. We, in the United States, have less appreciation for the grand sweep of history than those who step over fallen granite columns for their Sunday on the beach, as they do here in Cirali, Turkey, site of Olympos.

More photos here.

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