Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ephesus, the House of Mary, and the Temple of Artemis!

Our second day on our Izmir trip brought the GloSchos to an amazing set of historic sites: the ancient city of Ephesus, home to the ancient Greeks and then the ancient Romans, the alleged House of Mary, which has been accepted as truth by the Catholic Church, and the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Nike, goddess of victory
In visiting Ephesus and its traditional Roman architecture and design, I am reminded once again of the vastness of the ancient Roman Empire in its heyday. In Rome, the ancient ruins that we visited were old and beautiful but also had a fairly Christian feel to it; many temples became churches and a lot of the old architecture like the Colosseum and the ruins of Ostia Antica were more social/political centered than pagan religion centered (at least to me; considering that Rome is a very Christian city as opposed to the towns around Ephesus, I may have been influenced!). In Ephesus, however, I saw a greater prevalence of paganism, with sculptures of Nike, the goddess of victory (did you see the check?), the face of Medusa on top of the Library of Celsus, and the Heracles gate separating the outside animal area from the city center. Even better, Ephesus was a city dedicated to Artemis, goddess of fertility and hunting, whose temple was a few kilometres away from the center of Ephesus.

View of the city center through the Heracles Gate
At the temple of Artemis, our tour guide mentioned that this may be the only place in the world where one can see a pagan temple, a church, and a mosque with the naked eye. Having just come from visiting the House of Mary and seeing the reverence that many people, Christian or not, gave to the place, and the wall of prayers that I contributed to despite being a Hindu, I felt a bit of hope stir in me. I had said in a journal how strange it had felt to hear the mosque's call to prayer during a Greek Orthodox service, because I wouldn't want to hear another faith's service during my own prayer. While seeing the three religions together in one area did not completely erase my doubt on the troubles of being in close quarters with people of different beliefs (I mean, the temple of Artemis burned down because some dude named Herostratus thought immortality was more important...), I do believe in the gradually increasing acceptance of peoples from different walks of life in our generation today.

View from our hotel room in Kusadasi of the sunset
As our study abroad in Turkey winds down, I have seen a mixture of faiths, classes, and ethnicities walking around this country. I find their relatively peaceful coexistence (government/police notwithstanding) to be a nod towards what we can hope the world will be in the future.

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