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When our tour guide, Umut, said we were visiting one of the best preserved Roman cities I said, “Umut, EVERY country has ‘one of the best preserved Roman cities.'” He replied, “I promise you Rhonda, you will not be disappointed.” And I wasn’t. I can always trust Umut.

At first glance the ruins seemed average, but then we rounded the corner and the view took my breath away. A long colonnade winding through ruins drops down to the Celsius Library, a stately structure built in 117 AD. At the time it was the third richest library in the world! The columns on the sides are shorter than those in the center, giving the illusion that the building is larger.

One of the first places we identified was the hospital. Umut drew our attention to the symbol of medicine, the caduceus, and asked us to guess what was situated on this site. Bre answered quickly because she’s a nurse and has the symbol on her arm!

Umut pointed out a headless statue and explained it wasn’t a coincidence the head was missing. It would have been easily removed because it was periodically switched out to honor patrons (probably those with large pockets).

Of particular interest is an area that has been excavated to reveal homes of the wealthy. There are elaborate frescoes and flawless mosaic floors that are remarkably intact.

Of course, there’s always a lot of discussion about the communal public toilets. Beyond the obvious “WHY?!?” is “why are they SO CLOSE?!?” Can you imagine feeling comfortable conversing with the background noise of bowel movements? The casual sharing of bathroom operations is beyond my scope of comprehension.

The “Winged Victory of Samothrace” or “Nike of Samothrace” holds special interest for me. You may be familiar with it because of the Nike symbol–Nike is the goddess of victory (the symbol can be seen on the lower left). I worked for years at the Idaho Statehouse which has a 1949 replica of the Winged Victory. The original–which is missing the head and arms–is a Greek sculpture from the 2nd century BC and has been housed at the Louvre since 1884. The state of Idaho received the replica from the people of France after WWII. France sent a train full of gifts for the American people–one boxcar for each state–to thank us for assisting in their liberation from Nazi dominion. Idaho received the Winged Victory which has been overseeing legislative operations from the fourth floor rotunda ever since!

The great theater of Ephesus is splendidly preserved–probably because it was built of marble. The apostle Paul preached in Ephesus for two years. Historians believe that while he was speaking in this theater, he was driven out by silversmiths. The silversmiths’ livelihood had diminished as Christianity flourished, since they primarily sold shrines of the goddess Artemis, patron of Ephesus. I particularly enjoyed the goats frolicking in the theater!

I’ll close with these poetic words from Paul’s fourth letter to the Ephesians: Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Photo credit for the fabulous post header goes to my lovely Russian friend, Albina.

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