Ephesus– Amazon Queen or goddesses ?

So many rumors surround the naming of Ephesus. Was the ancient city named after Ephos, queen of the female Amazon warriors of what is now the Ukraine? There may be a connection, because the old testament name for this town was Smyrna–which has origins in that myth. What we do know is that Greek colonists took over in the 10th century, BC. and their goddess, Artemis became the mother goddess. Two statues depicting her are now in the Ephesus museum.

Although Artemis protected fertility and plenty, those aren’t many breasts (archeologists declare) but are either gourds or bulls testicles ( So many fertility symbols !). Her robe is decorated with animals and bees are on her feet. These statues had been buried before a seige, which protected them for centuries.

The acropolis, built on top of the hill in 550 BC, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Some of the marble panels are in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. All that remains is toppled stones. I wish I had more time there to hike up and look at Ephesus from that vantage point.

The Roman’s took over Ephesus in 129 BC until 395 AD. This is the classical period when streets were paved with marble and intricate mosaics. the 3rd picture once led to the now dry harbor where ships rocked.

Expansion led to many important buildings :

The Roman senate held government discussions and voting at the State Agora. There is an older Greek agora about 6′ below this one. The bottom picture is the exit from the senate, which the Roman’s called the vomitarium. Don’t you love their use of words? Especially applies to government debates.

The library of Celsus, which was dedicated to Emperor Tiberius, was the third largest library of the ancient world. Alexandria in Egypt had the largest library followed by Pergamum, which is also in Turkey. The three female statues in niches on the façade were Virtue, Wisdom and Knowledge. There is a tunnel inside to the brothels across the street (pictured last) Women weren’t allowed in the library. Can you imagine the conversation? “Hey Honey–I’m going to go read one of the 12,000 scrolls tonight.” Yeah. Right.

There is a triple entrance ( Gate of Mazaeus and Mithripates) to the right of the library that leads into the 364′ (square) commercial Agora.

The market once stood two stories high with double columned porticos. One of the more famous workers was St. Paul—He worked in a tentmaking and leather shop here until he got arrested and then got railroaded out of town.

There are 6 aqueducts that supplied water to the city. A steady stream ran under the public toilets washing away the offal and other pipes fed the Scholastic baths pictured (rt) below.

The theater had 25,000 seats. Parts of it were closed off when I was there in March, 2022 for restoration and expansion. ( shucks! no climbing to the top) the last image is from a book showing what the stage screen looked like.

This takes me to St. Paul and St. John. Ephesus is one of seven cities mentioned in the book of Revelation and the Gospel of St. John was written here. There are early Christian symbols, called, Ichthys etched in stone around the city. The circle holds the Greek symbols :I (Jesus) X (Christ) O (God) Y (Son) and E (savior). Within the circle is also the earliest sign of the cross.

This was a secret way of identifying Christian dwellings. Eventually a Roman general figured it out, which led to arrests and massacre. St. John’s gravesite is in Ephesus, but it’s not clear if he was martyred or not. The other rumor is that Mary, the mother of Jesus, also lived near Ephesus because Jesus asked John to take care of her.

The Temple of Domitian was built in 1 AD and dedicated to the brutal emperor Domitian. Ephesus was looking for Roman favor. He wasn’t popular with anyone and eventually was killed by a worker (slave?)

Hadrian Temple- (130-132)-was dedicated to the Roman emperor and his statue probably stood inside but it’s been lost. The bust of Tyche ( goddess of chance and fortune) is surrounded by acanthus leaves ( immortality and resurrection). Medusa’s head is quite lovely with all those snakes. Her symbol wards off evil in a convoluted thought. She became evil– after she was wronged– but became a badass who meted out justice by destroying evilness and turning men into stone.

Hercules Gate–divided uptown from downtown. Currently, there are only 2 pillars but the 2-storey gate would have had 12. The arch is gone and the winged Nike found elsewhere in Ephesus is thought to have been part of that arch. 2nd picture is walking between the columns of the gate.

Trajan’s Fountain was built in the second century to honor the emperor Trajan. It had two ornamental pools, one in front the other in back. Water flowed from a central pillar where a huge statue of Trajan rested his feet on the world. There were many statues which are in the archeological museum in Ephesus. This fountain is still being restored and is smaller than the original.

other symbols, signs, and fountains in Ephesus

What made Ephesus important was her busy harbor that slowly filled with silt from the Kucukmenderes River. Dredging was attempted, even back then, but eventually malaria and diseases followed. Today, the filled-in harbor is 2.5 miles inland. Much of the site is still unexcavated, so imagine what future generations might find!

Fairy Land

The Cappadocia region of Turkey is enchanting with narrow canyons covered in cone-shaped chimneys formed from volcanic ash (tufa) that fell 14 million years ago. Dwellings date to 4,000 BC, but The Hittites dug out the soft stone in 2,000 BC and named this place “Cappadocia” which means “Land of beautiful horses.” The name and love for horses stuck and the two volcanoes seem to be extinct.

Some of these homes were multi-roomed with central firepits and crop storage rooms that remained cool year-round. Many had pigeon nests. If they needed more rooms, out came the tools and an addition was dug out.

Somebody got the great idea of moving certain businesses underground, such as wine making where temperature is important. That action developed into another question, “Maybe we should build underground cities for times of siege or attack?” Especially with invasions by the Greeks, Romans, and even the Turks. Animals remained on the upper floors. Narrow and short tunnels were created allowing only one person to enter at a time. This made it easier to whack invaders. Huge boulders were rolled and locked in place from the inside on each level.

I visited Ozkonak and met the farmer (Latif Acar) who discovered this 8th century AD city in 1972. The underground could shelter 30,000 people for 3 months. Only 4 of the 10 floors are currently open. Quite amazing that people could live with water from the well and fresh air through ventilation shafts.

During the middle ages, St. Basil and other Christians settled above ground in the hope for a little peace and quiet. These people lived in communal towns where each home had a church. The Goreme Open Air Museum is really interesting. There are many pigeon nests because they sold the fertilizer before commercial products. Although with current prices, farmers may go back to this simple plant nutrient for the surrounding vineyards. The frescoes in the churches range from simplistic ( and somewhat puzzling) to quite detailed and beautiful. ( 10th century AD to 12th) . Check out the naked saint with a cactus hiding the genitals. I’m not sure what the cockroach or louse figure had to do with religion, bottom left. Send me a note if you have the answer.

A hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is worth every penny spent. Quite magical to see so many balloons lifting up in the dark while watching the sun rise over the unique landscape.


Istanbul is a vibrant, crowded city of 15.46 million people with a history stretching back to the Hittites ( 13 century BC). Peel back the layers of many conquerors to discover an intriguing weave of cultures that tickle the senses.

There are restaurants, such as Deraliye Ottoman Cuisine where you can feast on authentic recipes from the Ottoman Sultans, or try any place serving Greek inspired Doner ( Gyro) and Kabobs. The best Baklava is a Syrian owned place called Karakoy Gulluoglu. If you want Turkish delight, bypass the cheaper fructose products in the Spice Market and sample the real-deal—varieties made with honey, nuts, fruit ,chocolate and even caramel.

After you’ve satisfied your tummy, listen to the music floating through the night air—from Arabic inspired folk or rap to the haunting call to prayer. Why does light seem more golden in Istanbul? Ottoman Empire tiles further delight your sight with intricate colors and patterns.

Vendors in markets will invite you to sit and enjoy a cup of tea or Turkish coffee and all negotiations begin with shared conversations about delightful things. This is a time-honored courtesy, so keep your heart open to the experience.


Roman emperor Justinian built this former Orthodox Christian church in 532-537 AD. The very same guy who accomplished this feat of architecture also burnt the worlds most extensive library in Alexandria, Egypt. Who in the world burns books? Those who don’t want education about things that don’t jive with their religious viewpoint. This should be a warning to us in the States right now with the extreme right fractions taking control of our government and education. Banning books is as bad as burning them.

This church had a bloody history. Do you remember reading about the Chism between the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic church? Crusaders decided to fight under the banner of the Roman Pope to sack Constantinople. In other words, killing and forcing Greek Orthodox Christians to eliminate the division. That senseless violence escalated in 1453 with the rise of (Muslim ) Mehmet the Conqueror. He turned Sophia into a mosque. Now mosque’s around the world follow this signature architecture with a huge dome and open space. Although statues and anything with a face have been removed, a few mosaics have been saved, such as the one above right depicting Justinian handing Mary ( and Jesus) this church. Look for the one Seraphim angel whose face has been fully uncovered.

Hagia Sophia is once again an active Muslim Temple. Head scarves are required for all women and shoes are removed before entering. Bring a bag to put your shoes in and carry them. Otherwise, you risk not being able to find them again. Before you enter, stop to look at the beautiful marble panels in the hallway. These were taken from the Roman temple of Artemis in Ephesus and reused here.

Topkapi Palace

entry to the palace grounds

Mehmet the Conqueror started the cosmic rise of the Ottoman Empire with a ferocious 55 day siege of Constantinople ( AKA: Istanbul). Afterwards, everyone wanted to keep the Sultan happy. This palace was built for him and 5,000 workers kept it humming. There are many buildings with exhibits in some –such as the holy relics of Muhammad (no photos and head scarves for women to enter). There are displays of the sultans armor and weapons that’s interesting and sometimes beautiful. But the biggest deal is the Spoon Sellers Diamond. The story spins that the spoon seller found this diamond in the dump. It’s 42 carat diamond surrounded by 84 smaller carats.

Then there’s the haram. It’s an additional ticket to enter this fascinating place where the girls were kept and trained. The sultans were allowed 4 wives and as many concubines as they wanted. Many ladies were the most beautiful slaves taken from other lands. Also living in the harem were unmarried daughters and young sons. Next door to the harem is the (castrated) black Eunuch’s living quarters. These guys were taken by Arab horsemen raiding in Africa. Although they were slaves, some of them became quite powerful because they had the ear of the sultan.

Bosphorus Cruise

On a warm day, it’s quite the treat to tour the Bosphorus on a boat. One of the later sultans wanted a palace that was more European, so he built it at the water’s edge. There’s two medieval fortresses and beautiful mosques. Homes you view sell for millions and millions of dollars.

Roman Hippodrome

Located in Sultanahmet square close to both the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

The word Hippodrome means “Horse” and “Way” which describes what this place was—a place for gambling on Roman chariot races (203-330 BC-2 AD). But it was also used for gladiator fights, executions, and ceremonies. 40,000 people could attend games for free, so it once was immense. Remains of the serpent column from Delphi and the obelisk from Egypt are here and were used to show how vast the Byzantine empire was at the time. The Ottomans also used the hippodrome as a square, but created damage when the Blue Mosque and the Pasa Palace ( now the Turkish and Islamic Art museum) were built.

**** The Blue Mosque is under a several year construction repair project and you can’t see a thing. I visited during the highest holy days of Ramadan, so the Grand Bazaar was closed. Add them into your itinerary if they are open when you visit. Blue mosque at night pictured below.