by Emine ERGENC
The town of Selcuk, 75 kilometres south of Izmir is not only the gateway to ancient Ephesus but has its own wealth of monuments stretching from the Roman to Ottoman eras.
If the many luxury hotels are out of your price range there is no need to worry, as Selcuk has plenty of attractive and spotlessly clean pensions. Not to be missed food-
wise is "cop kebabi", the delicious local speciality which is a variation on the better known sis kebab. This is served at one of the many modest restaurants whose tables spread across the pavements and which like the shops offer service virtually 24 hours a day. The earliest settlement at Selcuk goes back to Mycenaean times, and ceramics found here closely resemble those from 1400-1200 BC found in Rhodes and at other sites in western Turkey. When the harbour at classical Ephesus silted up in the 4th century AD, most of the inhabitants moved to a new site on a nearby hill around the Church of St. John. This second Ephesus grew steadily and the citadel was surrounded by a first wall in the 7th century, and by a second in later centuries. In 1082 the Byzantines renamed the town Saint Thelogos, which became Ayasuluk to the Turks when they took the town in the 14th century. The modern name of Selcuk dates from 1914. The ruined walls which are the first sight on the approach to Selcuk is the fortress known locally as Keci Kalesi (Goat Fortress), and behind this, the imposing silhouette of the later Selcuk fortress appears. Within the walls of the latter is Kale mosque, thought to date from the 14th century. On the southern slope of the Selcuk citadel is the Byzantine Church of St. John, the Evangelist who according to the historian Eusebios came to Anatolia to spread the gospel after he and the other Apostles were expelled from Jerusalem in 37-42 A.D. The Virgin Mary is believed to have accompanied John to Ephesus. Upon the death of St.Paul, St. John became leader of the churches of Ephesus, writing his gospel and eventually dying here. In the 4th century, a basilica with a wooden roof was erected over his grave, whose chamber was believed to contain a sacred dust with miraculous properties. It became a shrine visited by pilgrims over the centuries. The church which is in ruins today was built by the Emperor Justinian (527-565). Entrance to the church is through a magnificent portal known as the Gate of Persecution, on which there used to be three reliefs (now in Britain) representing the life of Achilles. This gate was built of stones taken from earlier buildings.According to the mediaeval Arab traveller Ibn Batuta, St. John's Church was converted into a mosque after the Turkish feudal lord Sasa Bey conquered this region. The Aydinoglu principality whose capital was at Birgi was later established here by Mehmet Bey. Ephesus was the main port of the principality and a centre of trade for Venetians and Genoese merchants, which is why during this period the town became known as Altolugo, meaning "high place" a name which appears in several Italian sources.
Under the Aydinoglu ruler, Isa Bey, Selcuk developed rapidly. Isa Bey's beautiful mosque situated between the Temple of Artemis and the Church of St. John is a fine work of art designed by an architect from Damascus who followed the plan of theEmeviye Mosque in his home city. Completed in 1375, the mosque has a richly carved wooden ceiling and a colonnaded courtyard with an octagonal pool.
An English engineer named wood, who was employed in construction of the Izmir-
Aydin railway in the 19th century, spent his spare time excavating at Selcuk, and it was he who uncovered the Temple of Artemis in 1869. one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This temple was destroyed and rebuilt at least five times over the centuries.
The original Artemision was burnt down two hundred years after it had been built by a madman named Eostratos who wished his name to go down in history at any price.
This act of arson is said to have occurred on the night of Alexander the Great's birth in 356BC. Five centuries later in 265 A.D. the temple was destroyed for the last time by the invading Goths.
Those who took refuge in the Temple of Artemis enjoyed protection so long as they remained, and property placed here was similarly inviolate. This facilitated the temple's secondary function, a bank, which both safeguarded deposits and made loans to the public from its own store of riches. Adversities of history have treated the temple badly, however, and little remains of this monument which was once the largest and most splendid structure in the Hellenic world. With a remarkable collection of works of art found at Ephesus, the archaelogical museum at Selcuk is one of Turkey's leading museums. Situated between the Isa Bey Mosque. St. John's Church and the Selcuk fortress, the museum's most memorable gallery is no doubt that containing the statues of Artemis. The larger one dating from the 1st century A.D. and 2.92 metres in height has a decidedly Asiatic cast of features. The goddess's arms are out-stretched, distributing abundance to her followers. It has been claimed that her four rows of breasts are actually eggs, and the latest theory is that they in fact represent the testicles of sacrificed bulls. On the opposite side of the room is a 2nd century Artemis known as "Artemis the Beautiful" which is 1.74 metres high. Other sculptures in the museum includes busts of the Roman emperors, a marble head of Eros and a statue of Priapus. Another highlight of the museum is a reconstruction of one of the hillside villas excavated at Ephesus. Opened in 1994, this exhibit includes a fascinating collection of objects found at these sites. Seljuk is within walking distance of the ruins of ancient Ephesus, and other places of interest nearby include the superb beaches of Pamucak, the Caves of the Seven Sleepers, and the House of the Virgin Mary on Bulbuldagi (Mount Coressos) which is visited by large numbers of tourists and Christian pilgrims every year. Last, but not least , is the traditional camel wrestling tournamlent which adds its own action packed dimension to Selcuk's three thousand year history.