The Temple of Artemis and Isa Bey Camii


We had a bus to catch at 9:00 am but I wanted to see a couple of things before we left Selcuk. Hanane wanted to sleep so I got to do some power walking and sight seeing at my own pace.

I wanted to see the temple of Artemis, or what was left of it. Antipator of Sedon, who put together the original list of seven wonders of the world wrote of it:

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, “Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand”.

Alas, today the sight is far from the shining splendor he witnessed. Frankly, I find it amazing that this surpassed the pyramids, but then, maybe it was the essence of the place. As I gazed down upon it from near the Basilica of St. John, I could almost feel a pulsing of power coming from the place. I’ve always believed that certain places do have power, whether that comes from so many worshipping in one spot or whther it comes from before that, it’s really impossible to say, though I tend to favor the idea that places of power predate humans. If it sounds outlandish, just consider how many mosques are built on churches which were built on temples, which were built in those spots for some reason. One thing is certain, this area around Selcuk is litttered with places of worship and powerful religious figures. One of the earliest we know of was Artemis, the virginal goddess of the hunt and the moon.

The Temple of Artemis was completed around 550 BC and now 2500+ years later just one column and some foundation stones remain. Archeologists have found remains of previous temples there that date back as far as the Bronze Age. The Greeks said the temple was originally constructed by Amazons, though this version was destroyed about 700 BC by a huge flood. In 550 BC the Cretans began reconstruction which took about 120 years to complete. The temple was made completely of marble It was a temple which was all about women and archeologists say that Artemis was simply a Greek reinterpretation of fertility Goddess worship which took place there long before the temple was built. The temple was run by a high priestess and plenty of vestal virgins along with female slaves.
Selcuk, Temple of Artemis, Ephesus, Turkey
So, how was this marble monumental structure destroyed? Arsons and Christians. First, a madman seeking fame burned the temple in 356 BC. It’s said that Alexander the Great was born on this night. The Temple was rebuilt after his death. Later the Christians came and they didn’t want any trace of this glorious wonder to remain, though they failed at pulling it apart completely. It’s said in the Christian bible that St. John prayed in the temple and caused half of it to fall. Much of the Basilica of St. John was built with materials pulled from the Temple of Artemis.

I walked around the site though it was closed. It’s remains were small, but perhaps I felt something. Certainly I felt energized.
Isa bey Mosque Cadii Selcuk
From there I walked to the Isa Bey Mosque. Mostly I was intrigued by the unique hammams next to the mosque. They were fenced and I was unable to get inside or even as close as I wanted to.
selcuk isa bey hammam
A far better description than I can give of the mosque which was built in 1374 exists at Archnet.org . and a detailed description of the Isa Bey Hammam at Ayasoluk at the Austrian Archeological Institute’s website.

I would have enjoyed spending more time wandering around Selcuk but we had a bus to catch. Hanane had been dying to bathe in radioactive mud since she found out we were coming to Turkey and that was where we were heading next.

The Basilica of St. John at Selcuk – Revelations and the Anti Christ

St John Basilica, Sacred tours, Turkey, Selcuk, Ephesus
I had no idea that I would be visiting the place where the idea of the Anti-Christ was born or the book of Revelation was composed, but there I was clowning around in the baptismal pool of the church that was built on the grave of St. John, apostle of Christ and author of Revelations.

It was an impressive ruin. If it were still standing it would still be the 7th largest Christian church in the world, but it’s not standing. It’s crumbling. Amazingly as we walked through, I saw something blue on the ground and reached down to see what it was and realized I was walking over an unprotected fresco that no one had bothered to uncover. It wasn’t a recognizable scene, but I spent the next few minutes uncovering it so that others might notice it and maybe someone would even put some sort of barrier around it.
Christian tradition says John lived to an old age and to have died a natural death at Ephesus about A. D. 100. He was the last survivor of the apostolic group. The Gospel was probably written later than the three Synoptic Gospels, about A. D. 85-90.
Basilica of St. John, Selcuk
Apparently after Christ was crucified, John and Jesus’s mom came along and settled in this area. John preached and wrote. John was the best writer of the ancient world. Just look at the way he uses words. Here are some of my favorite bits attributed to him:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1
John answered them, “I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you don’t know
John 1:26
baptized at Basilica of St. John
Jesus, having found a young donkey, sat on it
John 12:14
I will write upon him my new name.
Revelation, 3. 12
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death.
Revelation, 6. 8
Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Revelation, 13. 18
Basilica of St. John, turkey, Christian Holy Sites
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Revelation, 17. 5
And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
Revelation, 18. 21

For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Revelation, 22. 15

Good stuff. The Basilica was built by the Emperor Justinian in the 4th century AD on the spot where John was said to have been buried. Not far away in the hills is the house of the Virgin Mary. We didn’t make it there this time, nor did we make it to the cave of the seven sleepers which is supposed to be a place where seven young men fell asleep for a few centuries and woke preaching about God.

John was the first science fiction writer. It was he who put those crazy ideas about Jesus being the son of God into all those crazy Christian heads and he also provided the creepy lyrics for that great Iron Maiden song, The Number of the Beast.

Camel Wrestling in Selcuk, Turkey

Camel WrestlingCamel Wrestling. Sounds dangerous. I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I saw it on Couchsurfing as a group activity for those near Izmir in the town of Selcuk, Turkey.

While it is a little hard to understand the excitement that one feels in the crowd, it is motivated by the thing that Turks love and get the most excited about. Money. It’s the bets that make the sport worth while and if you aren’t betting, chances are that you aren’t really enjoying things to the fullest. Still, it is important to understand what is happening if you are going to be a spectator. I was going to write an article about the intricacies of this amazing sport, but it turns out that someone has already done that:

Burak H. Sansal over at 2Camels.com writes: While the Spanish have bullfights, and the Italians cockfights, and the English go hunting with hounds, the Turks have camel wrestling. Camel wrestling is now mostly restricted to the Aegean region though it was once more widespread in Anatolia. In the winter you will see elaborately saddled camels being paraded through the villages with the owner extolling just how his camel is going to make mince-meat of anyone rash enough to challenge his beast. The camels are all fully grown bulls specially fed to increase their bulk further, and the sight of them wrestling one another would seem to promise some spectacular action.

In reality it doesn’t happen and camel wrestling is more akin to comedy than to blood- sport. Bull camels normally wrestle and butt one another in a knock- out contest for precedence in a herd, and more importantly, precedence in mating. In the arena two bulls are led out and then a young cow is paraded around to get them excited. It’s very easy to know when a bull is excited as streams of viscous milky saliva issue from his mouth and nostrils. Mostly the two bulls will half-heartedly butt each other and lean on the other until one of them gives in and runs away. This is the really exciting bit as the bull will often charge off towards the crowd, with the conquering bull in pursuit, and the spectators must scramble hurriedly out of the way.

And that’s about the size of it, but the real interesting part is in the crowds. Horns, drums, and the smoke of a thousand cooking fires as the spectators, mostly men, barbecue camel, sheep, and chicken – drink raka and beer – and place huge wagers on which camels will win. While I wasn’t exactly sure how the events themselves work, watching the camel spit fly was entertaining (from a distance) and weaving through the elbows only crowd to see the various fires, tables, and sweet spots that were set up was exotic as hell.

Camel WrestlingThe strange thing for me was just how much camel meat was actually consumed at this event which was in a way, honoring camels. And yeah, in case you are wondering, I got a camel sausage sandwich and it was delicious! Spicy, not as hairy as sheep sausage and was the perfect thing to watch the camels wrestle by. That and some raka.

To be honest, two hours of the camel wrestling was enough for me. I took a lot of exotic camel pictures, but since I wasn’t getting drunk or betting on the camels, or having a barbecue with friends – it was actually pretty boring once the medieval festival aspect of it wore off.

It really was like being in a time long long ago with the drums, the smoke, the sounds of the camels grunting and fighting, and the sound of the nasal ne floating on the sausage smoke breeze.

 

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