The Celsus library in Ephesus is probably Turkey’s most photographed historical structure of Turkey. It belongs to the ancient city on the Aegean coast, near Kusadasi holiday resort and Selcuk in the Izmir province. One of my interests while living here is Turkey’s history, so naturally, I have tremendous respect for excavated ruins and their magnificent architecture. However, to write from the heart and extensively about the ancient city of Ephesus would take a book, so I have singled out the Celsus library for a post of its own.
About the Celsus Library in Ephesus
On my first and second visit, the Celsus library delighted me. Still, it was not until my third visit to Ephesus ancient city that I strongly felt appreciation for the facade, architecture, and historical importance. I suspect this is because I have written many articles about Ephesus over the last two years and, therefore, done extensive research in the process. This background knowledge enhanced my visit, and anyone who plans to visit Ephesus without the services of a knowledgeable guide should get themselves a good book first or use an audio guide sold at the entrance.
When was the Celsus library built?
Explaining the Celsus library’s history is straightforward. It was built in 135 AD by Gaius Julius Aquila, who wanted to honour his father, a general governor for the Asia province and aptly called Celsus, hence the name. Therefore, the family was wealthy and able to afford such intricate building projects. However, while honouring his father, I suspect that some motive might also be to boast because, at one time, the library held up to 12,000 scrolls, making it the ancient world’s third-largest library.
Impressive Statues of Ephesus
Visitors walk up nine steps to the front facade, where niches in the wall held four statues. Unfortunately, the ones we see today are not the originals because they are in the Ephesus Museum of Vienna, but their purpose was to represent wisdom, knowledge, virtue, and judgment.
Maybe Gaius felt his father possessed qualities because he also had his white marble sarcophagus, measuring 2.5 metres, buried underneath the library. Adorned with the sculptures of Medusa, Nike, and Eros, I think my guidebook was out of date since it said visitors could walk through a long corridor to reach it, but I have never found access to any such place.
Exploring the Celsus Library while in Ephesus is quick and easy. The interior hall is nothing like the front façade grandeur. Instead, it is a small but impressive structure and an important architectural design belonging to Ephesus ancient city.
More about the Ephesus Ancient City Ruins
Roman Terrace Houses: When the Roman terrace houses of Ephesus opened up to the public, I was absolutely thrilled. I had listened with jealousy as other people described the extensive finds of pain-staking excavations and read with envy as other bloggers wrote about how much they enjoyed their visit to the new attraction and significant landmark of the ancient city.
Ancient Grand Theatre: Where Saint Paul preached and the location of the Artemis Riots as mentioned in the Bible’s New Testament. To be truthful, the Ephesus theatre is not my favourite place. I feel detest for this prominent ruined structure of the ancient Greco-Roman city, because it was also the scene for gladiator and animal fights. I don’t want to pay homage to a place, where unnecessary death and pain reigned simply for the pointless pleasure of human beings
About the rest of Ephesus city: Ephesus ancient city is to Turkey what the pyramids are to Egypt or the Colosseum to Rome, and every year, an average of 3 million people walk through its gates. Alongside the Celsus library of Ephesus, there is much more to see and do.