In the Grand Theater the cries of spectators in their tens of thousands mingle with the roar of the lions loosed on the gladiators.
As blood is spilled in the arena, out there on the foothills of Mt. Panayir the bright red anemones are blooming.
A dog bursts out of a cave, and then seven men emerge rubbing their eyes.
Bewildered, they look around, and one of them calls out to the dog frisking in the grass: "Kıtmir, come here!" Belief has it that during the reign of the Emperor Dacius seven Christians fleeing persecution at the hands of idolaters fell asleep in the cave where they were hiding. Centuries later a goatherd with his grazing flock moved the rock that blocked the exit, and light seeped in to wake them up.
The cave is in Selçuk, and since the 5th century has been held sacred by Christians. And Kıtmir is the name of the Seven Sleepers' dog.
Selçuk is the capital of a number of religious tales like that of the Seven Sleepers.
One of them starts in a village on the banks of the Rhine.
A peasant woman named Anna Katharina Emmerick, who had been bed-ridden for twelve years, dreamed of Jesus and Mary.
In 1842, after her death, the things she had told were made into a book.
In 1890, as this book was being read to nurses at the French Hospital in Izmir, a nun was intrigued by details concerning a house.
She spoke to two priests who were at the hospital to teach and conduct mass, and asked them to investigate whether these revelations were true. When a research team went to Selçuk in 1891, they stumbled on a monastery which matched the details in Emmerick's book.
Eventhough she had never set foot in the region. This monastery gain even further prominence thanks to the visit by the Pope Paul II in 1979, and today is destination for Christian pilgrims.
LET'S HEAR IT FOR ALEXANDER THE GREAT
One of the most important dates in Selcuk history is July 21, 356 B.C. That day, those who wished to plunder the Temple of Artemis--one of the seven wonders of the world--set fire to the building, and the people, at first in shock over this great devastation, then began to debate why Artemis had not guarded her 'house.' After a while they had the answer.
That day the stars had announced to Artemis the birth of a child who would later rule the earth, and because she was the goddess of birth she had gone to aid in the delivery, thus leaving her temple unguarded. When the child grew up he would become a great king, and on arriving in Ephesus would be welcomed with applause. You all know his name: Alexander the Great!
When the Persian King Darius came down to this region, after laying waste to Anatolia, he was stopped not by armies but rather by a single man, a sage. Herakleitos was the son of an Ephesian tyrant, and when he renounced the throne for philosophy and the study of nature's mysteries, most Ephesians laughed at him. Herakleitos is known for his dictum that you can't bathe in the same river twice, and Darius wrote him a letter with the offer of a comfortable life at his court. The answer he got was, "I am content with my little portion of bread." Herakeitos didn 't go off to Persia, but he earned Darius's respect and saved Ephesus. Until then no one had imagined that the day would come when, through his ideas, a philosopher would stop the armies of an invader who respected him. Time has buried the secrets of history in the silt swept along by the waters of the Little Meander, and now Ephesus gazes at the stones used to build St. John's Basilica. Beneath this edifice, in the middle of Selçuk, was found the grave of Jesus' most beloved disciple, St. John.
ROAMING THROUGH CLASSICAL TIMES
One place worth seeing in Selçuk is the village of Şirince, 8 kilometers away.
On weekends especially, the place is packed.
Some come to see the old houses, others to taste the fruity wine, and still others simply to catch their breath.
Another sight is the Outdoor Steam Train Museum in the village of Çamlık. The curator, Atilla Mısıroğlu, has not only devoted himself to trains, but at the same time is the son of a railway man who used to work at the old station in Çamlık. The huge black trains, after bringing countless people together, have gathered here. Thirty locomotives, thirty 'black lions,' seem to have put their heads together to reminisce.
Another private museum is the 'Cultural Village' at the Pamucak-Selçuk-Gümüldür junction. You won't get many chances to visit an old Anatolian village represented by dolls. But of course one of the most important spots in Selçuk is the Ephesus Museum.
Here there are important artifacts from classical times: matchless statues of Artemis, Eros riding the back of a dolphin, the head of Socrates,Priapos, the statue of a warrior, and the attar from the Temple of Domitian, to name just a few.
As I wander through the museum a woman comes up to me, and pointing to the statue of Artemis whispers, "I'm waiting for the guards to go in the next room before I touch the white marble.
Did you know that Artemis presides over the stars and the signs of the Zodiac; that she's the moon goddess who aids women in labor?" "Yes," I reply, "and in these parts Artemis is the goddess of hunting. OK then, do you know which camel won today's wrestling match? Was it Engin from Kurşunlu in Çanakkale, or Arap from Milas
THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS, ONE OF THE SEVEN WONDERS OP THE WORLD IS AMONG THE MOST IMPORTANT HISTORIC SIGHTS IN SELÇUK, REBUILT AT LEAST FIVE TIMES, THE TEMPLE OFFERED SANCTUARY TO THOSE WHO TOOK REFUGE HERE.
The town of Selçuk 75 kilometres south of Izmir is not only the gateway to ancient Ephesus but has its own wealth of monuments from the Roman to Ottoman eras.
If the many luxury hotels are out of your price range there is no need to worry, as Selçuk has plenty of attractive and spotlessly clean pensions. Not to be missed food-wise is "çöp kebabi", the delicious local speciality which is a variation on the better known şiş 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 Selçuk 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 wall in later centuries. In 1082 the Byzantines renamed the town Saint Theologos, which became Ayasuluk to the Turks when they took the town in the 14th century.
The modern name of Selçuk dates from 1914.
The ruined walls which are the first sight on the approach to Selçuk is the fortress known locally as Keçi Kalesi (Goat Fortress), and behind this the imposing silhouette of the later Selçuk fortress appears. Within the walls of the latter is Kale mosque thought to date from the 14th century.
On the south slope of the Selçuk citadel is the Byzantine period Church of St. John, named after 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 3 7-42 AD. 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, and became a shrine visited by pilgrims over the centuries.
The church whose ruins are seen here today as built by the Emperor Justinian '527-565). Entrance to the church is through the 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 medieval 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 was later established here by Mehmet Bey, whose capital was at Birgi.
Ephesus was the main port of the principality and a centre of trade with the 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, Selçuk 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 named Ali Ibn el-Dimişki, who followed the plan of the famous Emeviye 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 on construction of the izmir-Aydin railway in the 19th century, spent his spare time excavating at Selçuk, 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 was 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 356 EC.
Five centuries later in 265 AD 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 as 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 Eph-esus, the archaeological museum at Selçuk is one of Turkey's leading museums. Situated between the İsa Bey Mosque.
St. John's Church and the Selçuk fortress, the museum's most memorable gallery is no doubt that containing the statues of Artemis.
The larger one dating from the 1st century AD and 2.92 metres in height has a decidedly Asiatic cast of features.
The goddess's arms are outstretched, distributing abundance to her followers. It has been claimed that her four rotes 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 sculpture in the museum includes portrait 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. Selçuk 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 Bülbüldaği (Mount Coressos) which is visited by large numbers of tourists and Christian pilgrims every year.
Last but not necessarily least is the traditional camel wrestling tournament which adds its own action packed dimension to Selçuk's
three thousand yearsof history.