The Road to Ephesus, Part IV

At long last comes a bright shining day, and I am finally on the road to Ephesus. The highway to Selcuk (Seljuk) lies over the hills to Kusadasi (Kushadasuh), where new houses are stacked like bee hives, and cypresses rise like exclamation points through the olive trees. Canan leaves me at the gate, while she drives to Izmir to shop for roof tiles. The Marble Way stretches from the great theatre – it is still used for concerts – past the sign of the brothel to the Library of Celsus and the Augustine Gate. I go no further, for the way leads uphill and covers more ground than my new white cast can handle for one day. Ephesus is an entire city laid out in foundation blocks and crumbled walls. The Library façade alone rears two stories high, but its interior is roofless. German and Hungarian tourists help me up the steps, and I rest inside for nearly an hour, reading, of course.

The Artemesian is not in the city. It lies further down the road, on the outskirts of Selcuk. I take a taxi to the museum, where I am to meet Canan. Here, finally, I find my goddess. There is one beautiful room dedicated to the Artemisian and to Artemis herself with two ancient images of her. The Great Artemis. The Beautiful Artemis. This is not Artemis – Diana – the huntress. This is Artemis the goddess of fertility. She is festooned with breasts, symbols of abundance, of fecundity. A small replica of the great Artemisian is in the center of the room, with a tiny replica of one of the images placed where worshippers would have visited her long ago. When my sister arrives, we drive around to the gates of the Artemisian, but they are locked for the night. I have one more chance.

Three days later, and our time as villagers on the Aegean is over. Oz the architect’s husband comes to bid us goodbye, as do Mehmet and Zahide and Oslem, their eldest daughter, who plied me with daisies and taught me elma and portokal. Apples and oranges. Hassan the leprechaun (a Turk who looks more Irish you will never see) came up the road from where his sheep were grazing. Even Serkan, the young zoologist god, came to see us away. We drove back over the hills to the Artemesian, which was open that beautiful blue afternoon. Antipater of Sidon, after many journeys, wrote, “But when I saw the sacred house of Artemis that towers to the clouds, the [other Wonders] were placed in the shade, for the Sun himself has never looked upon its equal outside Olympus.“ Now a few towering pillars stand in stagnant water. A swan graces a pool formed from part of the foundation. Women vendors assail our car with postcards. I think about walking down, dabbling my fingers in the water, doing obeisance of some sort, but my cast might get wet, my sister is drumming her fingers on the steering wheel, and more “priestesses” are approaching me with postcards. I bow my head, and we drive away.

A passage from the Iliad reads, “Praise be to Artemis! She, who would water her horses at the reed-filled Meles river, then pass speedily through Smyrna on her golden chariot towards the vineyards of Coloros." We pass speedily from ancient Smyrna to Istanbul in a silver chariot labeled “Turkish Air,” then taxi past the old walls of Byzantium (still standing, thanks to Artemis), through the arches of the Roman aquaduct, and across the Golden Horn, in time for tea with lovely art collecting friends of Canan and Mete. The last thing I remember that night is foghorns on the Bosphorus.