Ok everyone, I’m going to try to cram the rest of turkey in this email.
Apologies in advance for the horrid grammar and strange and/or insulting
word choices. I have a lot of catching up to do, and I’m kind of in a hurry, so here I go.EPHESUS: As I try to recreate the history of Ephesus, I wonder why I can’t
write like a writer of histories–without passion, without anger, without
the sense of betrayal and oppression on behalf of some kind of victim.
Nonetheless… Ancient Ephesus was a great trading city and a center for the
cult of Cybele, the Anatolian fertility goddess. Under the influence of the
Ionians, Cybele became Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon,
and a fabulous temple was built in her honor. When the Romans took over,
Artemis became Diana and Ephesus became the Roman provincial capital. Even
before that wily and itinerant King Alexander, curiously known as “the
Great,” happened upon the construction of a new temple to Artemis in 334 BC,
the Ephesians had already acquired that air of contempt that may either be
classified as unwarranted contempt or rightful pride. They tactfully
declined Alexander’s request to dedicate the temple to him, arguing that it
would not be befitting for one god to make a dedication to another. When
finished, the temple was regarded as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient
world, and the city of Ephesus which grew around the temple flourished into
the capital of Asia minor.
In truth, though, the Ephesian Artemis was fierce enough, she probably could
have held her own, had the dedication of her temple come into question.
Here was the huntress, a goddess of such radically feminist convictions that
she had Actaeon torn to pieces by dogs for accidentally seeing her naked,
and had her paramour Orion stung to death by scorpions for touching her
fortuitously. she was such a fastidious stickler for etiquette and summary
chastisement that entire dynasties could be disposed of for one word out of
place or an oblation 5 minutes late. It is no wonder that Artemis had her
own particular cult in Ephesus; she was a troublesome gadfly whose mischief
should in preference have been made to occur elsewhere.
The Temple was originally built right along the water’s edge, so as to be
adored by the “innumerable smiles of the waves” (I think that comes from
aeschylus? Not sure though). Now, however, the sea has receded
considerably, and the ruins–just one lonesme column with a stork nest
perched on top–lie about 7 km inland. As for what remains of the great
city of Ephesus–or Efes, in Turkish–the ruins are huge, majestic, aloof.
they tower above everything, deigning only to reach beyond what mortals can
even see. Colonized by wild poppies and butterflies and the
more-than-occasional stork nesting atop a colossal column. Outside of
Ephesus, there’s Meryemana, or the House of Mary, supposedly where the
Virgin Mary came to live out the rest of her days on Mt. Corresos. No attempt has been made to recreate her house–a powerful statement of faith, I think, in the capabilities of the imagination of the spirit. But there is a sweet little chapel literally swimming in candle flames and floating ontop of whispered prayers. Nearby, there is also a wall where Muslims tie intercessions to Mary (she is very highly revered in Islam).
Finally, there is the Basilica of St. John, built on the tomb of the saint himself. Most of it has fallen into ruin, due to earthquakes and Western Indiana JOnes wanna-bes. In any case, the tomb is clearly marked, and even if there’s nothing inside anymore, there’s always the peace of believe that there IS. It was built by Emperor Justinian in the 500s. It must have been a monster of a church, looming high atop a hill, in clear view of all the ships coming into the harbor. Gigantic columns, massive marble staircases, unmovable slabs of spiritual esoterica–right in the face of the Temple of Artemis! Justinian certainly was not one for subtlety.
CAPPADOCIA–or Kapadokya, as it is properly called–is superbly geological, spiritual, historical, cultural, natural, peaceful… There’s something about Capadocia that simply escapes my very imagination. I can feel the eponym bubbling up from inside me, but by the time it reaches my brain, it vanishes. Much like the homes, churches, stables–even entire monasteries and convents–that disappear into the rock out of which they have been hewn. Allow me to elaborate.
The half-forgotten island of Kapadokya rises improvidently and inadvisedly from the mountains of central Anatolia; it is a place so immense in antiquity that the very rocks themselves exhale nostalgia and the red earth lies stupefied not only by the brilliance of the sun, but by the impossible weight of memory. The Hittites settled Kapadokya from 1800 to 1200 BC, after which smaller kingodms held power. Then came the Persians, followed by the Romans. During the Roman and Byzantine periods, Kapadokya became a refuge for early Christians and, from the 4th to the 11th century, Christianity flourished here; most churches, monasteries and underground cities–yes, entire cities–date from this period. Later, under Seljuk and Ottoman rule, Christians were treated with tolerance. The geography of the area is such that it is flanked by 4 volcanos that at one time covered the land with lava, which in turn became a very soft rock, which the wind eroded into a strange, lunar-like landscape. The mountains are serrated by these cone-shaped rocks–called “fairy chimneys”–which later became the perfect hiding places for Christian peasants seeking refuge from persecution.
Later, entire monasteries and convents were hewn out of the rock–architectural and terrestrial incarnations of the humble life. Most impressive were the frescos that could still tell their stories (they were in caves, so there was no light, so they’re very well-preserved). I had SO much fun climbing all over the place and exploring. The place is loaded with all kinds of fantastic shapes and colors and textures; the weather was perfect; and the locals were so nice.
I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you all. I’m already in Lebanon, and I haven’t even talked about Syria yet, but here’s what’s to come: a massive citadel, 2 bustling city markets, a crusader castle, and some of the oldest churches and mosques in the world. Love to you all. Miss you!