Much to my surprise, I found out that many guided tours to the ancient site of Ephesus do not include a visit to the Ephesus museum. The Ephesus Museum, located near the tourism office in the town center of Selcuk, is like no other archaeological museum I have ever visited. Artifacts and statues, recovered from the nearby ancient town of Ephesus and other excavations were scattered all over the world, in the British Museum in London and the Ephesus Museum in Vienna to name but two. Finally, the Turkish government forbade the export of antiques and the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk came into being.
Rather than displaying the items in chronological order, the museum is divided into â€˜Rooms with a Themeâ€™. The effect is to bring history to life in a very attractive way.
First from the entrance is The Terrace Houses Room. Mosaics from walls and floors have been recovered and integrated into a room which shows ancient life. The room is populated so to speak by life size cut outs of a Roman patriarch reclining on his bench, surrounded by his wife, children and slaves. What could have been rather garish and Disney-esque has resulted in a tasteful combination of old and new.
The Burial room exhibits plans of burial sites, Roman as well as Greek and several touching childrensâ€™ sarcophagus.
The most famous artifact is of course exhibited in the Artemis Room, the over life size statue of the Anatolian fertility goddess Cybele (Artemis) dating from the 1st century AD. A smaller version of the same statue stands opposite her.
The museum is relatively small and the rooms allow for close access and inspection of the works of art. So you can admire the many smaller sculptures of Eros and Psyche or Eros with a dolphin, dating from the 2nd century.
Center piece of the building is a courtyard with a fountain around which more Roman statues and sarcophagus are arranged. Dolphins spew water into the basin and plants and flowering bushes create to illusion of walking in the garden of a house in ancient Greece.
Tired and thirsty from admiring all that art, you have a chance to take a rest and have a Turkish coffee or tea in the cafÃ©. Water, plants and trees make for a wonderful, shaded retreat.
But there is more. What I have never found mentioned anywhere is that three rooms in a separate wing are dedicated to modern Turkish art. Paintings, prints and sculptures of three contemporary Turkish artists are on display and some of them you can actually buy.
The museum which, in its present form, exists since 1983 has managed to build a bridge between ancient history and todayâ€™s output in a fascinating way, making it one of the best places to visit in Europe if you’re interested in Turkish history and archaeology. In this case you’ll also enjoy reading the Europe a la Carte post ” Archaeological Sites of Eastern Turkey“.
More on European Museums
Find out about more museums in Europe on Europe a la Carte.