Curetes Street

The Family and I walked up the street of the Curetes in Ephesus together, looking at the same things. I read my guide book at times, and read out interesting pieces to her. She listened to the audio guide and paraphrased parts for me. But our photos are often different. All of the Ephesus that we see today is reconstructed painstakingly by several generations of archaeologists. The discipline has changed during this time: from imperial plunder to careful reconstruction. This shows in the difference between the reconstruction of various buildings along the way. The Bouleuterion was plundered for foreign museums and has not been reconstructed, but the Temple of Hadrian has been reconstructed using modern methods. The partial renovation of a fountain on the road shows the nature of the slow solution of a jigsaw puzzle, as pieces are dug up at different times.

The colonnaded streets of Ephesus were remarkable. A degree of planning and enforcement must have gone into maintaining a straight road with buildings set back from it at a fixed distance from the edge. The construction of the Hercules Gate, which broke the original plan, also shows evidence that these plans could be revised. The buildings along the road were public structures erected by rich families. So it is quite possible that the Boule, the council of these families, was engaged in civic planning and enforcement. However, situating the public latrines adjacent to the Scholastica bath shows that ordinary people could not be excluded from the process of planning.

While we were taking some of these photos, I overheard a guide telling a group about the dynamics of the Roman empire. I tailed the group to get the whole, very interesting, argument. According to the guide, the economy of the Roman empire was based on slave labour, and, since slaves could be freed and become citizens, this drove the need to expand the empire to obtain more slaves. After Hadrian’s rule in the 1st century CE, slaves began to be granted more rights. This last incarnation of Ephesus would have been a city with many citizens, and even more slaves. As we walked among the throngs of ordinary tourists in the afternoon and saw preparations for a special iftari dinner in the square in front of the Celsus library, I was struck by the fact that the distinction between the 0.1% and the hoi polloi has persisted over millennia.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. Well, another important thing for the Roman empire was the flow of trade. Cheap grain imports needed to flow from Africa (Tunisia especially) and Sicily to Italy and the North. So whilst slavery might’ve declined in importance, the existence of mass production of commodities and frictionless trade were as important. When Rome lost Africa to the Vandals and the Arabs that was the true end of the Old World. (Credits to a marvellous book called ‘The legacy of Rome’)


      1. True indeed. My book claimed that one of the causes was that the eastern Roman Empire had its own economic peculiarities and a great deal of links with Egypt. Which doesn’t explain how they coped when Egypt, too, went, now I realize.


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