A ghost of a gate

Old buildings and ruins are full of ghosts of people, and the shadows they leave behind. They are too insubstantial to be seen without the help of specialists: archaeologists and historians. The ghost of the Hercules Gate of Ephesus was one such. All that we see of Ephesus today is a ghost story, painstakingly put together by archaeologists over the most recent century and a half. The beginnings of this reconstruction are themselves history.

As we walked up the street of the Curetes we came across these pillars which narrowed its width by half. The fellow carved on the pillars, wearing the skin of a lion, is Hercules with the skin of the Nemean lion, which he killed as the first of his twelve labours. The carving has been identified as being from the second sentury CE. It is thought that the columns were brought here in the 4th century CE, when wheeled traffic was forbidden on this street. It looks slightly nicer than the steel bollards which serve this function on streets today.

Heraclitus of Ephesus believed that everything flows (panta rhei). It is specially true of the stones that make up cities. The pillars of the Hercules Gate were found not too far from where they now stand. But some believe that there was a pediment above it. The relief of Nike which stands a little uphill from the pillars is sometimes said to form the possible completion of the gate. This seems to be a very popular background for posts on WeChat. We admired it from some distance, before finding a little window of opportunity to dash in and photograph it between changes of groups of tourists who wanted it as a background for their selfies and each-otheries.

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.


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