Remarkable Ruins - Library of Celsus, Turkey
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Remarkable Ruins – Library of Celsus, Turkey

Library of Celsus

Celsus Library is the highlight of the ancient Ephesus City. Celsus Library is huge and massive, which stands at the corner of Curetes street and the Marble road at the very heart of the city of Ephesus. Celsus Library is an ancient Roman building in Ephesus, Anatilia, now in Turkey. The Library was built in honour of the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, and completed sometime between 117 and 120 AD by Celsus’ son, Gaius Julius Aquila. It was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a mausoleum for Celsus, who was buried in a burial chamber beneath the library in a decorated marble coffin. The Library of Celsus was the third-largest library in the ancient world, behind both  Alexandria and Pergamum.

The library, designed by the Roman architect Vitruoya, was built on a nine stepped podium, leading up to the three front entrances. The central entrance is larger than the two flanking ones, and all are embellished with windows above. The entrances are flanked by four pairs of Composite Columns, elevated on pedestals. A set of Corinthian Columns stands directly above the first set, which further adds the height of the building. The pairs of the columns on the second level frame the windows, as the columns in the first level frame the doors. It also created the slots for the four statues, which represented the four qualities – wisdom (Sophia), knowledge (Episteme), intelligence (Ennoia) and virtue (Arete).

Library of Celsus
Library of Celsus
The ruins of the library
The ruins of the library
 Glimpse of the Library
Glimpse of the Library
The broken statue of Ennoia
The broken statue of Ennoia

Apart from the columns, the surface of the façade was mostly decorated with reliefs of eagles, mythical scenes, patterns of stylized vegetation, including flowers, leaves and scrolling tendrils.  Expensive purple-veined marble from central Phrygia was used for the formation of the monolithic shafts of all eight columns.

The other sides of the building are architecturally irrelevant, as the library was flanked by other buildings. The interior of the building was a single rectangular room paved with decorated marbles, with a central apse (recess) framed by a large arch at the far wall. A statue of Celsus or of Athena, goddess of truth, stood in the apse, and the tomb of Julius Celsus lay directly below in a vaulted chamber.

In 262 AD the interior of the library, along with the valuable scrolls, was destroyed by a deadly fire during a Gothic invasion. It is also said that, it was destroyed by the devastating earthquake that struck the city in 262 AD. Only the facade survived. However, the façade was also destroyed by a later earthquake, probably in the eleventh or the tenth century. It remained neglected in ruins for centuries, until the façade was re-erected by archaeologists between 1970 and 1978.

The Statue of Arete Kelsou
The Statue of Arete Kelsou
Statue of Celsu
Statue of Celsu
Aerial view
Aerial view

Dibyendu Banerjee
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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