Sunday, 13 November 2011


Walking through the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Ephesus, it was amazing to me how the civilization dating to some millennia B.C. was so sophisticated and yet, how in so many ways, we as humankind have not changed so much at all.

First of all, it was incredible to see the way they built so that their built environment could withstand earthquakes. This knowledge exists and has existed and yet cities like Istanbul, which sit on a major fault line and are highly vulnerable to earthquake damage do not build appropriately to mitigate disastrous earthquake impacts. What was known to a city in antiquity (and is now in the same country as a city like Istanbul) is not being applied today.

Secondly, their drainage and water systems were at a standard that many cities in the world today do not have. Additionally, the amphitheatre really interests me. They built it in such a way to accommodate large crowds and knew how to ensure acoustics carried.

While it was all very fascinating to explore, one cannot romanticize ancient cultures too much. There were clear distinctions between the elite and the rest of society. The elite had their homes decorated with mosaics, shopped in certain areas and had a separate odeon to which they went. In many ways, class disparities persist today in much of the same ways they always have.

The rich also had slaves; babies and women were sold at markets. In a sense, we’ve formally abolished slavery though it still exists largely through many industries.

And finally, an anecdote relayed by the guide concerning men and women and relationships: Men would go to the library, sending their wives to go spend time at the markets. What was later discovered was a secret tunnel that led from the library to what were presumably brothels. The stories relayed could have been any society throughout history. It’s interesting to explore the past and see so much of it still resonates today.

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