Mighty Aphrodisias

tetrapylon, Aphrodisias

tetrapylon, Aphrodisias

The site of Aphrodisias in south-central Anatolia (Asian Turkey) was a major cult center of the regional version of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and fertility. Around the 3rd century BCE, Aphrodite was merged with the local Great Mother goddess of fertility, worshipped here in the lush Dandalas River Valley for more than 5,000 years before the Greek pantheon settled in. Continue reading

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes, Turn and Face the Strain – the World View of Pre-Socratic Philosopher Heraclitus

In the ancient Greek world, pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus was among the very first “natural philosophers,” those who sought understanding of the physical world through observation. Before these thinkers, the mechanics of nature were attributed to the actions of the gods.

Heraclitus was a citizen of Ephesus, a Greek city on the Ionian coast, today western Anatolia in Turkey. He was part of a wave of revolutionary thought that rose up out of western Anatolia in the 5th and 6th centuries BCE. Other important thinkers from that time and place include Thales, Anaximander, Anaxagoras and Anaximenes.

All that we know of Heraclitus comes down through later philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, who referenced and quoted him extensively in their writings. Collections of his ideas are published as “Fragments,” presumably of a more complete body of work, now lost.

Heraclitus believed that the universe and everything in it is in an eternal state of becoming and that change is the only constant. His most famous and emblematic aphorism is that a person can never step into the same river twice, meaning that the person and the river will be different each time they meet.

You cannot step twice into the same rivers; for fresh waters are flowing in upon you. (12)
We step and do not step into the same rivers; we are and are not. (49a)

He understood the universe to be composed of the union of opposites striving for harmony, each reliant on the other for its existence. The interaction of united opposites  provides the primary universal order, which Heraclitus called logos and symbolized with fire. In this world, conflict is a natural and essential process to all being and exists on a continuum with reconciliation.

The way up and the way down is one and the same. (60)

In the circumference of a circle the beginning and the end are common. (103)

Men do not know how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tension, like that of the bow and the lyre. (51)

Couples are things whole and not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one. (10)

God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger; but he takes various shapes, just as fire, when it is mingled with spices, is named according to the savour of each. (67)

We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away through strife. (80)

It is sickness that makes health pleasant and good; hunger, satiety; weariness, rest. (111)

Heraclitus expressed little confidence in either the perceptive powers or the intelligence of his fellow humans. While acknowledging that the truth of things was hidden, he despaired that most people were unable to comprehend the truth even when pointed out to them. He is sometimes referred to as the Weeping Philosopher, partly due to his intellectual isolation. As an arrogant misanthrope, he probably didn’t have many friends, which also may have led to some tears.

Nature loves to hide. (123)

Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men, if they have souls that understand not their language. (107)

The many do not take heed of such things as those they meet with, nor do they mark them when they are taught, though they think they do. (17)

Fools when they do hear are like the deaf; of them, does the saying bear witness that they are absent when present. (34)


The fragments used in this post are all from the John Burnet translation.








Pergamum in Turkey

Temple of Trajan, Pergamum, Turkey

Temple of Trajan, Pergamum, Turkey

Pergamum is an ancient Greco-Roman city in western Turkey, about 15 miles from the Aegean coast, 60 miles from Izmir, the closest airport, 110 miles from Ephesus, and about 320 miles from Istanbul. The modern town on the site is Bergama.

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Many thanks to our guest blogger Adrienne Lee! Adrienne and Robert Lee traveled on our travel agent fam trip February/March 2017. Click to read Part 1 of Adrienne’s post

Library of Celsus, Ephesus

Library of Celsus, Ephesus


We expected to visit sites like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and Grand Bazaar – and all were amazing. But they were only the beginning…Each of the historical sites/ruins revealed layer upon layer of civilizations past, complete with massive theaters, towering columns and even latrines. It really felt like we were walking back in history. Since none of them were very crowded we were treated to what felt like private tours. That was definitely the case at Alexandria Troas, where the site was opened up just for us; talk about VIP treatment! Robert and I had visited Ephesus in 2011 (with throngs of other tourists), so we knew what to expect. But on this visit we could see how much more of the ancient city had been excavated.

Many of the sites had added wooden walkways and they made it easier to get around – much easier than crossing uneven and sometimes rugged terrain.


The customer service was top notch throughout the trip, beginning with the Turkish Airline flight attendants. The staff at each of the hotels went out of their way to make our stays enjoyable. Our luggage was even transported from the bus to our rooms at each one. The attentive service at each restaurant was quite notable. It was helpful that everyone we met spoke English, especially since we spoke very little Turkish. Merhaba, gunaydn and tesekur ederim were about the extent of our vocabulary – and I’m sure that our pronunciation was atrocious. But we never had a problem with communication.


This trip was our introduction to the company and we were very impressed. Every detail of the trip had been planned and well thought out. The coordination was like clockwork.   We were never left waiting or wondering what to do – and there were lots of moving parts; buses, in-country flights, ferry rides, funicular, tractor-pulled trams….each one was on time. The trip kept building and each day was better than the last. Every day offered something that surpassed the day before…building up to the pièce de résistance – Dinner at the Ciragan Palace.

There were even several extra special treats like candy at the Marmara Hotel, the gift/wine basket at the Hilton, the yacht cruise on the Bosporus, the special gift on our last day.

The travel documents were detailed and even included historical information, packing tips and Turkish vocabulary.

The Saturday seminar was very informative. When we saw that there was going to be a mandatory daylong seminar, we expected it to be a typical seminar – long and boring. On the contrary, it was filled with many insights and valuable information. It also stimulated our thought processes with regard to marketing Turkey, Israel, Cuba and our own business.

Due to recent events, many people are apprehensive about visiting Turkey right now. Even our friends and associates questioned our decision to go. However, not once did we experience anything that made us feel unsafe or in danger. The presence of security personnel and metal detectors added a measure of security. We’re aware that many American travelers are fearful, and we are committed to dispelling those fears.

Turkey is a rich travel destination and we look forward to returning and sending clients to the region. We have seen quite a bit of the world and have taken many familiarization trips, but this was by far the best trip ever.

Adrienne and Robert Lee at Aphrodisias, March 2017

Adrienne and Robert Lee at Aphrodisias, March 2017

2 Ephesus Stories

One of the reasons we travel is to have first-hand experiences of places we have known only in our imaginations. This can apply to any destination but is especially true of places associated with narratives that have been woven into our cultural identities for centuries. If you have visited places with strong historical and/or cultural significance, you know what I mean. There’s an essence of place, made up of layers of history and legend that hang around and bring an intangible or an extra-tangible substance to the physical remains.

Here are 2 stories that contribute to the multifaceted experience of Ephesus.

The Seven Sleepers
Around 250 BCE in Ephesus, despite persecution under the Roman emperor Decius, seven young Christian men stayed true to their faith. They retreated together to a nearby cave to strengthen their resolve through prayer and, after some time, they all fell asleep. Meanwhile, the local Roman officials, under pressure from their hardline leader to cleanse the city of Christians, seeing no possibility of reasoning with the committed youths, sealed them up in the cave.

Nearly two hundred years had passed when the cave was opened by the land owner. Thinking they had just had a regular nap, the young men went out into the city and found it very changed. While they slept, Christianity had become the official religion of the empire and there were signs of it everywhere. These clearly bewildered, oddly foreign men attempting to spend obsolete coins attracted attention and the Bishop was called to assess the situation. It didn’t take long for the Bishop and the seven to realize that a miracle had occurred and, once they knew it, the young men died.

This was a popular story in the early Christian Churches and on through the Middle Ages. The story is also told in the Koran.

The Riot at Ephesus
The Christian evangelist Paul, lived in Ephesus for 2-3 years around 50CE. He preached to Jews and pagans, helped strengthen the church there, wrote letters to other churches and traveled the surrounding countryside spreading the gospel. While Ephesus was a very cosmopolitan, culturally diverse and tolerant city, it was overwhelmingly devoted to Artemis of Ephesus, both spiritually and economically.
The Greek goddess Artemis was merged with the Anatolian great mother goddess Cybele to become the major deity of the whole region, but especially at Ephesus. The Artemis Temple at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the World and attracted a steady stream of pilgrims.

After nearly 3 years in Ephesus, Paul showed no signs of slowing in his efforts to build the Church there. The artisans and vendors of Artemis statues, who, most likely, had been monitoring Paul from the beginning, were suddenly whipped into a defensive frenzy by one silversmith named Demetrius. They took their outrage through the streets shouting GREAT IS ARTEMIS OF THE EPHESIANS! It seemed the whole city was swept up in the protest. They filled the theater and continued to chant GREAT IS ARTEMIS OF THE EPHESIANS! Paul tried to enter the theater to address the mob but his friends held him back, fearing for his life. Order was finally restored by a city official who recommended that grievances be handled through the proper authority. Paul and his friends were unharmed but Paul left Ephesus not long after.

Visit www.yallatours.com/turkey to see tours to Ephesus.