The Library of Celsus in Ephesus

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus Ancient City is one of the most impressive ancient libraries ever built. Undoubtedly, it is the most popular highlight of Ephesus and the most liked place by our guests in our Private Ephesus Tours from the Port of Kusadasi. So if you search for Ephesus in Google, the first photo you will probably see will be the Celsus Library.

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus
The Library of Celsus in Ephesus

History of The Library of Celsus in Ephesus

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus was built between 110 – 135 AD by Gaius Julius Aquila as a monument to his father Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, a wealthy proconsul of Asia Minor and a notable philosopher in his own right. Beyond its function as a library, it also housed Celsus’ tomb, a unique feature that intertwines the pursuit of knowledge with the reverence for influential figures of the era. Celsus’ dedication to knowledge and culture inspired the creation of this monumental library, which was not only a tribute to his legacy but also a gift to the citizens of Ephesus.

The Library of Celsus Video

Architectural Features and Artistic Elements

At first glance at the library, four female statues placed in the façade niches stand out. These statues are in order from left to right represent Sofia (Wisdom), Arete (Virtue), Ennoia (Insight), and Episteme (Knowledge).

Virtual Reconstruction of Ennoia (Insight) Statue
Virtual Reconstruction of Ennoia (Insight) Statue

Unfortunately, original statues are on display in the Vienna Ephesus Museum. Most of the information we have about the library is based on the inscriptions located right next to the entrance door on the eastern facade of the library. The translation of these inscriptions in Ancient Greek is as follows;

"In the name of proconsul of Asia Minor, Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, his consul son commissioned the Library of Celsus building, all its decorations and works of art and books along with his own wealth. He bequeathed 25,000 denarions (Roman coins) for the preservation of the library and therefore the purchase of books as a beginning."
Virtual Reconstruction of the Library of Celsus
Virtual Reconstruction of the Library of Celsus by Adam Nemeth

The Beginning of the Library Wars and the Invention of the Parchment

Competition with Other Ancient Libraries

It was the third-largest library in the ancient world and held up to 12,000 scrolls. It’s only being surpassed in size by the Library of Alexandria and the Library of Pergamum. These three libraries were also in a competition among themselves. As a result, Cleopatra, who wanted to prevent the growth of other libraries, banned the export of papyrus to Anatolia.

Invention of the Parchment

Thereupon, Eumenes II, King of Pergamum, started a competition in search of an alternative paper instead of papyrus and announced that he would give a prize to the winner. The competition’s winner was Kratos, the director of the Library of Pergamum, who turned animal skins such as sheep, goats, calves, pigs, and antelopes into paper. This paper was named as Pergamana, derived from Pergamum and the parchment we use today is derived from Pergamana.

Concert at the Library of Celsus
Concert at the Library of Celsus

The Architecture of the Library

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus was remarkable not only for its size but also for its architecture. The Library of Celsus in Ephesus, which has an artistically rich architectural façade, is 21 meters wide and 17 meters high. The library’s exterior was adorned with marble columns and reliefs of mythological scenes. The interior was equally impressive, with a colonnaded reading room and two higher floors for storage.

The Destruction of the Library

The structure stood for over 800 years until it was destroyed by a series of earthquakes along with much of the city of Ephesus in 415 AD. The restoration that followed the excavations in Ephesus after 1895 successfully fortified the structure, protected its artistic elements and made it accessible for public viewing.

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If you want to explore the Library of Celsus in Ephesus on-site with us, you can reach us at the links below.

Private Ephesus Tours from Port of Kusadasi and Hotels.

Private Ephesus Tours from Port of Izmir and Hotels.

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