12/11/2009

Ephesus, The Library of Celsus


Just a few yards from the brothel, baths and public latrine we follow the marble street to the great Library of Celsus. We descend a few steps into an elegant plaza. On the left, the masterful two-story facade of the library looms over us. A governor-general named C.Celsus willed 25,000 denarii for its construction and the honor of being entombed in it. The bible says that a denarius was equal to a day's wages for a common laborer. At $6.00 an hour low level worker would  earn about $48 per day in the US. At this rate, 25,000 denarii would be the equivalent of about $12 million dollars in our world. About enough to fund a decent library.

The library was erected in 135 AD. It is showing its age, but the sophisticated design, elegant pillars and stylish pediments would be a credit to any modern government building. Statues guard the portals into the building, symbolizing justice, and virtue. The portals face east to capture the morning sun so that scholars can work in the cool morning. It is estimated that it held 12,000 thousand scrolls. We can only guess at the accumulation of knowledge that was contained here. The guide says the Romans used the library for public records as well as literary and scientific documents. The library is important for a second reason. The existence of this library is proof that the Romans considered public libraries an important component of the cities they governed. The trademarks of Roman occupation include public baths, theaters, and libraries and you find these amenities in Roman cities throughout Europe. It is ironic to me that Romans are most noted for cruel, hateful and immoral things, yet, as we sift through the remains of their world, everywhere we turn we find  libraries, theaters and baths. It just seems so very civilized to me. When future generations sift through the remnants of our world, I wonder if it will seem as civilized.
I had to laugh at the newspaper headline today, "Obama Stresses Need For War at Peace Conference."
It sounds like something out of Julius Caesar's "Gallic Wars."
Post a Comment