Library of Celsus

Imagine a magical place with its magnificent structure with high ceilings, symbols of wisdom in front of its door, and ancient architecture! Could you?

Celsus Library, one of the most powerful symbols of ancient Roman architecture, is a unique work that has managed to protect itself against the destructive effects of history. Located in the ancient city of Ephesus in Izmir, this library structure is almost about half intact: with its long columns, ceremonial entrance area, statues, wide stairs, blocks adorning its surroundings, and three-story architecture!

Discover the history, importance, and impressive features of the Library of Celsus closely! It will be an unforgettable destination for your Turkey visits! Let’s dive in for more!

Visiting the Library of Celsus

Visiting the Celsus Library will be one of the most enjoyable Turkey travel moments you have ever experienced. Built by the Romans in the 2nd century A.D., influenced by Hellenistic architecture, this building reflects the intellectual lifestyle of the period.

The small booklets you will buy before entering here contain materials that will help you envision the original state of this half-destroyed structure you see in front of you.

How do you get to the library of Celsus?

As mentioned, the library is Celsus is located in the ancient city of Ephesus. Therefore, first, you have to get to Ephesus. Below you will read about getting to Ephesus from Kusadasi, Izmir, and Istanbul.

Getting to Ephesus from Kusadasi

The best way to visit the Celsus library is to take a pleasant travel tour of the Aegean coast of Turkey. Ephesus Ancient City is located approximately 20 kilometers ahead of Aydin, which is another tourist summer destination of the country. If you have visited the district of Kusadasi in Aydin, you can reach here in half an hour with the vehicles of tour companies.

Getting to Ephesus from İzmir

You can also come to Ephesus Ancient City after a pleasant vacation in Izmir. For this, we recommend you to use public transportation services because they will be much cheaper than a private taxi. You can easily get here by using the minibusses to the Selçuk area. After arriving in Selçuk, you can use a taxi or minibus to reach the ancient city of Ephesus in 10 – 15 minutes.

Getting to Ephesus from Istanbul

The most convenient way to get to Ephesus from Istanbul is by air travel. The closest airport is Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport. When you get off at Izmir’s airport, Ephesus Ancient City will be just an hour away. I already have written a detailed guide about getting to Ephesus from Istanbul in another blog post. If you would like to read, you can click here.

Visiting Hours of Celsius Library

There are no special visiting hours for the library itself. However, since the library is located in the ancient city of Ephesus, you can visit the library when the Ephesus is open to the public. Note that visiting hours change for summer and winter!

If you are coming here during a pleasant summer vacation, that is, if the date is between April 1 and October 1, the opening time is set at 08:00 and the closing time is 7:30 pm.

If you are going to visit the Celsus Library during the winter, that is, if the date is between 1 October and 1 April, the opening time is 10:00 am and the closing time is 4:00 pm. 

Ephesus Ancient City is open every day of the week! Therefore, you can spare any day of your holiday to see the Celsus Library closely by visiting this large and magnificent ancient city.

Museum opening and closing times may vary according to days, holiday periods, or the current calendar. You can check the up to date hours from this link.

Entrance Fee

The current entrance fee is set at 100 TL (14 USD as of January 2021). You can find out the most up-to-date fee for the period you read the article by visiting muze.gov.tr.

Best Time to Visit Celsus Library

When we say Celsus Library, we are talking about the ancient city of Ephesus, which has been registered as a UNESCO world heritage site since 2015 with its wide and open occupation. This ancient city hosts many buildings from the residences with ancient settlements to the Agora, from the Artemis Temple, one of the seven wonders of the world, to the House of Virgin Mary.

When you come here, you must visit all these areas one by one. Therefore, it may be a much better idea to visit the Celsus Library on sunny spring and summer days when the weather conditions are better.

When you come to Ephesus Ancient City and visit Celsus Library on summer days, you will see many tourist groups here. The number of people visiting the region with tour companies is really high. Well, we have said that the destination is one of the most visited destinations in Turkey, right? So, if you are coming here to take professional photos and need some space, it might make more sense to come after October.

How Long to Spend in Celsus Library?

When you set foot in Ephesus Ancient City, we are sure that you will be dizzy because the wall circuit of this place is 1.030 acres in size. It can take a lot of time to visit this area, of which occupation area is approximately 550 acres. 

Twenty minutes you will spend at the Library of Celsius point will be enough to examine the area to the full, take detailed photos and read the history of this building. But remember: You should not go back without seeing the other destinations in the ancient city!

History of the Library of Celsus 

Let’s get to know the Library of Celsus a little more.

The Celsus library was built in 135 AD. Well, who financed the architecture of the library? The son of the Celsus: Gaius Julius Aquila. It is known that this building, which was built in the Roman period, was built in honor of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. 

The rather valuable historical inscription found just to the right of the library says the following roughly: 

‘This structure was built in honor of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. Gaius Julius Aquila gave the order for the building to be built. With the orders and wealth of Gaius Julius Aquila, the entire library was built, the decoration was completed and the works of art were made done.’’

Celsus Library is one of the most striking structures of the ancient city of Ephesus, which was the trade center of its area in the past. The main features of the building, which was completed between 115-117 in the Roman period, are as follows:

Marble Architecture

Marbles were used in the exterior architecture of the building. This design generally draws attention in other parts of Ephesus Ancient City. Celsus Library, in harmony with Marble Street, was built to be 17 meters high and 21 meters wide. In terms of its location, when it was first built, it was aimed that the Celsus Library would see direct sunlight and present a magnificent image in this light.

How many books are there in Celsus Library? 

There were approximately 12,000 – 15,000 books inside during the period when the library was actively used. These books were categorized in accordance with the scientific classification habit of Roman history. That is, the catalog system reflects the scientific and investigative reading – literature recording culture of the period.

Did the Celsus library borrow books?

Yes, it did! The Celsus Library was a very large facility that also offered “lending” services in the Ancient Roman period and the Ancient Greek period. This service, which started for the first time in Roman libraries, has continued until today’s modern libraries.

Survivor Adventure of Celsus Library

It was not as easy as it might seem that such a large and ancient building survived until today. Library of Celsus experienced and survived a great fire that broke out in 260 AD! Especially in the 3rd century, not only fires but also earthquakes and other natural disasters were very effective in the region. Two major demolitions changed the history of the Library of Celsus:

  1. The earthquakes that took place in the 3rd century and happened one after another caused the reading room section in the library to be completely destroyed. The king of the period ensured that this part was rebuilt.
  2. In the Middle Ages, the front of the library was destroyed by intense earthquakes.

What about now?

It took until the archaeological excavations in 1970 to reach the modern version of the building, which is now exhibited. The archaeological work carried out during these years was completed under the leadership of archaeologist Strocka and architect Hueber from the Austrian Archeology team. Information about the last appearance and the history of the building is still up to date today.

The architecture of the Library of Celsus

When you look at the Library of Celsus, a very striking architecture greets you with its high structure and marble sculptures around it. The current state of the building consists of a single hall of approximately 15 meters. It is right inside the library with the tomb of Celsus to which the structure is attributed. The door on the back wall of the library leads to Celsus’ tomb.

The most important feature of the building that distinguishes it from all other ancient libraries is the four valuable statues in front of the columns on its front facade. However, the versions of these sculptures that you can see now in Ephesus Ancient City are not real ancient ruins. 

While the original structures are exhibited in the Vienna Museum, many similar ones have been reconstructed for display at the Ephesus archaeological site.

The architecture of the Library of Celsus was based on preserving the books and the intellectual habitat there. It is noteworthy that the shelves where the books are placed are made of brick on two sides. The main reason for this is to prevent the books made of parchment paper from being damaged by factors such as humidity and dampness.

Plan of the Library of Celsus

From the outside, it can be thought that the Celsus Library has a two-story architecture. In reality, the library has magnificent architecture with high ceilings, and archaeological studies show that you are looking at a three-story building inside.

The architecture of the Celsus library is almost like the architecture of a monumental building. The main parts that allow this aura to be created are as follows:

  1. Columns: Considered one of the most valuable signatures of ancient Roman architecture, the columns continue on both floors of the building that appears to have two floors from the front.

The structure has 8 columns that can be seen from the outside. These columns are quite long and continue on the second floor. Therefore, some may have counted them as 8 different columns in total. Markings on the archaeological remains say the columns are in Corinthian style. Upper layer columns thinner and lighter than lower ones.

  1. Sculptures: Sculptures are one of the basic elements that distinguish the Celsus Library from many other libraries in the ancient Roman period. These women sculptures give the ancient structure a more sophisticated look.

Sculptures symbolize wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, and valor. As can be guessed, the sculptures were named after the Latin equivalent of these concepts. Namely Sophia, Episteme, Ennoia, and Arete. What real wisdom!

Statues of the Library of Celsus

Until now, we had the chance to talk about the statues while talking about the interesting appearance of the Library of Celsus and also talking about the architecture of the building, which is quite advanced compared to its period. But now we will examine these sculptures in more detail, which created the most impressive facade view on the world. Are you ready?

The four sculptures, the originals of which are currently exhibited in the Vienna Museum, find right behind the columns on the front facade, where visitors see right after they climb the wide stairs. 

Sculptures are placed on the areas opening towards the interior of the walls. In this way, the sculptures stay in a sheltered area. There are a total of four female statues symmetrically arranged, two on the right and two on the left of the door on the wide front. These sculptures are as follows:

  1. Wisdom (Sophia)
  2. Knowledge (Episteme)
  3. Intelligence (Emnoia)
  4. Valor (Arete)

Further Information and Tips

It is possible to say that the Library of Celsus may be one of the most important parts of a very enjoyable vacation experience. So, is the information about the ancient history of Celsus limited to this?

A Rumor About Library of Celsus

Actually, we have a little anecdote for those who love history and historical stories.

According to the rumors, there was a brothel in the ancient city of Ephesus. In some accounts, it is said that the first advertising poster used in the world was the brothel poster in the ancient city of Ephesus. This brothel, which is located opposite the Library of Celsus, has created a way for men to go here easily. Men who did not want to show that they were going to the brothel were using an underground tunnel dug through the Library of Celsus towards the brothel.

Of course, this is basically a rumor. But still, it’s a fun anecdote for rediscovering the dusty pages of history, isn’t it? 

Where is Celsus’s tomb? 

We have briefly mentioned the tomb of Celsus above. But this issue requires more detailed information. Is Celsus’ tomb really inside the library?

Known for his love of books, Tiberius Celsus Polemeanus was placed in a public place in the library after his death. What is surprising here is that a public tomb was not a common sight in ancient Greek architecture for that period. 

So, how could it be? Well, Celsus’ political power probably made this possible. In the ancient Greek period, the dead were buried in areas located in the outer parts of the city and cemeteries were not very popular areas. 

To understand the power of Celsus and his domination over the city, it is enough to even think of this impressive tomb located on the ground floor of the western wing of the library.

Is it safe to go to the Library of Celsus?

No worries! Ephesus Ancient City, which welcomes thousands of local and foreign tourists every year, is located in Izmir, in the westernmost part of Turkey. It is quite safe to visit Turkey and the Selçuk district of Izmir. It is a popular destination and people from many parts of the world come here every year. What’s more, your visit can become unforgettable when combined with other summer vacation opportunities.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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