• The Temple of Hadrian, Ephesus - Turkey
  • The Celsus Library, Ephesus - Turkey
  • The House of Virgin Mary, Ephesus - Turkey

The Celsus Library

The Celcus Library


Celcus Library (Reconstruction)One of the fully-restored structures at Ephesus is the Celsus Library. Around 92 AD Roman Consul Tiberius Julius Polemaeanus was responsible for public buildings in the city of Rome, and was from 105 to 107 Proconsul for the province of Asia, the capital of which was Ephesus. When the man Celsus died in 114 at the age of 70, his son, Tiberius Julia Aquila built he library for a monument to his father. The construction was finished in 117. The sarcophagus, made of exquisite marble, was buried under the apsidal wall. Garlands, figures of Eros, Nike, and rosettes decorate the sarcophagus. In 1904 the sarcophagus was opened and a second lead casket was found inside. The structure of the building reflects the period of the emperor Hadrian with its emphasis on the front of the building. The façade is two-storied. The lower floor had pairs of Corinthian columns with nine steps leading up to the entrance level that had a 21 m entrance porch. There were three richly ornamented doors between the columns, with the center door being the widest and highest.

The statues in the niches between the doors are copies of originals, which were taken to Vienna during the time of excavation. The statues represented various virtues, as inscribed on their pedestals. The virtues of Celsus symbolized here were Sophia (wisdom), Episteme (science), Ennoia (intelligence), and Arete (excellence). The columns on the second floor were smaller with triangular and semicircular capitals.

Sophia (wisdom) Episteme (science) Ennoia (intelligence) Arete (excellence)

Sophia (wisdom)  Episteme (science)   Ennoia (intelligence)  Arete (excellence)


The interior of the library, measuring 10.92m by 16.72m, is lined with decorative marble. The section of the west wall over Celsus' remains is aspidal. A statue of Celsus, or of his son, was found during excavation and is still on exhibition in Istanbul at the Archeology Museum and was thought to have rested in this niche. On the walls were niches for the scrolls of the library. From the niches in the upper wall it is understood that the interior was not two-floored but that there was a mezzanine balcony instead. The space behind the walls was left open to guard the scrolls from moisture.

The niches could have held as many as 12,000 scrolls. Because the library was built after the buildings on either side of it, it was a bit squeezed in. Thus, the desired monumental effect was enhanced by certain tricks played with the perspective. The podium on which the columns rest, for example, was built with a raised center and lowered sides. The capitals and rafters on the end columns were made smaller to appear to be farther from the center than they are, giving the building the appearance of being wider than it really is.

Celsus Library

The interior of the library was completely burned when the Goths invaded in 262 AD, leaving the façade intact. The façade was restored along with other buildings in the 4th century and a small fountain was placed next to the steps. The façade itself came down in the 10th century because of an earthquake.

During excavation frieze blocks were found on either side of the fountain depicting scenes from the Parthian wars. The thoery was put forward that the frieze belonged to an altar found on the south of the courtyard of the library. With the steps leading down from the library on one side and the steps leading from the street on the other, the total appearance of the courtyard is that of a small amphitheater.

Celcus Library Celcus Library Celcus Library

The wall and gate in the center of the square made in a slipshod way of plaster and debris were part of the city wall when the population of Ephesus was low in the 6th or 7th century. The sarcophagus in one corner of the square was found in 1968 during library excavation. According to the inscription on the cover it once belonged to Tiberius Claudius Flavianus Dionysuis in the 2nd century.