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Library of Celsus

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Façade of the Library of Celsus
A marble statue of Celsus, which stood in the central niche of the upper storey of the Celsus Library. It is now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum[1]
Personification of virtue (Greek ἀρετή) in the Celsus Library

The Library of Celsus is an ancient Roman building in Ephesus, now part of Anatolia, Turkey. It was built in honor of the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, known as Celsus.[2][3]

Celsus paid for the construction of the library with his own personal wealth.[4] Celsus was Consul in 92 AD, Governor of the Roman province of Asia in 115 AD, and a rich and popular local citizen. He was a native of nearby Sardis and amongst the first Greek men to become a consul in the Roman Empire. He is honoured both as a Greek and a Roman on the library itself.[5][6]

The library was built by his son, Gaius Julius Aquila (Consul 110 AD), and completed in 135 AD.

The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a monumental tomb for Celsus. Celsus is buried in a sarcophagus beneath the library, in the main entrance.[1] which is both a crypt containing his sarcophagus and a sepulchral monument to him.[7] It was unusual to be buried within a library or even within city limits, so this was a special honour for Celsus.

History[change | change source]

The library was built in Ephesus, a Greek city in Asia Minor.[7] The building is important as one of few remaining examples of an ancient Roman-influenced library. It also shows that public libraries were built not only in Rome itself but throughout the Roman Empire.

The interior of the library and all its books were destroyed by fire in the devastating earthquake that struck the city in 262. Only the facade survived. About 400 AD, the library was used for other purposes. The facade was completely destroyed by a later earthquake, likely in the late Byzantine period.[8]

In the 1960s and 1970s, the facade was restored. It now serves as a prime example of Roman public architecture. The building had a single hall which faced east toward the morning sun, as Vitruvius advised, to benefit early risers. Beside the entrances are four pairs of Ionic columns on pedestals. A set of Corinthian columns stands directly above the first set, adding to the height of the building. It is thought there once may have been a third set of columns.

This type of facade with inset frames and niches for statues is like that found in ancient Greek theatres, [9] and so is described as "scenographic".

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Hanfmann, George Maxim Anossov (1975). From Croesus to Constantine: the cities of western Asia Minor and their arts in Greek and Roman times. University of Michigan Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-472-08420-3.
  2. Swain, Simon (2002). Dio Chrysostom: politics, letters, and philosophy. Oxford University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-19-925521-4. Nevertheless, in 92 the same office went to a Greek, Ti. Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, who belonged to a family of priests of Rome hailing from Sardis; entering the Senate under Vespasian, he was subsequently to be appointed proconsul of Asia under Trajan, possibly in 105/6.
  3. Nicols, John (1978). Vespasian and the partes Flavianae, Issues 28-31. Steiner. p. 109. ISBN 978-3-515-02393-1. Ti. Julius Celsus Polemaeanus (PIR2 J 260) was a romanized Greek of Ephesus or Sardes who became the first eastern consul.
  4. Too, Yun Lee (2010). The idea of the library in the ancient world. Oxford University Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-19-957780-4. ... and son of Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, proconsul of Asia, who founds the Celsian library from his own wealth ...
  5. Wallace, Richard; Williams, Wynne (1998). The three worlds of Paul of Tarsus. Routledge. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-415-13591-7.
  6. Eck, Werner (2005). Senatores populi Romani: Realitat und mediale Prasentation einer Fuhrungsschicht : Kolloquium der Prosopographia Imperii Romani vom 11.-13. Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 267. ISBN 978-3-515-08684-4.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Makowiecka, Elżbieta (1978). The origin and evolution of architectural form of Roman library. Wydaw-a UW. p. 62. OCLC 5099783. It was erected in Ephesus, in Asia Minor, in territory that was traditionally Greek to the core. That is why Celsus' library in Ephesus represents very important element in tracing the development of Roman libraries.
  8. "Ephesus (Antiquity), Library of Celsus". ΠΟΛΙΤΙΣΤΙΚΗ ΠΥΛΗ ΤΟΥ ΑΡΧΙΠΕΛΑΓΟΥΣ ΤΟΥ ΑΙΓΑΙΟΥ. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  9. The stage building behind the orchestra, or skene