Life and Death in Ephesus: Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour.
For over a thousand years, Ephesus, on the Aegean coast of what is now Turkey, was a thriving city. It was the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Wonders of the World, and a destination for religious pilgrimage long before the advent of Christianity. In the first century CE, St. John and St. Paul introduced Christianity to Ephesus, where it survived its turbulent beginnings and, in the fifth century CE, hosted the God-defining Council of Ephesus.
Life and Death in Ephesus is a collection of stories about major events in the history of Ephesus. Characters appearing in these stories include Herostratus, first to commit a “herostratic crime”; Alexander, the warrior king; Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, both lovers of Cleopatra; Heraclitus, the philosopher who said, “You can’t put your foot in the same river twice”; St. Paul, persona non grata in Ephesus; Nestorius, whose characterization of Jesus split the Eastern and Western church, and others, also important, whose names I have had to make up.
Hilke Thür, a leading archeologist, has said of these stories, “Life and Death in Ephesus will be a delightful and enjoyable accompaniment to the many available guidebooks. Not just tourists, but anyone interested in history will benefit from reading them.”
From “Arsinoe’s Story.”
Antony spurned the one chair set out for him. He marched around the room like someone summoned to rearrange the furniture. He pulled a table into the middle of the room, set two more chairs on either side of it, walked back to the door as if about to leave, but stopped, clapped his hands, and stepped aside, grinning wickedly but saying nothing to me. In came a line of slaves carrying trays of fruit, sweet meats, and beautifully decorated amphorae full of wine.
“Come, Arsinoe,” he said as he approached me. “Let us get to know one another. Forget Egypt. Forget Rome. Let’s eat and drink and have a good time, just you and me.” That’s when I could tell he was drunk. He was steady on his feet, his speech perfectly intelligible, but he had the thick-tongued lisp and self-satisfied grin of a man who had drunk away his inhibitions.
I took his hand and sat beside him, just as later I took his hand and lay beside him. In my eyes, on that day, at least, Antony was magnificent. I gave myself entirely to him, enraptured by the wine, which he sweetened with hot water and honey, and by his even more intoxicating caresses, which soothed away all the doubts that persisted from my past and all the fears that otherwise might have cast a shadow on my future. We pledged our allegiance more than once. Antony would invade Egypt, eliminate Cleopatra, and summon me to Alexandria. I’d return in royal splendor to become Arsinoe IV, Pharaoh, Thea Philopator, Queen of Egypt, at last.
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Finlay McQuade is a retired educator. He was born in Ireland, went to high school in England, and university in the USA. He has a BA in English from Pomona College, an MA in British and American literature from Harvard University, and a PhD in education from the University of Pittsburgh, where he also taught writing courses in the English department. He spent some happy years as a high school English teacher and soccer coach, but after co-authoring the book How to Make a Better School he found himself in demand as a consultant to schools and school improvement projects in the USA and often, also, abroad. He ended his career in education when he retired from Bogazici University in Istanbul, where he had mentored young teachers in the school of education.
For eight years after retirement, he lived in Selcuk, Turkey, among the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. The streets and squares of Ephesus became his neighborhood. His companions included archeologists, tour guides, and souvenir sellers. His curiosity about the people who had lived in those empty buildings for over a thousand years resulted in Life and Death in Ephesus, a collection of stories chronicling major events in the city’s history.
Now, back in the USA with time on his hands, he finds himself returning again and again to memories of his boyhood on the coast of Northern Ireland. The result of these forays into his past will be another collection of stories, part memoir, part fiction, called Growing Up in Ulster.
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