Exploring Turkey and the Cats of Ephesus

Turkey has many magical wonders to visit, many fascinating sights to behold. One of the most mysterious however, is when visiting the ruins at Ephesus. One thing that will astonish visitors in addition the biblical history and the astounding library on the premises, are the cats! So many cats at Ephesus! What is the story behind all those cats? This was after all, the political, religious and cultural center after it was originally established in the 10th century BC. Today it has been overrun by tourists – and those pesky cats!

It is said that Cleopatra brought them there, and they were a gift to Caesar Augustus of Rome. That is about all anyone knows about the origin. However, these creatures have thrived among the ruins of this fascinating biblical and historical site which has a representation among the three major world religions. Today there are literally hundreds of cats lounging around, and they appear to be well fed and cared for. Visitors in particular, are happy to greet them and give them the attention they so richly deserve as the standard bearers of such history, thousands of years in the making. They are a striking companion to the Greco-Roman set of ruins that has captivated millions of visitors. The cats have become the mascot of Ephesus.

The Turkish government treats street cats very well, and has them all spayed and neutered. These cats in particular, are fed by locals in addition to by the visitors. They are fiercely independent as all cats are, and add an additional sense of life to ruins which have their own story to tell. And to think the ancestors of these cats were looking on as the story unfolded!!

There are some theories for why there are so many cats. One is that they were needed to kill rats during the Plague to keep the population alive and growing. Another is that the Prophet Mohammed loved cats, and believed that to kill cat required forgiveness by God. And in a twist of history –meets- technology, over 6,000 years after Ephesus first came to life and the cats joined their community, they now have their own Facebook page! Could Cleopatra herself have provided them any greater prize than this?

Apparently only 15 per cent of the ruins are visible today, the rest have not yet been excavated. The site is extraordinary given this statistic, however, and surrounding sites such as the Virgin Mary house and other houses with ancient history, remain popular to visit in conjunction with Ephesus. But the cats? Well, just ask them what they think about all this fuss.

To learn more about how to visit the ruins at Ephesus and the surrounding antiquities, click here for more information. Tours can also be purchased on Viator. I experienced it all and learned some of the history about theses felines when I traveled with Overseas Adventure Travel, on their marvelous trip, Turkey’s Magical Hideaways.


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