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Library of Celsus, restored.


Facade.


Facade (fragment).


Interior—central apse and niches.


The library of Celsus, in Ephesusmarker, Asia Minor (Anatoliamarker, now Turkeymarker), was built in honor of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus (completed in 135 AD) by Celsus’ son, Gaius Julius Aquila (consul, 110 AD). Celsus had been consul in 92 AD, governor of Asia in 115 AD, and a wealthy and popular local citizen.

The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a monumental tomb for Celsus. It was unusual to be buried within a library or even within city limits, so this was a special honor for Celsus.

History

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 Romemarker itself but throughout the Roman Empire. In a massive restoration which is considered to be very true to the historic building, the front façade was rebuilt and now serves as a prime example of Roman public architecture. (The Library of Celsus may serve as a model for other, less well preserved, libraries elsewhere in the Empire, for it is possible that literary collections were housed in other Roman cities for the benefit of students as well as traveling Romans. Such libraries may also have housed collections of local documents of interest if they were not destroyed during the Roman conquest. Verulamium (St Albans) and Caesaromagus (Chelmsford) are reputed to have been sites of such Roman libraries. )

The edifice is a single hall that faces east toward the morning sun, as Vitruvius advised, to benefit early risers. The library is built on a platform, with nine steps the full width of the building leading up to three front entrances. The center entrance is larger than the two flanking ones, and all are adorned with windows above them. Flanking the entrances are four pairs of Ionic column elevated on pedestals. A set of Corinthian column stands directly above the first set, adding to the height of the building. The pairs of columns on the second level frame the windows as the columns on the first level frame the doors, and they also create niches that would have housed statues. It is thought there may have been a third set of columns, but today there are only two registers of columns.

This type of facade with inset frames and niches for statues is similar to that found in ancient Greek theaters (the stage building behind the orchestra, or skene) and is thus characterized as "scenographic".

The building's other sides are irrelevant architecturally because the library was flanked by buildings.

The inside of the building, not fully restored, was a single rectangular room (55 feet wide by long) with a central apse framed by a large arch at the far wall. A statue of Celsus or of Athena, goddess of wisdom, stood in the apse, and Celsus’ tomb lay directly below in a vaulted chamber. Along the other three sides were rectangular recesses that held cupboards and shelves for the 12,000 scrolls. Celsus was said to have left a legacy of 25,000 denarii to pay for the library's reading material.

The second and third levels could be reached via a set of stairs built into the walls to add support to the building and had similar niches for scrolls. The ceiling was flat, and there may have been a central square oculus to provide more light.

The style of the library, with its ornate, balanced, well-planned façade, reflects the Greek influence on Roman architecture. The building materials, brick, concrete, and mortared rubble, signify the new materials that came into use in the Roman Empire around the 2nd century C.E.

The building's façade was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 20 million lira banknote of 2001-2005 and of the 20 new lira banknote of 2005-2009. Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey. Banknote Museum: 8. Emission Group - Twenty New Turkish Lira - I. Series.
Announcement on the Withdrawal of E8 New Turkish Lira Banknotes from Circulation, 8 May 2007. – Retrieved on 20 April 2009.

See also



Notes

References

20-million old-lira bill featuring Library of Celsus


External links




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