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My Favourite Planet > English > Middle East > Turkey > Selçuk > photo gallery 2
Selçuk gallery 2 Ephesus Museum, Selçuk 5 of 10

Marble sarcophagus with reliefs of the Muses, Ephesus Archaeological Museum, Selcuk at My Favourite Planet

Marble sarcophagus with a relief of Muses, 3rd century AD. Ephesus Archaeological Museum, Selçuk.
For further details about the Ephesus Archaeological Museum,
including opening times, see page 4: sightseeing in Selçuk.
See a close-up of the relief below.

As is usually the case at archaeological museums, such sarcophagi, as well as architectural members (for example, the column capitals on gallery page 3) and statues (like the hermeros on gallery page 4), are left outside, often without labels. Many such artefacts are not even mentioned in museum guide books. Often the objects are placed against a wall, as in the case of this sarcophagus, so that it is impossible to see the rear.

It sometimes seems as if they have been taken from where they have been found, dumped in a courtyard and forgotten about: surplus to requirements or not in keeping with the museum exhibition's design or programme.

This is surely not the intention of museum directors. Space in museums is often limited, particularly at smaller museums such as this one, where newly discovered and conserved artefacts are being continually added. Objects also need their own space, so that the exhibition does not become too crowded.

It is understandable that it is just too difficult to fit such large objects as this sarcophagus into the building. Many visitors, epecially those on short visits or in tour groups, are simply not attracted by such exhibits as architectural bits and pieces, headless statues or inscriptions, and want to see the more well-known star attractions, such as the "Beautiful Artemis Ephesia". More obscure objects are usually attractive only to those with a particular interest in ancient art and culture.

Museums often attempt to make a virtue of a necessity by placing these objects in an atrium or courtyard, where there may also be a café, and where they can be dicovered by visitors with more time and curiosity. Such curiosity could be further encouraged and rewarded by the provision of information about the pieces.

In the case of other such objects, like the hermeros, they are often placed in front of the museum building as a form of advertising or invitation. The hermeros and sarcophagi at the entrance to the Ephesus Archaeological Museum tells the passer-by "this is definitely an archaeological museum and we have so many wonderful exhibits inside that we can afford to leave a few out in the open".

Until at least the 1980s one of the Artemis statues (or was it a copy?) actually stood in the street outside the museum. Those were different times, when Selçuk was a small, sleepy town. In present conditions of security consciousness and international art theft, such a thing is unthinkable.
photo galleries

Selcuk photo gallery 1 - town of Selcuk, Turkey

gallery 1
Selçuk town

Selcuk photo gallery 2 - Ephesus Archaeological Museum, Turkey

gallery 2
Ephesus Museum

Selcuk photo gallery 3 - Serbian folk dancers in Selcuk, Turkey

gallery 3
Serbian dancers

The My Favourite Planet travel guide to Ephesus, Turkey


the nearby archaeological site

Relief of five Muses on the front of a marble sarcophagus, Ephesus Archaeological Museum, Selcuk at My Favourite Planet

Relief of five Muses on the side of a marble sarcophagus, 3rd century AD.

Ephesus Archaeological Museum, Selçuk. Inv. No. 136.78.

The sarcophagus has been designed to resemble a building. Its enormous lid is in the form of a roof with akroteria (roof decorations) at each corner. Along the front is a relief of a colonnade of six Corinthian columns supporting a row of five arches. Each side has two arches (see gallery page 6 and gallery page 7).

The undersides of the arches and a frieze along the top of the wall behind the colonnade are shown to give the relief an illusion of depth. The columns at each corner are in the form of square-section pillars. Since the sarcophagus has been placed against a wall, it is not possible to see whether the rear is also decorated.

The theme of the reliefs is theatrical. At the top of each column is a head of a bearded male, perhaps meant to represent a renowned poet, playwright or character from a play, although the features appear quite generalized.

Along the front, in each of the five archways stands one of the nine Muses holding a musical instrument. The other four Muses are shown on the sides of the sarcophagus, two at each end. Those on the right side also hold musical instruments, while those on the left end hold theatrical masks. The figure in the centre of the front may be the deceased person, perhaps a poet, playwright, actor or theatre patron. Unfortunately, there is no inscription to provide more information.
Map, photos and articles: © David John,
except where otherwise specified.

Additional photos: © Konstanze Gundudis

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have been attributed where applicable.

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Higher resolution versions are available on request.
See also
The Cheshire Cat Blog
photo essays about Turkey:

Istanbul Essentials part 1

Istanbul Essentials part 2

Istanbul Essentials part 3
with video

Ionian Spring part 1

Ionian Spring part 2

Ionian Spring part 3
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