Most historians agree that Ephesus, Turkey is the best preserved ancient city of the Eastern Mediterranean and, along with the ruins of Pompeii, one of the best places in the world to experience the atmosphere of the ancient Roman civilization. Everyone that visits this fascinating site has the unforgettable experience of seeng the major wonders of the city, including the majestic beauty of the Celsus Library and the grandeur of the Great Theater.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that many are so awestruck by the sight of the Celsus Library that they pay little attention to one of the city’s many ancient memorials that they pass as they approach the library. For on the left, in front of the Terrace Houses and close to the tall trees at the bottom of the hill, are the ruins of an important funeral monument (located at spot #228 of our Discovery Walk in Ephesus).
When discovered in the 1920s, the 8-sided burial chamber here, known as the Octagon, held a marble sarcophagus with the skeletal remains of a woman estimated to have been around 16 to 18 years of age at her death. Inscriptions date the structure itself to the era of Emperor Augustus between the years 27 B.C. and 14 A.D.
Many historians believe that the girl buried here was Asinoe the 4th, the youngest sister of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Cleopatra considered Asinoe a threat to her throne so it’s believed that with the assistance of either the Roman General Mark Antony or Cleopatra’s lover Julius Caesar, Asinoe was banished here to Ephesus in 46 B.C.
It’s thought that Asinoe was able to live safely here in the Temple of Artemis for several years because of the temple’s stature as a protected place of refuge. Wanting to eliminate her threat to the power of Cleopatra, however, some historians suggest that Mark Antony ordered the murder of Asinoe on the steps of the temple in 41 B.C.
And while historians have searched on a hill west of Alexandria, Egypt since 2005 for the burial chamber of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, many believe that the skeleton of Cleopatra’s relatively unknown sister Asinoe was found at the beginning of the 2oth century, entombed in Ephesus at a spot within sight of the famous Celsus Library.
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