With an estimated excavation of only 15% Ephesus is believed to contain one of the largest collections of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Those ruins that are visible can only suggest at the splendor of a city that once stood second in importance to only Rome itself, and would go on to become the largest in all of Roman Asia during the first and second centuries. The carefully reconstructed façade for example of the Library of Celsus represents not only the master craftsmanship but the scale that the Roman Empire was capable. Built in memory of the Ancient Greek senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus who governed Roman Asia and paid for the construction of the library with his own money, is in fact buried within a sarcophagus beneath it, a distinct honor given it both unusual to be buried within a library as well as within city limits. The exaggerated entrance was faced east so that the reading rooms containing nearly 12,000 scrolls could make best use of the morning light, and would have stood as a sign of the bustling Roman metropolis’ status in the empire.
Today the building is not only important as one of the few remaining examples of ancient Greek influence on Roman architecture but the introduction of new building materials like brick concrete which came into use around the second century. The interior of the library and all of its contents were unfortunately destroyed after a devastating earthquake struck the city in 270 CE, while the surviving façade would unfortunately be destroyed by a quake sometime toward the end of the Byzantine period. The massive restoration undertook in the 1970s is believed to be a faithful reproduction of the original architecture and serves as a model for other less well preserved libraries found elsewhere. While the building only has two sets of columns, it’s believed that a third row would have stood atop the original building which would have been reached by a set of stairs built into the walls to provide additional support to the structure.