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The Library of Celsus is an ancient Roman building in Ephesus, Anatolia, now part of Selçuk, Turkey. It was built in honor of the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus 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. He was a native of nearby Sardis and amongst the earliest men of purely Greek origin to become a consul in the Roman Empire and is honored both as a Greek and a Roman on the library itself. Celsus paid for the construction of the library with his own personal wealth.
The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a monumental tomb for Celsus. Celsus is buried in a sarcophagus beneath the library, in the main entrance which is both a crypt containing his sarcophagus and a sepulchral monument to him. It was unusual to be buried within a library or even within city limits, so this was a special honor for Celsus. Construction on the library began in 117 A.D. and was completed in 120, in Ephesus, a territory that was traditionally Greek. The building is important as one of the few remaining examples of an ancient Roman-influenced library. It also shows that public libraries were built not only in Rome itself but throughout the Roman Empire.
The interior of the library and all its books were destroyed by fire in the devastating earthquake that struck the city in 262. Only the facade survived. About 400 AD, the library was transformed into a Nymphaeum. The facade was completely destroyed by a later earthquake, likely in the late Byzantine period. In a massive restoration which is considered to be very true to the historic building, the front façade was rebuilt during the 1960s and 1970s 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 the documents were not destroyed during the Roman conquest.
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 Composite columns elevated on pedestals. A set of Corinthian columns 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 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 (measuring 17x11 m) with a central apse framed by a large arch at the far wall. A statue of Celsus or of Athena, goddess of truth, 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 AD.
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.
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