Izmir bears testament to the procession of civilizations

I engaged the secular women of Izmir in a debate about headscarves, which, for all the talk of an ascendant Islam in Islamic Turkey, are prohibited in Turkish universities. They smoked cigarettes and said they wore their scarves out of respect for Mary, but added that headscarves for general use was the practice of illiterates.

"Do women wear headscarves at American universities?" asked one of the younger women.

Of course, I said, if they wish.

"Well, they can wear them in American universities, but not here," she insisted.

Why is it acceptable in American universities and not in Turkish universities?

"Oh, you'll just have to go find the answer yourself," she said, and with a huff she walked away.

Down the mountain in Ephesus, our guide told us of the various peoples who had lived there and built it and rebuilt it; the legend credits the Amazon women, and we know the Greeks held the city, then the Romans.

It is stupendously beautiful, and only about 15 percent of it has been excavated, the white marble carved to show where the hospital was, the doctors, the public baths, even the prostitutes.

From the ancient amphitheater that held some 20,000 people, I tried to imagine St. Paul here, causing a riot. There were ancient games and ancient theater in this place, but modern times brought concerts starring Elton John and Mikis Theodorakis.

Up on the green hills above us there was a goatherd and his flock. The copper bells around the necks of the goats sounded as they grazed on the new growth.

"One civilization goes and another takes its place," said Faruk, with a wave of his hand, gesturing along the ancient avenue, "one city building on what was there before."


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