The Isa Bey Baths

The baths are one of the earliest examples of the Turkish period existing today in the district of Selçuk. An inscription on display in the Museum of Ephesus is believed to have belonged to these baths. According to this inscription the baths were built in 1364 by the architect Moca Ali upon the orders of Isa Bey. It is significant that this social establishment was built before the mosque, the religious establishment. This must have been caused by the principle of cleanliness, a fundamental condition of Islam. The baths lie between the Church of St. John and the Temple of Artemis.

Following the street forking right from the beginning of the Selçuk Ku?adas? road for 200 metres one reaches the baths. About 50-60 metres further ahead of them lies the Mosque of Isa Bey. For years neglected, from 1983 onwards the Museum of Ephesus has been carrying out excavation and restoration there. The baths are a modified implementation of the Roman and Byzantine baths of the previous periods adapted to Turkish curtoms and traditions.

It consists of three main divisions: the cold, the temperate and the hot. The building lies on a north south axis and reveals a perspective which shows the cupolas lowering in the same direction. The division on the north which has two columns and is open to the sky is the cold section (dressing room) of the baths. On the sides of the walls of this section there were raised platforms with two tiers of wooden dressing rooms on them. There was a pool in the middle as understood by the traces on the floor. An intermediate space at the southwest corner of this section leads to the temperate division. This division is covered by quite a high dome which has lanterns for lighting. The floor is paved with marble. On the sides of the walls are raised platforms for resting.

A door facing the entrance leads to a small room which is also covered by a dome. This is the room where persons who could not stand much heat or who had religious purposes took their bath. The door on the south leads from the temperate division to the hot one. This is the principal bathing place of the baths. It is a good example reflecting the best architectural characteristics of the period. It has four aiwans with rectangular cells (bathing cells). As understood from the remains there was a marble bench in the middle on which the bathers perspired and were rubbed and massaged. It was covered by a big dome in the middle and smaller ones at the corners. A great part of the domes are partly destroyed.

As in baths belonging to previous periods, these baths were also heated by the Hypocaust system. Tiles laid at a variety of intervals below the floor were covered by large pavings and flues of baked clay were installed in the walls. The heat and smoke of the fire burning in the furnace would circulate through this substructure of the floor and through the flues in the wals before going out. The baths were thus heated. The most southern division is the furnace. In the upper part of the furnace there is a distribution network for hot and cold water. The fire burning in the furnace heated the water above. The part above the fire was made of copper. This fire circulated below the hot and temperate divisions of the bath and let out its smoke through the openings in the walls.

We can see this kind of baths being used everywhere in Turkey. There are many traditions and maxims related to baths in Turkey. The most interesting of these were the bridal baths. The mother of the young man to marry selected her daughter in law in the baths. The girl to be a bride, dressed in her best, went to the baths with her girl friends and there they had gaieties. Examples of sayings related to baths are "womens bath” meaning a very noisy place, and "he who goes to bath perspires" meaning effort made for the realization of an important affair.

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