Celcus Polemaeanus

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Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus is commonly known as Celsus. He was wealthy citizen who became a Roman senator, served as a Roman consul in 92 and became governor of Asia. Celsus Polemaeanus was a popular citizen and benefactor of the city of Ephesus. His sarcophagus lies beneath the famous Library of Celsus which was built as a mausoleum in his honor by his son Julius Aquila Polemaeanus.

Celsus Polemaeanus’s family was priests in Rome who had originally been from Sardis in Asia Minor. They had been granted Roman citizenship and held official positions in the service of the Roman Empire. During the Year of the Four Emperors, Celsus his legion acclaimed Vespasian emperor. When Vespasian solidified his control of the Empire, he raised Celsus to the senatorial class. Celsus went on to hold the highest position open to Roman senatorial aristocrats. Hebecamse suffect consul and was later named proconsular governor of the Roman province of Asia by the Emperor Trajan.

Tiberius Julius Aquila Polemaeanus constructed the Library of Celsus in Ephesus to posthumously honor his father. The Celsus Library was the third largest library in the ancient world and one of the most spectacular buildings in Ephesus. Celsus donated 25,000 dinars from his own personal wealth for the completion and maintenance of the monumental library.  The two story structure was accessible through an entry off of Curetes Street. Nine stone steps lead up to the four double columns that supported the building. Large windows above the doors would have let light into the building for reading. The structure was specially designed with a second set of walls around it to keep the humidity and temperature stable.

The main reading area was located on a large single floor with high ceilings. The upper floors circled the reading area and housed the scrolls which would have been kept in cupboards in niches on the walls. The hand-written books were brought to the reading area by officials and handed to readers for use the main reading room only. The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and serve as a crypt and monument to the governor whose name it bears.

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