The early 2nd-century AD governor of Asia Minor, Celsus Polemaeanus, was commemorated in this magnificent library. As a Greek and Latin inscription on the front staircase attests, Celsus' son, Consul Tiberius Julius Aquila, built it in 114 to honour his deceased father, who was buried under the library's western side.
Capable of holding 12,000 scrolls in its wall niches, the Celsus was the third-largest ancient library (after Alexandria and Pergamum). The valuable texts were protected from temperature and humidity extremes by a 1m gap between the inner and outer walls. Originally built as part of a complex, the library looks bigger than it actually is: the convex facade base heightens the central elements, while the central columns and capitals are larger than those at the ends.
Facade niches hold replica statues of the Greek Virtues: Arete (Goodness), Ennoia (Thought), Episteme (Knowledge) and Sophia (Wisdom). The originals are in Vienna's Ephesus Museum (the library was restored by the Austrian Archaeological Institute).