Discover the ancient ruins of Ephesus
- What to see and Do
The ancient city of Ephesus is the most important archeological site in Turkey, and one of the most famous ancient cities in the whole world. It is visited by more than 2 million tourists a year, which makes it one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey. If you are vacationing in Turkey and want to explore the most famous places, Ephesus, along with Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Istanbul, is definitely a destination you should not miss.
The rich history of Ephesus
Numerous archeological excavations have revealed material evidence that testifies to the fact that the area of Ephesus was inhabited in the late Bronze Age. Legend has it that the city was founded by Greek mythical Amazon warriors. It was later ruled by the Ionians, the Persians, and was part of the Lydian kingdom, whose ruler Croesus built the famous temple of Artemis. Then it was conquered by Alexander the Great, and in 129 BC it was ruled by the Romans. During Romans ruled Ephesusit reached its peak.
At its peak, Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Minor Asia and one of the largest commercial ports in the ancient world. According to some records, in its golden age, Ephesus was the largest trade center in all of Asia. Archaeologists estimate that it had a population of about 250,000 at the time of its heyday, making it the second largest city in the Roman Empire, right after Rome. It was also one of the most lavishly decorated cities.
Ephesus was also an important center of early Christianity, the place where the apostle Paul spread sermons about one god - Jesus Christ and where the Gospel of John was written. Also, in 431, the Third Ecumenical Council was held there. Many important people from ancient times lived and often visited Ephesus, such as Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, the Apostle Paul, the Virgin Mary, John the Theologian and many others. One of the most important ancient philosophers, Heraclitus the Dark, was born and lived in Ephesus.
Today, Ephesus is one of the best preserved ancient cities in the Mediterranean, boasting the largest collection of Roman relics in the world. Unfortunately, not much remains from the Greek era, but a rich legacy from the Roman era remains.
How to get to Ephesus if you are vacationing in Turkey?
Ephesus is located in the west of Turkey, near the city of Selcuk, about 80 kilometers south of Izmir and less than half an hour's drive from the famous resort of Kusadasi. It is easily accessible from any coastal city.
What can you see in Ephesus?Everything that is in Ephesus can be visited by walking through its marble-paved streets, which are lined with the remains of famous buildings. The first of them, The Arcadian Way connects the former port and the large amphitheater. At first glance, it will be clear to you that this street from the Hellenistic period was made in such a way as to impress everyone who steps from the ship into the city. It is a little more than 500 meters long, and it used to be decorated on both sides with colonnades with street lamps. Today, at sunset, it gets a mystical glow, and is the perfect place to take photos.
Mary's ChurchThe first building that will attract your attention is the Christian basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The church was built in the first half of the 5th century, most probably for the needs of organizing the Third Ecumenical Council in 431. The latest archeological discoveries suggest that the Church of Mary was built on the ruins of an older Roman building, known as the Muse Hall. In the 260-meter-long structure, the partially preserved apse and pillars can be seen today, as well as the baptistery in a very good condition.
Large amphitheater in EphesusArchaeologists claim that it took almost 60 years to build this magnificent theater, one of the largest in the ancient world and the largest in Turkey today. It was built in the Hellenistic period, in the 4th century BC, but was later added by the Romans, when its capacity reached 24-25,000 visitors. During the Greek period, it was used for dramatic performances, while during the Roman rule, gladiatorial fights were held there. Even the Holy Apostle Paul gave Christian sermons in this theater. Today, numerous cultural and artistic events and concerts of world music stars are held in it during the summer, and among others, Sting, Madonna, Pavarotti, Lionel Richie, Elton John performed in it.
Celsius LibraryFrom the theater, the Marble Street leads to the Celsius Library, on the right side of which are the remains of the commercial Agora (market). The size of the market itself is the best indicator of how important the shopping center was in Ephesus. When you pass the Agora and reach the place where Marble Street joins Kuretes Street, you will come across the Celsius Library. Built above the crypt where the proconsul of the Roman province of Asia Minor, Tiberius Julius Celsius, is buried, it was the third largest library in the ancient world. It was built on the order of Celsius' son, around the year 110 AD, and it housed over 12,000 scrolls, which unfortunately have not been preserved. It is assumed that this monumental building was set on fire during the Goth invasion in the middle of the third century. There is another version according to which library was killed in a strong earthquake. The Library of Celsus was one of the most beautiful buildings of the ancient city with an impressive façade with Corinthian columns. The monumental pillars of the library were renovated in the seventies of the last century, and in the interior of the building there are still niches with statues that represent the personification of Celsius' greatest virtues - wisdom, knowledge, intelligence and courage.
Temple of ArtemisThe Temple of Artemis, built around 550 BC, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and at that time the largest temple on the planet. Built on the foundations of an older temple from the 7th century BC, the temple was built during the reign of the Lydian king Croesus, and the construction project was led by the famous ancient architect Herosiphron. The temple was later damaged and rebuilt several times, to be completely destroyed in 401, at the initiative of St. John Chrysostom. Unfortunately, today there are only small fragments of the temple, but they should definitely be visited.
Kuretes StreetBetween Hadrian's and Hercules' gates rises one of the main streets of ancient Ephesus - Kuretes Street. Along it are the ruins of the residences of the Roman rich with preserved mosaic floors and wall frescoes that describe the life of the inhabitants of Ephesus. There are then numerous monumental pillars and statues, Roman public baths and toilets, as well as Trajan's Fountain.
Hadrian's TempleThe recently renovated Hadrian's Temple was built in the 2nd century AD and is undoubtedly one of the most impressive buildings of ancient Ephesus with four Corinthian pillars and decorative friezes depicting mythical and real personalities significant for the history of the city.
The Gate of HerculesAfter passing through the Gate of Hercules, you will find the remains of the Temple of Domitian (1st century), the Fountain of Pill, the town hall known as Pritanejon, then the Roman Odeon (another, smaller city theater with a capacity of 1,500 people) and finally the ruins of the Roman agora and high school.
SelcukIf you want to dedicate most of your time in Ephesus to exploring the ruins, then it is best to make the town of Selcuk your base. It has plenty of hotels and many facilities that will take care of any tourist's needs. It is also only 2 miles from the archaeological site so you can easily go there on foot if you fancy a leisurely walk.
Museum of EphesusIn Selcuk, be sure to visit the Museum of Ephesus, whose exhibition consists of many artifacts, statues, mosaics, works of art and other objects that archaeologists discovered while exploring the ancient city. The museum also has a separate gallery with paintings, graphics and sculptures by contemporary Turkish artists. The most valuable exhibit is the almost completely preserved statue of Artemis, and the highlight of the visit for most tourists is the Gladiator Room. It exhibits items found at the gladiator's cemetery, while on the information board you can see all the information about the life of the gladiator from Ephesus.
Ajasoluk HillFrom the heart of the city, where the museum is located, head to Ajasoluk Hill, which occupies a dominant position in Selcuk. Legend has it that St. John wrote his Gospel on this hill, and there is his tomb, above which the Byzantine Emperor Justinian built the Basilica of St. John, a six-nave cruciform basilica, in the 6th century. At the time it was built, it was, together with the Hagia Sophia, one of the largest churches in the Byzantine Empire. The Turks turned it into a mosque in the first half of the 12th century, and in the 14th century it was almost completely destroyed in a strong earthquake. Recently, a part of the site was renovated, so today, observing the runes of the church and its renovated part, visitors can get a clear idea of what a grandiose building it was.
Great CitadelThere is also a fortification on Ajasoluk named after the hill. The fortress, also known as the Great Citadel, with its mighty walls and fifteen rectangular towers, was built by the Byzantines in the 6th century. It was later rebuilt by the Seljuks. The stone towers and walls are well preserved, and inside the complex there is a small mosque and a small Christian church.
Isabeg MosqueHere you can also visit the Isabeg Mosque, built in 1374, which is considered one of the most impressive and oldest Islamic architectural endeavors in Anatolia.
House of the Virgin MaryAccording to Christian tradition, after the death of Jesus Christ, his mother Mary visited Ephesus with the Apostle John, where she ended her earthly life. The house where she allegedly rested is located 7 km from the center of Selcuk, on the slopes of Mount Bulbul. Discovered in the 19th century, this location today attracts Christians from all over the world. Not far from the house of the Mother of God, there are three miraculous springs: a source of health, love and wealth, which believers respect as holy and healing.
City of TroyNear Ephesus is another attraction right out of the pages of history - Iliad's legendary city of Troy. This city is famous for the deceitful Trojan Horse, the renowned beauty of Helen, the legendary battle and now a favorite of many romantics. The ruins discovered in 19th century were believed to have been what remained of the ancient city of Troy. There is now a replica of the Trojan Horse that makes for a good photo opportunity for visiting tourists. The picturesque surroundings and the wonderful views of the hills of Gallipoli and Dardanelles the site affords, are more reasons to visit the area while you are in Ephesus.
PamukkaleIf you need to rejuvenate and re-energize after your exhausting historical excursion at the Ephesus archaeological site and nearby attractions, make Pamukkale your next destination. This town is famous for its mineral-rich hot springs whose waters are said to cure many ailments since the Roman times. Aside from its waters therapeutic effects, the spring's rock formation known as Cotton Castle is also one of the area's major attractions. However, if you prefer to relax by the beach, then the nearby Pamucak Beach or the resort town of Kusadasi are a better fit for you.
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