The Ancient Ruins of Ephesus City
The Ancient Ruins of Ephesus City, sitting just an hour’s drive from the bustling metropolis of Izmir, is one of Turkey's top tourist attractions, drawing in the crowds daily with its historical timeline that beguiles and amazes travellers the world over.
Its well-preserved buildings project unique insights into how past civilisations lived on a day-to-day basis and with a little imagination, anyone can easily understand how such a city endured the ravages of time, invaders and Mother Nature, before ending its glorious reign because of desertion.
History of the Ancient City of Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient port, built in the 10th Century BC and a major trading centre in Ionian and Romans times. Considered one of the greatest cities of its time, fantastic architecture, such as the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, adorned the streets.
The sight of the Temple of Artemis was the height of any pilgrims trek to the city. The Temple, once the largest building in the Ancient World was built in reverence to the many-breasted goddess, Artemis, or the Lady of Ephesus. Artemis and her twin Apollo were the children of the god of gods, Zeus.
In Biblical times, Ephesus was the home of St John and more importantly, one of the seven churches of Revelation as mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible. It also hosted the Virgin Mary, whose humble house, where she lived her later years, was just a stone's throw from the city, and Alexander the Great, the warrior who was rebuffed from rebuilding the Temple, as locals didn't think it was right that a God should rebuild one for another.
Its significance though didn't come into its own until the Ionian period when it was established as one of the 12 cities of the Ionian League. However, Mother Nature finally put paid to Ephesus' fortunes, with the silting up of the port on the Menderes River, and an earthquake in the 7th century.
Prominent Buildings of Ephesus City
Considered by historians as one of the best preserved Roman sites, second only to Rome itself, many structures and buildings have been excavated and restored to as much of their former glory as possible.
The Celsius Library is one of the most photographed ruins of the entire city given its beautifully inscribed facade dating from 125AD that was restored to its original beauty in a painstaking operation over eight years in the 1970s by German archaeologists. Built initially with his own money by Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, a governor of Roman Asia for the Roman Empire, the library had the capacity to hold 12,000 scrolls.
Completed by his son, Gaius, Celsus was buried beneath the building and the facade survived a devastating earthquake in 262AD, but unfortunately, succumbed to another one centuries later.
To understand the magnificence of the Hellenistic Grand Theatre, imagine a fierce less gladiator looking to the audience of 24,000 spectators from centre stage. Nearby is a graveyard of fighters, victims of the many fights that entertained the large crowds and this underpins the belief that the theatre was an immensely important part of the social fabric of Ephesians. Before it became a gladiatorial arena, it was used for drama and plays, hence, the excellent acoustics that have been used to such great effect in modern times. The theatre dominated views towards Harbour Street and what would have been the city's port.
One of the most impressive, but sometimes overlooked buildings on the site, the Temple of Hadrian harks back to the 2nd Century AD in honour of Emperor Hadrian, who had popped into the city in about 128AD. Although the original reliefs are now housed at the nearby Ephesus Museum, they would have depicted the likes of Emperor Theodosius. The facade features four columns and a relief of the god of victory, Tyche. There are also bases for the statues of Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius I, and Galerius, who reigned between 293 and 305AD.
Constructed in 1st Century BC, wealthy families owned the Roman Terrace houses sitting on a small hillock on the slopes of the Bulbul Mountains. Now covered by transparent roofing, the interiors, adorned with intensely detailed mosaics on the floors and walls, were originally two stories high. These houses were also among the first to have a heating system, with clay pipes carrying hot air beneath the floors and walls, a revolutionary invention for that period of history.
The Marble Road leading to the Grand Theatre dates from the 1st century AD and was adorned with statues of some of the most influential people of the day. Equally, the road features a footprint depicting the way to the brothel, otherwise known as the love house.
Other attractions include the fascinating public latrines, bath complexes that supplied an aqueduct system to the Fountain of Trajan, and the Odeon arena, a smaller version of the Grand Theatre for the city's influential decision-makers.
Other Attractions Nearby…
Any interested traveller with time to spare can also deviate slightly away from the city to visit the nearby attractions. They include the House of the Virgin Mary; a humble abode where Mary spent her last few years; the Basilica of St John, built over the Apostle's tomb in the nearby town of Selçuk, and The Temple of Artemis. Described as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, this was located within the boundaries walls of the glorious ancient city of Ephesus.