Didem Doğan

The Ancient City of Ephesus

An exceptional tourist site of modern day Turkey, visited by thousands every year, Ephesus, located on the Western Aegean part of the country was one of the most important cities of antiquity and the capital of Anatolian Rome. The history of Ephesus goes back to year 1000 B.C. The location of the city changed several times; it was also destroyed and reconstructed many times due to earthquakes, it was ruled under different powers from Greeks to Persians and to Romans. 

During the Ioanian period the city was located by the sea, twenty kms far from its current place. It was at that time a harbour city and known by its famous Artemis Temple, known as the seven wonders of the ancient world, built on the site of Cybele temple, showing the continuity of mother goddess cult in Anatolian culture. It used to belong to Panionian Union and ruled in a feudal system by the kings. It was then taken by Pythagoras who declared himself a tiran, later the city was ruled by the kingdom of Lydia. Following the Lydian period Persians take the city, when it becomes an important harbour city thanks to the road built between the Aegean coast and Anatolia during the reign of Darius. The philosopher Herakleitos lived at this period. 

It then passes to the Pergamon Kingdom at the second century B.C. At the first century Mithridates from Pontos takes the city and kills almost all of its inhabitants. When it becomes a Roman city its population reaches to four hundred thousand people and it becomes the capital of Roman Anatolia. It becomes known as the first and only metropole of Asia by increasing its richness and population each day. The new religion taken by the Romans comes to these lands in second century. It is known that the Virgin Mary came here with St John and spent the last years of her life. One of the seven churches of revelation is located here as well as the house of Holy Mary at the site known as Panaya Kapulu, which is open to public visit today. Then comes the Middle Ages and the Byzantine period, followed by the Selcuq Turks and city disappears slowly. The English explorers visit - then the Ottoman Empire- at the nineteenth century in search of the famous Artemis temple. The excavations by the Austrian archeologists begin in the twentieth century who take away many pieces such as the sculptures of Celsus Library to exhibit in Ephesus Museum in Vienna.

The archeological site of Ephesus can be visited all year, you will find two main gates and will need a half day to truly visit this magnificent site. If you enter from the southern gate you will pass by the main theatre on the marble road and as you continue you will reach to the famous Celsus Library at the corner. A marvellous restoration project made it the symbol of this ancient city. It was a mausoleum library built for the Roman senator Celsus by his son. Standing on two floors are eight pairs of columns in Corinthian style, the sculptures between these columns are replicas and the originals are taken to Austria (exhibited in Ephesus Museum in Vienna). When you leave behind the library and walk now on the Curetes Street, known also as Pillared street it was then named like this by the priests of Ephesus, on the right handmade you will see the entrance of the Terrace Houses that can be visited by a separate ticket. It is highly recommendable to see these houses built on top of one another where the elites used to live; you will see many details of their daily life from floor mosaics to wall decorations. 

Across these houses is the gate of the Hadrianus Temple. You will find, at this area, also the public toilets, baths, the brothel. Many pieces from these sites are exhibited in Ephesus Museum, including the bas reliefs of the temple (that show the myth of founding of Ephesus the fish will jump and the pig will run’, the Amazonian women, etc)— do not forget to pay a visit to this museum! As you walk along the Curetes Road you will then see the Fountain of Traianus and then the gate of Herakles. The famous Nike relief is right at the corner. As you come close to the northern gate is the State Agora. You may walk the road several times up and down and each time you will discover a new place.

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