The Greco-Roman city of Ephesus: a magnificent return to the past
Updated May 6, 2018 / João Leitão / 12 Comments / Filed in: Turkey 🇹🇷 / Reading time 4 minutes
In the summer of 2003, I had the opportunity to visit Turkey for the first time. In possession of an Interrail ticket across Europe and during my train trip, I secured a rental car along with two Polish guys I had met previously at a hostel. Later, we drove from Istanbul down the west coast of Turkey to explore several of its noted historical sites.
As time passed and memories faded, Ephesus became like many other places – a victim of my forgetfulness due to the recent years’ extreme traveling.
“HOWEVER, ONE THOUGHT WAS ALWAYS CONSCIOUS: ONE DAY I WOULD RETURN TO EPHESUS.“
After three days of touring Izmir Province, I must admit I was amazed by the quantity of sites to visit! In addition to Bergama, Pergamon, Sirince and Izmir, I also enjoyed a guided tour of the Greco-Roman city of Ephesus.
While I reveal some interesting insight regarding my personal experience, let’s learn a bit more about this ancient site.
EPHESUS CURIOSITIES, IN BRIEF:
- Ephesus was constructed in the 10th century BC
- It has been a World Heritage Site since 2015
- Ephesus is quoted in the biblical Book of Revelations, in the Apocalypse of John
- The city is located in southwest Turkey’s Izmir Province
- After falling under Roman control in 129 BC, Ephesus grew and flourished
- Next to Rome, Ephesus was the second largest city of the Roman Empire
- It had a population of 300,000 inhabitants
- Emperor Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire, named Ephesus the capital of Asia Minor
- Ephesus’s Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
- Its most renown buildings are The Ephesus Theater, The Temple of Artemis, The Library of Celsus and the Tomb of John in the Basilica of St. John
- The city was destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD
The history of Turkey dates back to the Paleolithic Period, in the inhabited caves of Kemer, Antalya. Along with Alacahöyük and Hattusa serving as important religious centers in the Bronze Age, there were also some existing developed cities. Originating from the Caucasus, the Hittite people established their own customs and dominated the entire region by the year 2000 BC. Many other cultures entered the scene, namely Greeks, Medes, Phrygian, Persians, Helenos, Romans, Byzantines and, lastly, the Ottomans who remained in power from 1300 until 1923. Clearly, this country has remained an amazing stage for the history of civilization.
Instagramming from Ephesus:
Tweeting from Ephesus:
— 🐪 Nomad Revelations (@joaoleitao) February 24, 2017
The Ephesus Ruins of Turkey are one of the greatest sites of classical antiquity, richly dense in history. While several people disputed over control of the city, prominent historical figures passed through such as Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, the apostles Saint Paul and Saint John. The Virgin herself believed to have lived here until her death, it is also said that her residence is a small house built atop Mount Bülbül Dagi, nine kilometers from Ephesus. During my journey through Izmir, I visited this intriguing site of worship. Now converted into a sanctuary, the site receives millions of visitors annually.
The Greco-Roman city of Ephesus
The city of Ephesus itself was an important philosophical and cultural center in antiquity; hence the Library of Celsus stands as the main building of the city while retaining a part of its beautiful, original facade.
The Temple of Artemis (the primary Goddess of Ephesus, believed to have been born here) was once one of the grandest monuments in Ephesus. However, little of the structure remains today due to the city’s four-time reconstruction after earthquakes and several invasions.
Difficult to believe as the town currently lays 5 km inland, Ephesus once hosted an important seaport. The city is also the site of one of the Seven Churches of the ancient world, or Seven Churches of the Apocalypse, mentioned in the Book of Revelations.
What did I like most?
I enjoyed the antiquated atmosphere inhabiting the environment throughout. Being there is an absolute return to a distant past, where we wander through the streets and corners of its archaeological complex as if we, too, belonged there.
Of course, all the buildings in Ephesus have their own charisma, but there is no doubt that the Celsus Library is the most well preserved building in the entire enclosure. I was fortunate to have an official guide explaining the complex’s history while highlighting relevant information to better understand this ruined city.
People in Turkey are genuinely friendly. So, take the opportunity to engage in conversations whenever possible, even if you don’t know the language!
- Selçuk is the nearest city to Ephesus
- Taxis (dolmus) leave from Selçuk central station to Ephesus every 15 minutes
- You can walk the 4 km from Selçuk to Ephesus
- The entrance ticket costs TRY40
- There are several hotels in Selçuk: 7-Euro dorm, 50-Euro double, 120-Euro double.