If you have long dreamed of visiting the ruins of an ancient metropolis and imbued with an antique atmosphere, then it’s time to go to the historic complex of Ephesus, Turkey. The unique city-museum, classified as a UNESCO heritage site, annually gathers travelers from all over the world on its territory. The Temple of Artemis, the Library of Celsus, the House of the Virgin Mary are just a small part of what awaits you in this cradle of antiquity. What is Ephesus, and what sights are spread on its territory, we consider in our article.
The ancient city of Ephesus is located in western Turkey, 7 km from the coast of the Aegean Sea and 80 km south of Izmir. It is a historical complex of the oldest structures sprawled on an area of 4.15 square meters. km For the most part, Ephesus gained fame thanks to the cult of the goddess of fertility Artemis, in whose honor the temple was built in the city, later ranked as one of the seven wonders of the world.
Today, the towns closest to Ephesus are the town of Selcuk, located 3 km to the east, and the resort of Kusadasi, located 17 km to the south-west. The historical complex is considered one of the most valuable attractions in Turkey, which is visited annually by hundreds of thousands of tourists. And to make your acquaintance with Ephesus more fascinating and informative, let’s plunge into its rich history for a moment.
The ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey is located on the territory, the first settlements on which appeared in the Neolithic era, i.e. around the ninth millennium BC The metropolis itself was founded in the 10th century BC. By giving it, the creator was the son of the Athenian ruler Androclus, who fell in love with the Amazon from local tribes named Ephesus during urban planning. In her honor, as the legend goes, the city was named. It is noteworthy that Ephesus was originally located on the shores of the Aegean Sea, but after centuries, the coast has dried up, and the ancient metropolis itself went deep into the mainland.
Due to its geographical location, Ephesus quickly became an important port and trade center, becoming a real tidbit for conquerors from different parts of the world. In the 6th century BC Lydians ruled here, later overthrown by the Persians, who, in turn, were replaced by the troops of Alexander the Great. In the heyday of the Roman Empire, the city passed to the Romans and was under their protection until the middle of the 3rd century, when the Goths invaded here and plundered Ephesus, leading it to absolute decline.
It was possible to restore the glorious city during the reign of Byzantium. At the turn of the 5-6 centuries. Ephesus became the second largest metropolis of the empire after Constantinople. The Byzantines rebuilt the city and actively used it for trade purposes. But in the 7th century, the coast of Ephesus began to dry out and gradually filled with silt, which led to the loss of access to the Aegean Sea. As a result, trade completely vanished, and the city itself lost all significance for the Byzantine Empire.
During the formation of the Ottoman Empire, Ephesus briefly regained the status of a prosperous metropolis. The Seljuks who came here built new baths, mosques and caravanserais on the territory. However, in the 15th century, the neighboring city of Ayasoluk (modern Selcuk) became more important for the Ottomans, and Ephesus was finally abandoned.
What can be seen on the territory of Ephesus today
Even with a quick glance at the photo of the sights of Ephesus in Turkey, you can understand how large this historic complex is. In addition to the well-known temple of Artemis, there are unique monuments of antiquity, many of which have been preserved in excellent condition. What can be seen on the territory of modern Ephesus?
Of course, we begin our description with one of the seven wonders of the world in Ephesus, the temple of Artemis, from which, unfortunately, today there is practically nothing left. The structure was erected in the 6th century BC. in honor of the goddess of fertility and patroness of all life on earth – Artemis. The construction of the temple took about 120 years. In those days, it was a magnificent structure with 127 columns, each 18 m high. The length of the temple reached 110 m, and the width – 55 m.
However, this wonder of the world was not destined to live long. Already in the 4th century BC a madman named Herostratus set fire to the temple of Artemis. As a result, the main part of the building burned out, of which only columns remained. Subsequently, Herostratus explained his act by the desire to write himself in the annals of history, after which he was executed, and his name was forbidden to be mentioned in the chronicles. During his rule, Alexander of Macedon tried to rebuild the temple, but it was soon destroyed by the Goths, and later the sanctuary of Artemis finally fell into decay.
Modern photos of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus confirm the fact that it was built in a swamp. That is why the building literally disappeared from the face of the earth, drowning in the abyss over the course of centuries. Today, only one dilapidated column, missing in the middle of the swamp, and a couple of stone blocks in the district are left from the building. A miniature copy of the Temple of Artemis can be seen in the Istanbul miniature park, but it is unlikely to be able to at least partially convey the grandeur of a sunken structure.
In addition to the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, there is another historically important attraction – the house of the Virgin Mary. According to the Catholic version, after the ascension of Christ, the Virgin remained living in Jerusalem, where she preached Christianity. But there is another version, which says that the Virgin Mary spent her last years of her life (about 9 years) in Ephesus. Such information arose as a result of the evidence of a number of local residents, as well as on the basis of a vision that appeared to the German nun A.K. Emmerich at the end of the 19th century.
Today, the house of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus is a miniature building, inside which a small basement has been preserved. In the middle of the last century, the building was renovated, and within its walls there is a chapel where believers from all over the world come to pray. Despite the fact that the Catholic Church officially rejects the version that the Virgin Mary lived in Ephesus, over the past half century, three popes have already come here.
The Bolshoi Theatre
Having visited the house of the Virgin in Ephesus, be sure to look into the Bolshoi Theater and the Odeon, which have reached us in excellent condition. The grandiose three-story building in the form of the ancient Roman amphitheater once housed up to 25 thousand spectators, and its upper ranks were at a height of 30 m.Today, the height of the building reaches only 18 m, and in total there are 66 rows. In ancient times, the theater stage was decorated with carved columns and artful sculptures, which, unfortunately, have not survived to the present day.
In Ephesus there is another theater of a much smaller scale, but no less interesting – the Odeon. It is designed for 1,500 seats and is a two-tier semicircular structure, divided into four sections, cut off from each other by stairways. As a rule, in ancient times, buildings of this type were used for singing events, but this theater was primarily used for meetings of the Senate, between which theatrical performances were organized here.
Among the attractions of Ephesus, the ruins of an outstanding architectural monument of the era of the Roman Empire deserve special attention. This is the library of Celsus, built at the beginning of the 2nd century during the heyday of Rome. The author of the construction was the architect Tiberius Julius Aquila, who named him in honor of the highly educated statesman Celsus, who was his father. The library was not only a repository for more than 12 thousand scrolls, but also a tomb for Celsus himself. During excavations conducted in Ephesus at the beginning of the 20th century, archaeologists managed to find a marble tomb with the remains of the once famous Roman.
But, like the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the library of Celsus did not survive to this day due to the invasion of merciless Goths, who burned the building almost to the ground. Only the facade remained from the structure, but it was also destroyed by an earthquake during the Byzantine Empire. The remains of the library, which we observe today, are only a reconstruction of the building, which was recreated from the surviving ruins. Currently, there is a two-story facade with columns, the space between which is decorated with four sculptures of women symbolizing Virtue, Wisdom, Cognition and Thought. But these statues are only copies, and the originals are now stored in the Vienna Museum.
Among the other attractions of Ephesus in Turkey it is worth highlighting:
- The Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, built in Byzantine times
- The ruins of the ancient agora – the market square, once decorated with colonnades
- The Temple of Domitian, in the ancient period decorated with 21 columns and sculptures, of which today there are only ruins
- Terraced houses are the former dwellings of prosperous citizens: their peculiarity was that each house served as a terrace for the next; many buildings still have frescoes and mosaic floors
- The Temple of Hadrian, erected in honor of the Roman emperor and at one time decorated with colonnades, arches and sculptures of other rulers
- Kuretov street, once paved with marble and decorated with statues and columns
Opening hours and ticket prices
The historic complex of Ephesus in Turkey is open daily. In the period from April 15 to October 2, the attraction operates from 8:00 to 18:30, from October 3 to April 14 – from 8:00 to 17:00. Entrance fee in 2018 is $ 10 (40 TL). If you are a museum card holder, then admission is free for you.
Visits to terraced houses, the Basilica of St. John and the Archaeological Museum are paid separately: the cost of a ticket, depending on the sights, is from 2 to 3 $ (5-10 TL). Also for $ 5 (20 TL) you can purchase an audio guide in Russian. Entrance tickets are sold at ticket offices and self-service terminals.
Many travelers have already managed to visit the city of Ephesus in Turkey and did not stint on sharing useful recommendations, taking into account which, you can organize the most comfortable tour of the ancient complex.
- In order to get acquainted with the most interesting objects of the city, you will need at least 3 hours.
- It is best to go to the complex closer to the opening, because during the day you can find unbearable heat, and it is very difficult to find shade among the ruins.
- If you decide to go to Ephesus at the height of the season, be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen and water.
- When visiting the Bolshoi Theater, tourists recommend climbing to the very top rows, from where breathtaking views of the city open.
- If in the morning you do not keep up with the attraction, then we advise you to visit there closer to 16:00. At this time, it is not so hot, and the people are becoming much smaller.
- Many travelers recommend hiring a professional guide or purchasing an audio guide. In this case, your tour will come out as interesting and informative as possible.
- If you want to save money, then go to Ephesus on your own, and not with a travel agency. Otherwise, you risk overpaying at least three times.
- Since there are a great many attractions on the territory of the complex, you will need a full charge on the camera (phone) to capture all these unique objects.
- Take with you everything you need (wet wipes, batteries, sunglasses, etc.), because there are no shops on the territory of the ancient city, and shops at the entrance sell goods at exorbitant prices.
How to get to Ephesus
It is most convenient to get to the city of Ephesus in Turkey from the nearby settlements – the towns of Selcuk and Kusadasi. Ephesus is located 3 km west of Selcuk, and you can get here by dolmush from the city bus station. Travel time takes no more than 10 minutes. The cost of the trip is $ 0.6 (2.5 TL).
If you stayed in Turkey at the resort of Kusadasi, located 17 km south-east of Ephesus, then the road to the complex will take you about half an hour. You can get to the ancient city on dolmush following the route Kusadasi-Selchuk, which leaves the city bus station several times per hour. The fare is $ 1.2 (5 TL). In this case, you need to warn the driver that you are driving to Ephesus, and get off the dolmush at the bend with the “Efes” sign. Then you just have to overcome 1 km on a direct road to the complex.
Of course, you can get to the ancient city by taxi, rented car or book a tour with a guide. But all of these options are much more expensive. Although it is up to you to decide what methods to get to the city of Ephesus, Turkey, will become the most suitable for you.