Today we are in Ephesus known as one of the best-preserved archaelogical sites in the world. Its excellent location on western part of Turkey enables the site to attract millions of visitors from all over the world. Ephesus is located just at the junction where Kusadası-Aydın-Selcuk meet.
During history, the location of the city changed four time due to necessities and escaping from some natural effects. The first city we know was founded on the top of the Ayasuluk Hill where we see today a huge fortress overlooking the actual city of Selcuk and the Plain of River Caystros. The second Ephesus was founded around the Temple of Artemis. The third Ephesus is the one that we visit today and the last Ephesus was founded on the top of the Ayasuluk Hill again.
Ephesus was always an important city in the history. Especially in the period of Roman Empire, it reached at its golden age and became the fourth city of the empire after Rome, Alexandria (in Egypt), Antiocha (south Turkey) with its population of around 250.000.
The earliest construction of a settlement took place about 5000 years ago. But apart from some ceramic works we don't have enough information of these early days.
There are some stories about the foundation of the city. According to the one of them the city was founded by female warriors known as Amazons. The city was named as Apasas meaning honey-bee and the actual name of the site is derived from this first name. Honey-bee was also used as the symbol of the city for a long time.
But according to the tradition the founder of the city was Androklos who was the son of Greek King, Kodros. The tradition was to ask an oracle to be able to know the place and necessities. The oracle said him to found the new city where he found a wild-boar, fish and fire together. After that Androklos and his crew came to the western-shores of Anatolia to find these things together but it was so difficult. So they wanted to go back to Greece but in the last night they wanted to have feast together. What they wanted to eat was fish. While frying the fish, it immediately jumped out of the pan and set a fire on the bush nearby. A wild-boar began to escape from the fire. Then Androklos remembered what Oracle said and followed the animal and killed it. Finally he founded the city where the wild-boar died.
In the middle of the 6th century BC all Anatolian Peninsula was invaded by Persians. The person who stopped the domination of the Persians was Alexander the Great. Following the death of Aleaxander the Great, Lysimackos, one of the commander of Alexander took over the control. But during his period, he wanted to change the location of the city to somewhere else. But at first the Ephesians did not want to leave their homes. In a cold, stormy night Lysimachos blocked up all the drainage system and the houses were flooded. So the Ephesian had to move to the new location, the third Ephesus which is the one we admire today.
The actual site of Ephesus today is situated between two mountains: Mounth Coresos (in ancient times) or Bulbul (nightingale) today in the south and Mounth Pion (in ancient times) or Panayır today in the north. During the reign of Lysimachos, he constructed new city walls on the top of these mountains for a better protection.
During the Roman times which followed, Ephesus was an important centre of the commercial activities. That's why its population boomed very quickly. The 1st century AD was the time when it became an important place for Christianity. After the Crucifixion of Jesus, his beloved apostle St John and his mother Virgin Mary came here together. According to christian belief Virgin Mary lived her last nine years in Ephesus and flew to the sky after all.
The main problem after all these spectacular days was the alluvial deposits of the River Caystros. The river silted up the harbour of Ephesus nd gradually the city found itself in the middle of a swamp which was a perfect breeding area for mosquitos. Maleria struck in epidemic proportion and thousands of people began to die every year. That's why the Ephesians had to move their city again for the last time. The last civilizations who settled in the last Ephesus were the Byzantines from the 5th century AD and the Turks after the 11th.
What can be seen today?
Most of the buildings in the site date back to the Roman Period at around the 2nd century AD. This is the reason why it is named as an old Roman city.
Today's Ephesus is spread to a wide area. You will see a huge city but it is just the twenty percent of the whole city. Please take into consideration that you will have to walk for about one mile to finish the visit. Normally two hours are enough to see the ruins. But if you want you complete it less than this. I remember that I guided one group in the city in four hours. It is up to you how much time you would like to spend.
There are two main entrances for the site. One is called Upper Gate and the other one Lower Gate. I always recommend the visitors to start their visits from the Upper Gate as they will have an easy way going down the hill. You would never want to go up the hill in the hot summer days.
After the entrance, on the right side, you can see a Roman Bath built by Various Antonious and his wife Flavia Papiona. this bath was reserved for the foreign-traders coming from different parts of the world. State Agora is located just on the left to the bath. This market place was used not only for selling the goods but it was also used as a meeting point for the Ephesians. Odeon was a building resembling the theatre but built in a smaller scale and used for small concerts. Prytanium or town hall located next to Oden was the place where Ephesus was governed and the eternal fire of the city wass kept alive for years. Domitian Square was the biggest square in Ephesus including such buildings as Domitian Temple, Fountain of Pollio, so-called Hospital, famous relieve of Nike, the Monument of Memmius. Curets Street was one of the three main streets of Ephesus. Monumental Fountain of Trajan lies down the street on the right hand side. Some parts of the huge statue symbolizing strenght of the emperor can be seen. Scholastica Baths was the biggest one in Ephesus and eventhough it was damaged by earthquakes, the original plan can still be seen. Hadrian Temple was built for emperor Hadrianus and one of the most beautiful buildings in Ephesus. Just opposite the temple you can see the Terrace Houses or Slope Houses. They were built on three terraces and settled by the rich and important families of the city. Celsius Library was the third biggest one in the ancient times with its 12000 of scrolls. When you stroll down the Marble Street you can see at the Commercial Agora on the left with their shops and this street takes you to the Great Theatre of Eprohesus. It is a Greco-Roman theatre with its seating capacity of 24.000. When you get out of the theatre, you can see the third and the last main street of Ephesus called Harbour Street or Arcadian Way. Right from this street is the way out from the city.
Around Ephesus there are more place to see. You can combine your visit to Ephesus with Sirince Village, House of the Virgin Mary, St John's Basilica, Artemis Temple.
You can have a look at my private Ephesus Tours for tour options.