"The Inspiring Roman Ruins of Ephesus" Top 5 Page for this destination Ephesus by nicolaitan

Ephesus Travel Guide: 509 reviews and 1,926 photos

A Few Practical Thoughts

The historic site is on a sloping hillside with one entrance right on the main highway at the bottom of the hill. Better to enter the site from the Magnesia Gate at the top of the hill on the road to the House of Mary and walk downhill. The tips below follow the likely order in the walk through Ephesus.

There are no rest facilities and no sources for food, drink, film, or anything else within the historic area. Before entering, a group of souvenir stands and a restaurant offer the only chance for relief. Plan on spending several hours touring an area with huge crowds and no relief from the elements. Take the opportunity to both fill up and empty out before beginning this great adventure.

One of the greatest highlights of Ephesus are the excavated Terrace Houses. There is a separate entrance fee for these ruins which is worth every penny. The streets are overly crowded with bus tours, yet we were alone for over half an hour visiting the houses with their unique construction and beautiful mosaics in nearly perfect condition.

A recurring theme in the tips will be the remarkable accumulation of artifacts at the Selcuk Museum. A trip to Ephesus is simply incomplete without a vist to this small power-packed museum.

The adjacent image of Nike is believed to have been part of the Hercules gate. Here the Goddess of Victory is holding a laurel wreath.

The Brief History of Ephesus

The archaeologic ruins of Ephesus are considered among the best preserved in the world and are most completely appreciated with an understanding of the complex history of Anatolia in western Turkey. The fortunes of the city have reflected the multiple ruling nations altered by the integrity of the harbor and several severe earthquakes. What we see today are basically Roman ruins set in a large city of Greek planning. Less than 25% of the total city has been excavated.

There have been four cities occupying the estuary of the Cayster (Meander) River, the site today at the third. Legend states that the Amazons, an all-female tribe of warriors, were the first to settle here. In any case, the area was occupied as early as 10000 BC. The city was refounded about 1000 BC by Androclus, a Greek leader fleeing northern invaders, based on the prophecy of an oracle telling him that a fish and a boar would lead him to the site best suited for a new city. Legends state that while cooking fish, one fish fell from the pot and started a fire which roused a sleeping boar. The boar fled, followed by Androclus, who killed it and selected that site for his city.

Over the next several centuries, there were multiple ruling nations, most famously the Lydians whose wealthy king Croesus built the great Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Lydians would fall to the Persians about 100 years later. In 334BC, Alexander the Great conquered Anatolia and after his death one of his great generals, Lysimachos, became the ruler. He moved the city for defensive purposes to a hillside nearby with fortifications, the second Ephesus.

In 281BC, the citizens returned to the original site and laid out the plans for the site we see today. The Romans gained control late in the 2nd C BC when there were stated to be 200000 inhabitants. After a massive earthquake in 17 AD, the harbor was reconstructed and Ephesus entered another golden era. Most of the ruins visible today were constructed during the next several centuries of Roman rule. During this period, Ephesus was not only the most important trading center in Asia but also a center for culture and religious thought. Ephesus was at the junction of the western end of the east west trade route the Silk Road and the eastern end of the Royal Road from Rome. Its harbor exported eastern products to Greece, Rome, and the remainder of the western world. The apostles Paul and John ( and the Virgin Mary ) were drawn here by the relatively free-thinking and prosperous city and began the slow process of displacing the cult of Artemis, a key city in the expansion of Christianity. It would take two centuries till Theodosius banned pagan worship (381 AD ) and endorsed Christianity as the state religion for the Byzantine division of the Roman Empire.

As the years passed, the harbor created by the meandering Cayster River became unusable and the city grew further and further from the Mediterranean now at a distance of 8 km. The low-lying marshland remaining fostered malaria and other diseases and eventually the site was abandoned. The fourth city of Ephesus was created near modern day Selcuk.

Under Arab control beginning in the 7th Century the site of the ruins became covered over and lost to the memory of the local population. During the crusades, there is anecdotal evidence that the inhabitants had no idea of the magnificent history and ruins located just a few miles from their city. Ephesus became just another backwater village without a port until late 19th Century Austrian archaeologists discovered the remains of Temple of Artemis and some years later British workers found the Ephesus site of antiquity. Today, 1.5 million visitors annually trek through the ancient ruins and visit the other attractions in nearby Selcuk.

The individual tips will include a lot more history and even more mythology and legend.

  • Intro Updated Dec 5, 2008
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Reviews (18)

Comments (16)

  • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
    Apr 13, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    I visited Ephesus in the 90's. What a wonderful lesson in history this was, I very much enjoyed these pages

  • micas_pt's Profile Photo
    Sep 20, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    Your page is an History lesson, it was a pleasure reading it.

  • breughel's Profile Photo
    Sep 13, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    I'm pleased to visit again through your reviews this place I visited 20 years ago.

  • wise23girl's Profile Photo
    Aug 1, 2011 at 11:31 PM

    Your pages are so interesting.I enjoyed your Istanbul pages as well...We went to a Classical concert in Ephesus....part of the cruise ship entertainment..Late afternoon into evening...candles...champagne...nibbles and beautiful music. I loved it.

  • globetrott's Profile Photo
    Aug 10, 2009 at 7:18 PM

    an excellent page about one of my favorite places in Turkey and they also had a funny idea of a toilet, just the music was missing !;-)

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Mar 10, 2009 at 11:35 AM

    Fantastic views of the buildings and surroundings of Ephesus! Your well documented tips had tons on interesting information on these famous ruins! Well done!

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Feb 22, 2009 at 8:32 AM

    Ephesus was my favorite in Turkey; I became so involved in reading your tips that I didn't rate until all was read...fantastic. What a vicarious treat concerning Temple of Hadrian, The Terrace Houses, Celsus Library, etc. Bravo!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Jan 30, 2009 at 12:14 PM

    Long Live Artemis of the Ephesians! I'm very impressed with your photos and detailed descriptions. I'm sure it must have been a great adventure to tour this important site for several hours with huge crowds and no relief from the elements.

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo
    Dec 13, 2008 at 3:00 PM

    Even more tips here since I last looked - the terrace houses access was being built when we were there so it was all closed-but reminds of the wonderful apartments etc in Rome.As far as I know the library collection from Ephesus was given to Cleopatra.

  • Mikebb's Profile Photo
    Dec 12, 2008 at 3:00 PM

    Hi Lew, Yet another outstanding page, you certainly give plenty of information. How do you compare this ruins with Pompeii?

nicolaitan

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