Celsus Library at Ancient Ephesus City

Ancient Ephesus City ruins in Turkey

Ephesus was founded in 10th century BC as an Attic-Ionian colony was one of the best tourist places in Turkey, & the world. It’s now one of the world wonders, because of it’s magical past & present, that the history books tell us about until today. Thus, it was one of the most important Mediterranean cities that mixing great culture, diversity, and civilization. Ephesus has a great history in Asia Minor in Romans time, more than 250,000 people lived here!

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It's Significance

Celsus Library Ephesus viewThe ruined city of Ephesus, pronounced Eph-e-sus (as [efΙ™sΙ™s]), is a true marvel, for it is a place of great historical, cultural and architectural significance. Having such ancient treasures like the remains of the giant Temple of Artemis, the lavish Library of Celsus, a still existing large 25,000 seat amphitheater, the well preserved temple of the Emperor Hadrian and well looked after Terrace Houses (Houses of Rich). As well as having a very important association with early Christianity.

Ephesus is also known as; Ephisus, Ephasus or Ephesis [ ph = f ]). It means in Greek: β€œoverseer” and in the Bible: β€œdesirable” and in Hebrew: "Asia", as in the past when referring to Asia people meant β€œEphesus”.

And if you are wondering where this fabled city might be found, it is approximately 1 km away from the town of Selcuk, in the district of Izmir in modern day Western Turkey. It is technically in the continent of Asia, but is in fact right on the border with Europe. It is famous for many things and was heavily influenced by both its Greek founders and its Roman conquerors. So because of this prestigious UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has made it a World Heritage site.

In Biblical times it swapped hands many times, having been ruled by the Ionian League and by the empires of Persia, Rome, Byzantine and finally the Ottoman. Before finally becoming what is now the country that is modern day Turkey.

Insights

Grand Theater of Ephesus view 1The best time of the year when to visit the ruins is in April, May, October and November, this is when the weather is neither too hot or too cold. Also, the weather is moderate throughout the country and the days are long. It's recommended to visit in April to have milder weather, but get ready for one or two days of rain: The main advantage of visiting in April or in May is the ancient city ruins will be free of the crowd. Consider wearing flat shoes that don’t slip and you can also wear sneakers or trainers to enjoy walking. If you prefer to visit in summer, it’s hot, make sure to have your sunblock/sunburn cream, a hat and sunglasses. Also make sure that you arrive early in the day to avoid the crowd to be able to make the most out of other surrounding historical attractions or landmarks. One day is enough but there are nearby attractions with those you need 2 days. Just for the ancient city ruins, you'll need 6 hours’. You should also consider going in the morning before the crowds start to arrive.

As there is so much to see there, it is best to make it a whole day event, to really appreciate all its splendors.

While it is 62 kilometers drive away from Izmir Airport, it’s about 80 kilometers drive away from Izmir Port (Izmir used to be the ancient city of Smyrna). If you would like to come to Ephesus from Izmir Airport or the port alone, you can do so by bus or minibus, note that most of them will drop you at Selcuk bus station, where you will ride another short trip with a minibus to drop you at the main entrance gate of Ephesus which is a 1km drive away from Selcuk. City ruins are 18 kilometers drive away from Kusadasi Port (aka Ephesus Port). You can go in front of any big hotel, buses are passing from there to go to Selcuk, then minibus from there will drop you off at the main gates of Ephesus.

Ephesus is:

  • 20 km from Kusadasi. A modern holiday resort town and a major stop-over for cruise ships.
  • 79 km from Izmir (Symrna).
  • 409 km from Antalya. A large city in Turkey and the capital of Antalya Province, famous for its agricultural produce.
  • 515 km from Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, and is Turkey’s most important economic, cultural and historic center.
  • 1816 km from Jerusalem, one of the most important religious centers today and throughout human history.

More location and distances?

So the easiest way to get there is to fly into the nearest international airport, which is at Adnan Menderes Airport. This is just 42 km away from Ephesus. Then you can take a local bus to the ruins, which normally takes about 45 minutes.

Let us take a look at top individual historical attractions:

It had the third biggest library of the ancient World; Celsus Library. Romans’ decorated with amazing mosaics and frescoes; Terrace Houses. Also known as β€œHouse of rich” that had the underfloor central heating. Latrines, well-preserved public toilets of Ephesians. Hadrian Temple; Androklos and his dog which depicted on the temple frieze dating from the 2nd century.

The Grand Amphitheater; which was two-storied and heightened by one story at a later date, it wasn’t only served for dramatic performances, but for demonstrations of a social, political, economic, religious nature and gladiator games, that even many musicians performed in the theater such as Elton John, Luciano Pavarotti, Julia Iglesias, Ray Charles and many more.

The Odeon which is a small theater for meetings of the Boule or the Senate, you will also see the Brothel; which is located at the crossing of the Marble and Curetes street, there were two entrances one from each street and the building consisted of two floors, the first one housed a hall, the reception area which adorned with mosaic floors, and a bath.

Church of the Virgin Mary; The House of Virgin Mary, is a Catholic and Muslim shrine up in the hills of Bulbul mountain next to the city ruins, where Pope St. Paul sermoned.

Tomb of Apostle John at Great Basilica of John dating to the 6th century.

The Ephesus Museum holds the best of the archaeological objects excavated at Ephesus as well as a few artifacts from the great Temple of Artemis.

When visiting, you can walk around the Souvenir shops and you may like to buy Nazar Boncugu: The Evil Eye, Traditional Turkish Carpets, Clay Pottery, Nargile (Shisha / Hookah) Pipes, Quality Leather goods and also Gold and diamond pieces of jewelry. In some shops, there are; Mosaic Glasses and Gourd Lamps, Beautiful Ceramic and Copper handmade plates, many choices of Sweet Turkish Delights β€” Sweet Baklava and Exotic Spices: Why not try traditional Turkish food like Manti! It’s a meat-stuffed miniature ravioli, get yogurt or butter with it, Kofte (Turkish meatballs) β€” Lahmacun (is like a pizza but flat and crispy served with a topping of minced meat), Sish Kebap β€” Doner and many more!. Also, at the gates of Ephesus, don't forget to feed the cats as they belong to everyone because they are the residents of Ephesus as well, enjoy giving them food and water.

Probably the most interesting and fun way to see Ephesus itself is to take a guided tour of the ruins, as this offers good value for money and you get a better insight into the significance of it's magnificent buildings and structures.

Back to the History

Historical Ephesus Location Map - (Image Credit:Robert John Langdon)The city itself was first founded by Greek colonists in the 10th century B.C, as part of a network of Greek trading colonies built all around the Mediterranean coastline.

The exact meaning of the name β€˜Ephesus’ has been lost in time, but the commonly held theory is that it was derived from the Greek word for 'Desirable', which sounds very similar. Three thousand years later, the now ruined city of Ephesus is still known by that very same name, having never had any other name despite so many different cultures take control of it.

The history of Ephesus would reveal that it has been attacked and sometimes occupied over the centuries by several other nations and tribes. Therefore it has had its fair share of Tyrants, Kings and Emperors rule over it. One notable conqueror was Alexander the Great, who ruled Ephesus after defeating the Persian Empire in 334 B.C and liberating the city. He ruled over it until his death in 323 B.C. When Alexander died, one of his Generals by the name of Lysimachus, took control of the region, including Ephesus. Eventually, a few hundred years later, the city was to fall into Roman hands and significantly when Augustus became Roman Emperor and ruler in 27 B.C, he made the city the regional capital of that part of his empire. Augustus decided to rule and develop when he discovered that the size of it is big enough to meet his goals, which was (1,030 acres) & Occupied: 224 ha (550 acres) because of the development that was done it became both the seat of governor and major center of commerce, and was well-preserved because of that. The Goths destroyed in 262 AD by performing a series of raids in 3rd century. The city got abandoned in the 15th century AD, the main reason was that the silt build up in the harbor prevented the ships from reaching Ephesus Port. If the archaeologist John Turtle Wood didn't try to find Artemis Temple, we may have never known or discovered Ephesus until today and that’s why Ephesus is famous for Artemis Temple while it’s not located in Ephesus itself but very close by.

By this stage the city had grown over the centuries from being a small Greek colonial settlement, to become a most important and impressive city. The city was a major trading center in ancient times, due to being a central point on the regions large-scale road network and having a large-scale harbor on the river Cayster that led directly into the nearby Aegean Sea.

Grand Theater of Ephesus view 2At its peak during Roman times, Ephesus was thought to be as big as 1,000 acres, with a population of maybe as high as 225,000 people. Therefore compared to Rome, it was not as large or as densely populated, though in culture and architecture it nevertheless looked just as amazing! This was a lot to do with religion, which has always been an important part of Ephesus’ history and daily life throughout the centuries. And for a long time the city had been a center of pagan worship, especially of the Greek Goddess Artemis. Who was known by the Roman’s as the Goddess Diana, whose name means 'Divine'.

The Roman Goddess Diana appears in the Bible several times and is associated with hunting, nature, as well as fertility. Though her temple in Ephesus was more commonly known by her Greek name of Artemis. Under that name, the grand Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was built from funds provided by the Ephesians themselves and the temple was completed sometime in the 4th Century B.C.

But only a few decades later, the Temple was burnt down by a man called Herostratus, who did it in the hope of becoming famous. Despite this set back, the temple was quickly rebuilt, but this time was made much bigger and far more grander than before. So much so it is said to be one of the original Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only one still exists today and that is the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Of the other six, all were either lost or destroyed over time.

The Temple of Artemis was used for worship, as well as attracting visitors and the devout from all across the known ancient world. It also held regular ceremonies, public games and was the focal point for the many religious festivals held each year in the city.

Biblical History

Pope at House of Virgin MarySo before the birth of Jesus Christ at the very beginning of the 1st Century A.D, the religion in Ephesus was very much based on the Roman and Greek deities. But by the mid-1st Century A.D, the city increasingly became an important center of early Christian worship and teachings. This new religion that was Christianity, was created in the 1st Century A.D, by the followers of Jesus Christ. He was seen by his believers as the Son of God and the Savior of humankind. Though there is much debate about the actual year and date Jesus was born. The simple truth of the matter is that we do not know exactly when it was for sure. Therefore, the term B.C which means 'Before Christ', is any year up to the agreed date that Jesus was born and would of ended in 1 B.C. This would have then been followed by 1 A.D. This means β€˜Anno Domini: In the year of our Lord' and starts after the Christian Saviour was born.To understand the basic concepts of Christianity, the main theme of the Colossians section from the Bible is very helpful. It sums up the core faith that Jesus Christ is the center of all wisdom and knowledge, not mortal scholars or dignitaries.

Ephesus History

Important Christian figures who were in Ephesus in Biblical times, included the Apostle Paul. Who arrived to preach there in around 62 A.D, before that no other apostle had ever visited the city.

Paul was to become the pastor of the first Christian church there, a role he carried out passionately for three years before continuing his evangelical journeys to Rome. His faithful student Timothy would later take over the role of Pastor and in time would become the first Bishop of Ephesus and after his death by being stoned by pagans, he was made a Saint. Also the Apostle John is said to have both lived and wrote many important religious scriptures while in Ephesus. He in fact died there of old age in about 100 A.D, the only one of Jesus 12 disciples to die of natural causes, the rest sadly dying horrible deaths at the hands of others.

We know little about the Colossians themselves, but we do know they came from the ancient city of Colossae, which is 200 km from Ephesus and now located in what is today South-West Turkey. Christianity continued to spread after Jesus died when he was thirty years old, some time around 30 A.D, in Jerusalem after being crucified by the occupying Romans. His Apostles continued to spread his teachings after his brutal death. The term β€˜Apostle’ in the Bible referred to each of the twelve chief disciples of Jesus Christ. The first of the 12 apostles to die was Judas Iscariot, who committed suicide shortly after he betrayed Jesus to the Romans, for a handful of silver and gold coins.

Apostle Paul who is often mentioned in the Bible, was also one of Jesus 12 disciples. He lived in the 1st century A.D. and is thought to have written as much as half of the New Testament that is in the Bible.

Another important Christian preacher at the time was John the Baptist, who was executed in the early part of the 1st Century A.D. He was beheaded after a disagreement with King Herod, the same man who had Jesus crucified. John’s followers would later meet with the Apostle Paul in Ephesus and be supportive of him continuing to spread the word of Christ. This inspired Paul, who went onto write the 1 Corinthians in around 54 A.D and was assisted by a man called Sosthenes who was the Head of a synagogue in Corinth. About the same time Paul also wrote The Books of Romans.

Later he is thought to have written the Ephesians, which is the tenth book of the New Testament. But some think it was written a few centuries later by a follower of Paul's. Its official title is β€˜The Epistle to the Ephesians’, which roughly translate to meaning: β€˜The Letter to the Ephesians’. And its main message was meant for Christians worldwide, reminding them of the importance of unity and reconciliation with one another.Ephesus was mentioned in the Bible in the New Testament, in sections like Acts 19:27, Corinthians and Timothy.

β€œ{19:27} Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? {19:27} But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay [them] before me. {19:27} Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own [home.] {19:27} So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.”

Later Apostle Paul would write part of Ephesians under extremely difficult circumstances. For Ephesians 4 of the New Testament was written by him when he was in prison in Rome in about 62 A.D. It talks about the importance for Christians to remain united and full of hope for the future. The language of the Letter to the Ephesians is unknown, though we can presume it was in Greek or possibly Latin, as these were the two dominant languages in ancient city in those days.

There is a famous story from the Bible while the Apostle Paul was first in Ephesus. A silversmith named Demetrius who lived in the city, like many others there, he made miniature statues for people to buy of the pagan Goddess Artemis. He feared that the growing popularity of Christianity prompted by Paul’s preaching and how it would affect trade, Demetrius raised a mob and drove Paul temporarily out of the city. Tragically the Apostle Paul was to die later in Rome by being beheaded sometime around 65 A.D on the orders of Emperor Nero, who was aggressively persecuting the Christians at the time. Paul is believed to have been buried in the grounds of the Basilica of Saint Paul's in Rome. It is thought that his fellow disciple, the Apostle John also wrote in Ephesus, towards the end of the 1st Century A.D. He wrote there the First Epistle of John, whose main theme is about love and fellowship with God.John, who was also known as John the Evangelist and John of Patmos, is said to have been buried beneath the now ruined Basilica of Saint John in Selcuk, the settlement near Ephesus. From this early upsurge in Christianity’s popularity, many different denominations would later emerge, each claiming they are best placed to serve God in the truest form.

So it is often debated through the centuries which of these churches is the true church? Though many believe if you follow the Christian teachings faithfully in whatever form, you are automatically following the one true church.

The actual first physical Christian church was in Roman Judea, which is an area now occupied by Israel. It was built sometime in the early 1st Century A.D.The first Christian church to be established in Ephesus was founded by the Apostle Paul a few decades later in the middle of the 1st Century A.D. This church is mentioned in the Book of Revelation as one of the seven important churches in the Christian world.

Who wrote the Books of Revelation in the Bible is hotly disputed. There are several candidates who scholars believed could of wrote it, but most believe it was the Apostle John.

In Revelation, each of these seven churches represent the seven different spiritual ages that would start with the New Testament church and will end with the last one, when Jesus returns near the End of Days.

  1. Ephesus represents the church that had abandoned its first love.
  2. Smyrna represents the church that would endure oppression.
  3. Pergamum represents the church that should atone for their sin.
  4. Thyatira represents the church that follows a false mystic.
  5. Sardis represents the church where people are dead in spirit.
  6. Philadelphia represents the church that had stayed faithful to God.
  7. Laodicea represents the church with the half-hearted faith.

Also in Revelations 2:4-5, Jesus was concerned that the Ephesians had lost their first love and that was their enthusiasm for the church itself. Another major theme in Revelation is the β€˜End of Times’ and talks about β€˜The Seven Nameless Angels’, who are messengers sent by God. It is said they will appear near the start of the End of Times. Each will then in turn blow their trumpets, bringing about a different apocalyptic event. And when the seventh and final trumpet is blown, it will bring about the return of Jesus Christ the Messiah.

The seven angels in Revelation are not to be confused with the seven spirits that are also mentioned in the Book of Revelation. These spirits relate to the lamb that symbolizes Jesus Christ as being both the redeemer and the Saviour who will call people to account when the day of judgment finally comes.

History

Inside view of Terrace HousesAs for the city itself, it went on to prosper for a few more centuries. Then the Giant Temple of Artemis was destroyed by raiding barbarian Goths, along with most of the city sometime in the mid-3rd Century A.D. Though this raid did mark the start of the decline of the city and this time the Temple of Artemis was never rebuilt. Then later an earthquake devastated most of the city in 614 AD and the city’s economy was further wrecked when the harbor gradually silting over making it totally unusable as a seaport. After all of this, the city declined dramatically until it was finally being abandoned by its few remaining inhabitants in the 15th Century A.D. The location of the ruined city was lost for a long time, but in 1869 an expedition sponsored by the British Museum and lead by John Turtle Wood, discovered the city's location.

Ephesus was hiding from our world until 1863, when the British engineer John Turtle Wood began searching, to find the remains of the Temple of Artemis. John succeeded in identifying it’s location, then dedicated five years to the excavations in this area, where the next round of archaeological took place from 1895 to 1913, conducted by German and Austrian archaeologists under the direction of Otto Benndorf and Carl Humann. Until today, archaeologists keep discovering new ruins. Because all discovered ruins until today are only 20% of the actual city and because of that more than a million and a half tourists all over the globe are visiting per year. Imagine what will happen when all the ruins get discovered?

While only 20 percent of the ancient city got discovered it’s now global, that even one of the most known brands in the world ( Starbucks ) their logo idea inspired from the Medusa from Temple of Hadrian gate. Surprisingly much of the city still remains, which is remarkable considering a lot of it dates back over a thousand years. The process of rediscovering this ancient ruined city is still ongoing by archaeologists today.

Though sadly the Temple of Artemis no longer exists and all that remains is one single column and it is located just on the outskirts of Ephesus.Nevertheless, Ephesus is now revered as being one of the most impressive remaining Roman ruins existing in the world today.So this ancient city is well worth a visit!

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Private Ephesus Tours

65USD
Kusadasi Ephesus Tour

Private tour to Ephesus Ancient City Ruins and near by attractions. Excursion takes approximately 6 to 7 hours.

70USD
Izmir Ephesus Tour

Starting from Izmir, the tour of Ephesus. Covers the most important attractions around and takes 5 to 6 hours.

70USD
Istanbul Ephesus Tour

Fly from Istanbul to Izmir and explore the marvels of Ephesus & around privately.

Wondering what to see?

Basilica of St. John
Saint John Basilica

The inhabitants of Ephesus moved to Ayasuluk after the 7th century AD, the Basilica of St. John substituted the church in Ephesus, one of the Seven Churches of Revelation.

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