Ephesus and surrounding area
Ephesus was one of the most important and the biggest city in Roman Anatolia (Asia Minor) and also the capital of the province. This ancient Roman city is widely considered to be the most well preserved Classical city in the Eastern Mediterranean. Ephesus was a powerful trading port and became a sacred centre for the cult of Artemis. Ephesus was conquered by the Romans and eventually became Christian. The Apostle Paul had an eventful stay in the city for over 2 years (52 to 55 A.D.) in his third missionary journey (Acts 19: 8,9); first preaching in the Synagogue and then the Tyrannus Hall. He was later driven out of the city by the city’s silversmiths for preaching against their models of Diana.
Ephesus and surrounding area
Just outside Ephesus is the provincial town of Selcuk, which lies beneath an ancient fortress and is, unfortunately often overlooked. St John the Evangelist was purportedly buried here, and the city has one of the oldest mosques in Turkey, The Isa Bey Cami (at St Jean Sok) dating from 1375 and is a mixture of Seljuk and Ottoman design. The Ephesus Muzesi (Agora Carsisi) at Selcuk has the best collection of Roman and Greek artifacts in Turkey.
At Meryemana you find the House of the Virgin Mary which is becoming an increasingly popular pilgrimage for Roman Catholics believed by many to have been the place where St John took the mother of Jesus after the crucifixion and from which she ascended to heaven. (Off Route E87, 3 mile south of Ephesus).
How to get there
Driving time to Ephesus and Selcuk is around 30 to 40 minutes from Kusadasi and Sogucak, the nearest beach resorts (10 to 15miles). The pleasant resorts of Alachati and Cesme itself both on the Cesme peninsular are around 2 hours (60 miles) depending on traffic conditions. If coming direct from Izmir airport it takes around 1 hour. There are hotels in the Ephesus/Selcuk area so it is possible to stay there for a few days and continue on to a beach resort. Taxis are easily hired from any of these locations – don’t obviously pay the driver until you are back to your resort, negotiate price before departing and take a note of the registration of the taxi as some look the same!
Highlights of Ephesus
If arriving privately a good tip is to start at the Upper Gate (. An added advantage is that you are walking downhill through the ruins down Curetes Street which is quite steep and you get a splendid view of the Library of Celsus in the distance after passing through the Hercules Gate. I have therefore mentioned the highlights in that order.
The Odeon (a small theatre – capacity 1,400) was used for plays and concerts as well as public meetings of the city council with The Prytaneon (The Palace of the Council) and The Various Baths, with cold, warm and hot water sections, close by. Continue down Curetes Street visiting The Fountain of Pollio, The Memorial to Memmius and The Temple of Domitian and past through the carved columns of The Hercules Gate as you pass The Trajan Fountain you are offered a pleasant view of the rest of the street down a steep slope. It is reported that the Romans in 1st century A.D. knew the true shape of the earth as one foot of Emperor Trajan is resting on a round shape symbolising his rule of the world. Hadrians Temple and The Latrina (public toilets); the toilets were arranged side by side with no partition between them! On the other side of the street the Flank Houses were boarding houses and houses for the rich which have only been unearthed recently. You then come to the impressive Celsus Library with its two level facade which has been beautifully restored – this impressive site faces you most of the way down Curetes Street. The magnificent Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates stands at right angles to the library. You continue down Marble Street which has the honour of what is thought the very first recorded form of advertising – the way to The Brothel engraved in stone. At the foot of Marble Street is The Great Theatre which had a massive capacity of 25,000 and included 22 flights of stairs. Turn left on to Arcadian Way or The Harbour Street which connected Ephesus to the port; the beautiful colonnades on both sides and marble pavements impressing visiting dignitaries, one of the first streets lit by lights at night. Retrace your steps back to the Great Theatre and walk along Stadium Road to The Stadium where chariot races were held and Gladiators and wild beasts met in combat in front of 70,00 spectators.
Just outside the Lower Gate is the site for the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Artemis known as Diana in Roman Mythology is the mighty goddess of Fertility. Unfortunately today only two columns remain. The temple was triple the size of the Parthenon in Athens, much of the material from the collapsed temple was used to build the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
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Photo: Celsus Library, Ephesus (RG) 10