Ephesus is believed to date back to 6000 BCE. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League in Ancient times and contained the Temple of Artemis one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. Today it is one of the main archaeological sites and tourist attractions in Turkey.
Ephesus is located on the western shores of modern-day Turkey about 50 miles (80 km) from the city of Izmir, Turkey. There is evidence that the site of Ephesus was inhabited as long ago as 6000 BCE. During the Classical Greek era, which covered the 4th and 5th centuries BCE, it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League, and in 546 BCE it was occupied by the Persians, but because Ephesus did not join the Ionian Rebellion against the Persians, the city was spared from destruction. After the defeat of the Persians, it came under the guardianship of Athens, although Ephesus had rebelled against Athens in 412 BCE and supported Sparta in the Peloponnesian War.
Later, Ephesus was to join against Sparta, resulting in Sparta capturing the city and giving it back to the Persians. The successes of Alexander the Great included the city being captured by him in 334 BCE and in a resulting period of prosperity for Ephesus. In the Roman period, it was for many years the second largest city of the Roman Empire, second only to Rome, reaching its zenith under Emperor Augustus in the first century AD with a population of more than 250,000.
In ancient times, Ephesus was situated by the sea with a natural harbour. It was this that led to it becoming a great trading and religious city. It was a centre for the cult of Cybele, the Anatolian fertility goddess who became Artemis, the virgin Greek goddess of the hunt and the moon. It was for Artemis that a great temple was constructed which was to become one of the ancient wonders of the world and was to make Ephesus famous. The original Temple of Artemis was constructed on the site around 650 BCE, although the famous marble one was completed around 550 BCE. This was destroyed by fire in 356 BCE and was rebuilt in 334BCE.
Ephesus played a significant role during the early days of Christianity and it was these religious ties that finally led to the destruction of the temple in 401 AD by a Christian mob. Today only part of a single column remains, although the Temple was at one time four times larger than the Parthenon in Athens and was one of the Wonders of the Ancient World.
The site still clearly shows the layout of the city with its streets and public areas, although much has still to be excavated. It contains many buildings including houses, gateways, temples and theatres.
Ephesus contains a number of interesting buildings, a number of which are on Kurets Street. This street runs from the government quarter of the town where the Prytaneion can be found. This was the town hall and adjacent to that is the Bouleerion, which was used for meetings, although this was also used for concerts so is also known as the Odeion. Built in 150 AD it had a capacity of 1500 people and was covered with a wooden roof.
Kurets Street is entered through the Heracles Gate which then leads along to the centre of the town and to some of the most interesting buildings of the site.
One of the most beautiful ornately decorated buildings is Hadrian Temple, this was completed in 138 AD and dedicated to Emperor Hadrian, who is known to have visited Ephesus on a couple of occasions. Two temples were constructed in his name, this was the small one, a large one was constructed close to where the Church is now, but this was later completely destroyed and nothing of that remains.
The small Trajan Fountain has undergone excavation and part repair. According to the inscription on the fountain, it was built between 102 and 114 AD and dedicated to Emperor Trajan.
One of the things that Ephesus is most famous for is the Library of Celsus a Roman mausoleum and library built between 110 and 135 AD. This is situated at the end of Kurets Street.
The Library of Celsus was commissioned by the Consul Julius Aquila as a mausoleum for his father, Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, the Roman governor of the Asian Provinces.
The library originally had three storeys, with galleries in the upper two storeys. 12,000 scrolls and codexes were stored in the niches. The niches of the facade contained statues, of which some still remain.
The building was damaged by fire and fell into disuse before being destroyed by an earthquake in the 10th century AD. Its reconstruction to its present state took place from 1970 to 1978.
Next to the Library is the Agora and the gate standing at the side of the library is the South Gate that leads into the Agora.
Just past the Agora is the Great Theatre which makes use of the elevation of the ground. The exact date its construction is not known but it is thought that this is prior to the 1st century BCE. The street leading from this is Harbour Street which provided the town with access to the sea.
The importance of Ephesus as a commercial centre declined as the harbour slowly silted up, which resulted in its abandonment in the 15th century.
Nearby can be seen the Isabey Mosque, the oldest known example of a Turkish mosque with a courtyard.
Another point of interest to be seen is the Cave of the Seven Sleepers. This is where seven young men retreated to avoid having to make making sacrifices to the Roman gods. Legend says that they slept n the caves for 200 years before waking and then disappearing.
The House of the Virgin is situated 8 km from the site and is believed to be the last residence of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to Christian tradition, Mary was brought to Ephesus by the Apostle John after the Resurrection of Christ and lived out her days there.
To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.