Yesterday I visited the ancient city of Ephesus. Our group included tourists from Holland, Germany, India, Italy, and Malaysia – a fantastic mix of interesting people who were great company. It was an enjoyable and informative day with sunny weather in the 80s.
On the way we stopped for breakfast at Lake Bafa. The beautiful lake was once a gulf of the Aegean Sea until the earth’s elements rearranged it. The highway to Ephesus hugs the northern shore of Lake Bafa and connects the cities of İzmir, Kusadasi, and Söke to Milas and Bodrum. Olive tree groves cover the steep slopes surrounding the lake.
I wasn’t expecting Ephesus to be so beautiful or to be so taken by it. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous with shining white marble and colorful stone mosaics throughout! Some of the ruins are in excellent condition making it easy to imagine the ancient city. Before exploring Turkey, I thought of Italy and Greece as the Mediterranean countries with ancient ruins – didn’t realize there are so many exceptional ruins here in Turkey!
Ephesus was an important city in the ancient world and a major religious center of early Christianity. With fertile land and a strategic port on the Aegean Sea it was the gem of the region. Today its ruins are a large archaeological site and a major tourist attraction. Ephesus known as “the best preserved classical city of the Eastern Mediterranean”.
History – Cimmerians, Lydians, Persians
“Findings obtained in this region where the native Lelegs and Carians lived show that the city dates back to 2000 B.C. During the years 1000 B.C. the Ions (Ionia region in Anatolia) came to Ephesus led by Androckles. Ephesus was captured many times – in the 7th century B.C. by the Cimmerians (descendants of Atlantis), in 560 B.C. by the Lydians, and in 546 B.C. by the Persians.”
Alexander the Great
Ephesus was rescued from Persian domination by Alexander the Great. “Lysimachos, a commander in Alexander’s army, moved the settlement to a new location between Mount Panayir and Mount Bülbülaway.”
Kingdom of Pergamon
“The city of Ephesus was taken by the Kingdom of Pergamon after 190 B.C., by Rome in 133 B.C., and then by Byzantium. During military and historical ups and downs Ephesus maintained its importance to Christianity.”
“Ephesus lived through a third glorious period during the reign of Justinian in the middle of the 6th century A.D. At this time, the Church of St. John was built by the Byzantine emperor. The apostle St. Paul arrived during the years of 50 A.D. At the beginning of the 2nd century, St. John was buried on the hill of Ayasuluk.”
The city layout placed the Temple of Isis at the center of the Agora (marketplace), the Stoa (promenade) on the north side, the Odeion (parliament) behind it, the Prytaneion (town hall) on its flank, and the Baths of Varius on the east. At night, oil lamps illuminated the streets.
Ruins to the west and south of the marketplace contain the following remains and more – all with an impressive history:
• Gate of Hercules
• Library of Celsus
• Temple of Domitian
• Fountain of Trajan
• Temple of Hadrian
• Goddess of Nike (Victory)
The Great Theater is one of the most magnificent, well-preserved buildings at Ephesus. There was a cappella group visiting the theater at the same time we were. They sang a few songs – amazing how fantastic the acoustics still are in the amphitheater! With a capacity of 24,000, Ephesus is the largest theater in Asia Minor.
St. Paul was dragged into the Great Theater to face the crowd because of his famous letter to the Ephesians. The security corp rescued him. Today festivals are still celebrated in the Great Amphitheater.
“The avenue that passed along the front of the theater extends toward the Vedius Gymnasium and the Stadium built during the Nero period. The Church of the Virgin Mary, built at the beginning of the 4th century A.D., is behind the Port Gymnasium just before the exit from the lower north gate.”
I visited Ephesus for the first time last October, and I was blown away. It’s an amazing place, and can’t wait to go back.