When visiting Ephesus in Turkey I was greeted by the remains of a magnificent ancient culture and people of which today nearly nothing remains. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometers southwest of present-day Selçuk. It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists.
According to myth the founder of Ephesus was a prince of Athens named Androklos, who had to leave his country after the death of his father, King Kadros. According to the legend, he founded Ephesus on the place where the oracle of Delphi became reality (“A fish and a boar will show you the way”). Androklos was a successful warrior, and as a king he was able to join the twelve cities of Ionia together into the Ionian League. It was during his reign that the city began to prosper.
The city Ephesus had many amazing structures but it was famed for the Temple of Artemis which was completed around 550 BC. This Temple is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World although there is scarcely anything left today. The Ephesians were surprisingly modern in their social relations back then. They allowed strangers to integrate, education was valued and through the cult of Artemis, the city became a bastion of women’s rights. Ephesus even had female artists which is unheard of in those days.
When Alexander the Great defeated the Persian forces in 334 BC, the Greek cities of Asia Minor were liberated. Unfortunately in 356 BC the temple of Artemis was burned down by a lunatic called Herostratus. The inhabitants of Ephesus at once set about restoring the temple and even planned a larger and grander one than the original. The city flourished again after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. According to estimates Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people in the Roman period, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor.
In 268 AD, the Temple was damaged in a raid by the Goths. Emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and its temples after 268 AD and even erected new public baths. Unfortunately, what remained of this amazing temple was destroyed in 401 AD by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom. And then the town was again partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD. There seems to be one disaster after the other where Ephesus is concerned.
The rest of the history of Ephesus is very vague untill in 1304 the city surrendered to Sasa Bey, a Turkish warlord. It is said that contrary to the terms of the surrender the Turks pillaged the church of Saint John and deported most of the local population to Thyrea, Greece and many of the remaining inhabitants were massacred. The city knew again a short period of prosperity during the 14th century under new Seljuk rulers who added important architectural works such as the İsa Bey Mosque, caravansaries and Turkish bathhouses (hamam).
Ephesians were incorporated into the Ottoman Empire for the first time in 1390. The Central Asian warlord Tamerlane defeated the Ottomans in Anatolia in 1402, and the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I died in captivity. The region was restored to the Anatolian beyliks. After a period of unrest, the region was again incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1425. Ephesus was completely abandoned by the 15th century and left to fall into ruins.
The Temple of Artemis, is represented only by one inconspicuous column, revealed during an archaeological excavation by the British Museum in the 1870s. The Temple of Artemis, was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelations, proving how old and important this temple was.
If you look at the history of this amazing place it had to rise out of the ashes like a phoenix more than once but lost in the end.