image Ephesus home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Ephesus
It is one of the three main streets of Ephesus between The Hercules Gate till to the Celsus Library.

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.

The Temples of Dea Roma and  Divus Julius Caesar
The Temples of Dea Roma and
Divus Julius Caesar

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.

Behind the basilica is the Prytaneion, where religious ceremonies , official receptions and banquets were held. The sacred flame symbolizing the heart of Ephesus was kept constantly alight in the Prytaneion.
Behind the basilica is the Prytaneion, where religious ceremonies , official receptions and banquets were held. The sacred flame symbolizing the heart of Ephesus was kept constantly alight in the Prytaneion.
Nike
Nike

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 todayThe 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.

Memmius Monument
Memmius Monument. It was constructed during the reign of Augustus in the 1st century A.D by Memmius, the grand son of dictator Sulla.

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.

The Pollio Fountain
The Pollio Fountain

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. 

 Hercules gate
Located towards the end of the Curetes Street, it was called the Hercules gate because of the relief of Hercules on it.

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).

The İsa Bey Mosque constructed in 1374–75, is one of the oldest and most impressive works of architectural art remaining from the Anatolian beyli
The İsa Bey Mosque constructed in 1374–75, is one of the oldest and most impressive works of architectural art remaining from the Anatolian beyli

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.

It is a typical Roman Basilica.
It is a typical Roman Basilica. It is 160 meters long, and located on the northern part of the state agora and has a nave and three-aisles.

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.

Site of the Temple of Artemis in the town of Selçuk, near Ephesus.
Site of the Temple of Artemis in the town of Selçuk, near Ephesus.

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.

Site of the Temple of Artemis in the town of Selçuk, near Ephesus.
Site of the Temple of Artemis in the town of Selçuk, near Ephesus.
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28 comments

  1. So there is no living town centre or even village in Ephesus any more? I suppose that is lucky in the way that at least some of the structures then remain. I’d love to see all that with my own eyes one day. Such an interesting history!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to work on a cruise ship for a long time, and had a guided tour through Ephesus several times. It is a wonderful place to wander through, as you can still imagine the roads, the churches, the library and the life there much better than on most other ancient places in the world I have seen. When you are there it is a shattered place, yet you have the feeling, all this destruction has happened just 10 years ago. In the old amphitheatre of Ephesus, where Paulus used to speak to the people, I onced experienced a classical concert with 8 musicians (Cello, Violin, Flute) under a full moon in a still summer night. As the world around the theatre was lying in the dark we completey lost track of the present, it was absolutely magic!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow that must have been an amazing experience! I read that they still hold concerts in the Great Theater and would love to attend one someday. You are right, as you walk through the city it is quite easy to imagine what it must have looked like ages ago…

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  3. You missed the best part about Herostratus. He burnt it down solely to be remembered. He just wanted to be famous, so he burnt down a wonder of the world. To spite him, it was made illegal to mention his name, but luckily for him, it got recorded anyway, and so now we remember him, so he got what he wanted.

    Additionally, according to legend, that was the day that Alexander the Great was born, and it was said that the gods were too busy attending to his birth to protect the temple.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh man, that looks fantastic! I am very, very jealous. I want to see that place. Does it have an amazing vibe? When visiting ancient places I always think they have a unique “feel” to them that you won’t find anywhere else. Terrific pics. I love them all.

    Liked by 1 person

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