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Ephesus

 

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Ephesus (Efes): An Ionian Ancient City

Ephesus (Efes) is the best preserved classical Anatolian Ancient City of the Eastern Mediterranean, and amongst the best places in the world enabling one to genuinely 'soak in' the atmosphere of Roman times. Needless to say, it is a major tourist destination.

Ephesus (Efes) is located on the western coast of Turkey near the modern city of Selcuk in Izmir (Smyrne). The ancient site of Ephesus has been almost continuously settled for the past 5000 years and was an early center of worship for Kybyle, the Anatolian mother-goddess who evolved into the Greek Artemis. A bustling commercial port in antiquity, the coastline has receded and it is now about 6 miles (10 km.) inland. Among its famous sites in ancient times were the great Temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), the Library of Celsus (considered second only to that in Alexandria), the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist and a house reputed to be the home to which Mary retired after Jesus's crucifixion.

Ephesus Theatre

Ancient Anatolian city of Ephesus proudly houses one of the seven ancient wonders of the world; the Temple of Artemis. The Ancient Anatolian city of Ephesus is dedicated to her and has many fascinating buildings. The precise date of the city's foundation is not known but legend said that the first Ephesus (Efes) was founded by Women Warriors of the Amazon in the 14th century BC and later inhabited by lonians in the 11th century BC after the first settlement of the Anatolian's natives, the Lelegians. In a short time the city became very important. After 133 BC it became a Roman province and during the reign of Augustus it became the trade center of Asia.

With all these civilizations passing through Ephesus, the remains take one or two days to visit fully. The city still retains its importance, but this time as the most important archaeological and historical city in Turkey. One of the very amazing ruins in (Ephesus) Efes is the huge amphitheatre with a 24,000 seat capacity and superb acoustic effects. Seljuk is close to Efes and is crowned with a Byzantine citadel and the basilica of St. John. Next to the basilica is the Seljuk Isa Bey Mosque. The Seven Sleepers' Cave is another historical place near Efes. The archaeological museum is significant with its striking collection of items gathered from the excavations in Ephesus. Every May there is an International Festival in Efes.

On Bulbuldagi (Mt. Nightingale) one can find the small house built for the Virgin Mary (9 kms from Seljuk) when St. John brought her to Ephesus after Christ's death. She spent her last days in that house. Today it is a place of Pilgrimage for Christians and also visited by Muslims, and is officially sanctioned by the Vatican. Every year on August the 15th, a commemoration ceremony is held there.

History of the Ancient Anatolian City of Ephesus (Efes)

Around 1000 BC, colonists from Greece arrived on these shores, fleeing an invasion by the Dorians. The Ionian culture flourished, and its cities exported these cultural refinements back to Greece.

The history of Ionia is much the same as that of Izmir, with the original Ionian league of cities being conquered by the Lydians of Sardis, then the Persians, then Alexander. They prospered until their harbors silted up or until the predominance of Izmir siphoned off their local trade.

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Earliest Times of Ephesus

According to a legend related by Athenaeus, Androclus, son of King Codrus of Athens, consulted an oracle as to where he should found a settlement in Ionia. The oracle answered, in typically cryptic style, `choose the site indicated by the fish and the boar'.

Androclus sat down with some fishermen near the mouth of the Cayster River and Mt Pion (Panayir Dagi), the hill into which Ephesus’ Great Theatre was later to be built. As they grilled some fish for lunch, one of the fish leapt out of the brazier, taking with it a hot coal which ignited some shavings, in turn igniting the nearby brush. A wild boar hiding in the brush ran in alarm from the fire; the spot at which it was killed by the fishermen became the site of Ephesus' temple of Athena.

For many years thereafter the wild boar was a symbol of the city. Until the 1970s it was still common to see wild pigs in scrub thickets near Ephesus.

In ancient times the sea came much farther inland, almost as far as present-day Selçuk, even lapping at the feet of Mt Pion. The first settlement, of which virtually nothing remains, was built on the hill's northern slope, and was a prosperous city by about 600 B.C.. The nearby sanctuary of Cybele (Artemis), the Anatolian Mother-Goddess, had been a place of pilgrimage since at least 800 B.C. and may have had more to do with the selection of the site than the fish and the pig.

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Croesus & The Persians

Ephesus prospered so much that it aroused the envy of King Croesus of Lydia, who attacked it around 600 B.C.. The Ephesians, who had neglected to build defensive walls, stretched a rope from the temple of Artemis to the town, a distance of 1200m, hoping thus to place themselves under the protection of the goddess. Croesus responded to this quaint defensive measure by giving some of his famous wealth for the completion of the temple, which was still under construction. But he destroyed the city of Ephesus and relocated its citizens inland to the south side of the temple, where they rebuilt and continued to live through classical times.

Neglecting again (or perhaps forbidden) to build walls, the Ephesians were tributaries of Croesus' Lydia and later, of the Persians. They then joined the Athenian Confederacy, but later fell back under Persian control.

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Rebuilding the Temple of Cybele (Artemis) in Ephesus

In 356 B.C. the temple of Cybele (Artemis) was destroyed in a fire set by one Herostratus, who claimed to have done it (like so many modern-day lunatics) in order to go down in history. He certainly did!.

The Ephesians planned a new, even grander temple, the construction of which was well under way when Alexander the Great arrived in 334 B.C.. Alexander, much impressed by the plans, offered to pay the entire cost of construction on the condition it be dedicated in his name. The Ephesians declined his generous offer, saying that it was not fitting for one god to make a dedication to another. When the temple was finished, it was recognized as one of the seven wonders of the world, together with the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Bodrum) the Egyptian pyramids, the Colossus of Rhodes, the statue of Zeus at Olympia, the lighthouse at Alexandria, and the hanging gardens of Babylon.

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Ephesus Under Lysimachus

After Alexander's death, Ionia came under the control of Lysimachus, one of his generals. As the Cayster brought more silt into the harbour, it became clear that the city would have to move westward or die a commercial death. Lysimachus, unable to convince the Ephesians to budge blocked the sewers of the old city during a downpour. Their houses flooded, and the Ephesians reluctantly moved to a site on the west side of Mt Pion, where the Roman city now stands.

Little survives of Lysimachus' city, though it finally got a defensive wall almost 10 km long. The following centuries were turbulent as Lysimachus allied himself first with the Seleucid Kings of Syria, then with the Ptolemies of Egypt, later with King Antiochus, then Eumenes of Pergamum and finally with the Romans. Long stretches of the wall survive atop Bülbül Dagi (Mt Croesus), the high ridge on the south side of Ephesus, as does a prominent square tower nicknamed `St Paul's Prison', on a low hill to the west.

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Ephesus During Roman Period

Roman Ephesus, the ruins of which you can visit today, boasted that it was the first and greatest metropolis of Asia', with a population approaching 250,000. It became the Roman capital of Asia Minor, honored and beautified by succeeding emperors. With its brisk sea traffic, rich commerce and right of sanctuary in the precincts of the temple of Artemis, it drew many immigrants of various nations and creeds. As a large and busy Roman town with ships and caravans coming from all over, it had an important Christian congregation very early on. St John came here, it is said with the Virgin Mary, followed by St Paul, whose Letter to the Ephesians was written to people he had known from his three-year stay here.

its prosperity from commerce and temple pilgrimage was unrivalled, but the Cayster continued to bring silt down into the harbor. Despite great works by Attalus II of Pergamum, who rebuilt the harbor, and Nero's proconsul, who dredged the harbor, the silting continued. Emperor Hadrian had the Cayster's course diverted, but the harbor continued to silt up, ultimately pushing the sea back to Pamucak, four km to the west. Cut off from its commerce, Ephesus lost its wealth.

Ephesus was renowned for its wealth and beauty before it was pillaged by Gothic invaders in 262 AD, and it was still an important enough place in 431 A.D. for a church council to be held there. By the 6th century AD, when the Emperor Justinian was looking for a site for the St John's basilica, he chose Ayasoluk Hill in Selçuk, which became the center of the city from then on.

Much of the city remains for you to see. As for the other Ionian ports, sometimes a sleepy Turkish village rose among the ruins, sometimes not. Today several of those once-sleepy villages are bustling seaside resort towns.

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A Walking Tour in Ephesus (Efes)

As you walk into the site from Dr Sabri Yayla Bulvan, a road to the left directs you to the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers, this is on the northeast side of Mt Pion just over a km away.

Grotto of the Seven Sleepers

According to legend, seven persecuted Christian youths fled from Ephesus in the 3rd century A.D. and took refuge in this cave. Agents of the Emperor Decius, a terror to Christians, found the cave and sealed it. Two centuries later an earthquake broke down the wall awakening the sleepers, and they ambled back to town for a meal. Finding that all of their old friends were long dead, they concluded that they had undergone a sort of resurrection, Ephesus was by this time a Christian city. When they died they were buried in the cave, and a cult following developed.

The grotto is actually a fairly elaborate Byzantine-era necropolis with scores of tombs cut into the rock. You must pay an extra admission charge to enter (at least in season), which many people feel is hardly worth it.

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Gymnasium of Vedius & Stadium

Back on the entry road you pass the 2nd century A.D. Gymnasium of Vedius on your left, which had exercise fields, baths, toilets, covered exercise rooms, a swimming pool and a ceremonial hall. Just south of it is the Stadium, dating from about the same period. Most of its finely cut stones were taken by the Byzantines to build the citadel and walls of the castle atop Ayasoluk hill. This `quarrying' of pre-cut building stone from older, often earthquake-ruined structures continued throughout the entire history of Ephesus.

Double Church

The road comes over a low rise and descends to the car park, where there are tea-houses, restaurants, souvenir shops, a PTT and banks. To the right (west) of the road are the ruins of the Church of the Virgin Mary, also called the Double Church. The original building was a Museum, a Hall of the Muses being a place for lectures, teaching, educated discussions and debates. Destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt in the 4th century A.D. as a church, later to become the site of the third Ecumenical Council (431 AD). Over the centuries several other churches succeeded to the site, somewhat obscuring the plan of the original church.

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Arcadian Way

As you walk down a lane bordered by evergreen trees, a few colossal remains of the Harbor Gymnasium are off to the right (west) before you reach the marble-paved Arcadian Way, or Arcadiane. This, the grandest street in Ephesus, had water and sewer lines beneath the marble flags, 50 streetlights along its colonnades, shops along its sides, and near its western (harbor) end a Nymphaeum (fountain and pool) and triumphal columns. It was and is a grand sight. its builder was the Byzantine emperor Arcadius (395-408).

Great Theatre

At the east end of the Arcadian Way is the Great Theatre, of Hellenistic design, skillfully reconstructed by the Romans between 41 and 117 A.D..

The first theatre here dates from the city of Lysimachus, and many features of the original building were incorporated into the Roman structure. Among these is the ingenious design of the cavea, or seating area, capable of holding 25,000 people: each successive range of seating up from the stage is pitched more steeply than the one below it, thereby improving the view and acoustics for spectators in the upper seats. Among other modifications, the Romans enlarged the stage, pitched it towards the audience and built a three-story decorative stage wall behind it, improving the acoustics even more.

The Great Theatre is still used for performances, though it is generally closed for further restoration. Behind the Great Theatre is Mt Pion, which bears a few traces of the ruined city walls of Lysimachus.

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Sacred Way

From the theatre, walk south along the marble-paved Sacred Way, also called the Marble Way. Note the remains of the city's elaborate water and sewer systems beneath the paving-stones, and the ruts made by wheeled vehicles (which were not permitted along the Arcadian Way). The large, open space to the right (west) of the street, once surrounded by a colonnade and shops, was the commercial agora (3 BC) or marketplace, heart of Ephesus' business life, presently under restoration.

On the left as you approach the end of the street is an elaborate brothel with a rich mosaic of the Four Seasons in the main hall; the heads of Winter and Autumn are still in good condition.

The Sacred Way ends at the Embolos, or `central Ephesus,' with the Library of Celsus and the monumental Gate of Augustus to the right (west), and Curetes Way heading east up the slope.

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Library of Celsus at Ephesus (Efes)

Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus was the Roman governor of Asia Minor early in the 2nd century A.D.. In 110, after the govenor's death, his son, Consul Gaius Julius Aquila, erected this library in his father's honour; as says an inscription in Latin and Greek on the side of the building's front staircase. Celsus was buried under the west side of the library, where he rests to this day.

library

The library of Celcus held 12,000 scrolls in niches around its walls. A one-meter gap between the library's inner and outer walls protected the valuable books from extremes of temperature and humidity. Though it now stands alone, the library was originally built between other buildings, and architectural legerdemain was used to make it look bigger than it is: the base of the façade is convex, adding height to the central elements; and the central columns and capitals are larger than those at the ends.

The niches on the façade held statues (now in Vienna's Ephesus Museum) representing the Virtues: Arete (Goodness), Ennoia (Thought), Episteme (Knowledge) 'and Sophia (Wisdom). The library was restored with the aid of the Austrian Archaeological Institute.

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To the right of the library, the Gate of Augustus, also called the Gate of Mazaeus and Mithridates, leads into the 110-metresquare commercial agora where food and craftwork items were sold. The monumental gate, dedicated to the honor of the Emperor Augustus, his wife and son-in-law, was apparently a favorite place for Roman ne'erdo-wells to relieve themselves, as an informal inscription curses `those who piss here'.

Curetes Way

As you head up Curetes Way, a passage on the left (north) leads to the public toilets, design demonstrating function unmistakably. These posh premises were for men only; the women's were elsewhere. In the well nearby, right next to the brothel, was found the famous figure of Priapus (now in the Ephesus Museum in Selçuk) with the penis of his dreams.

You can't miss the impressive Temple of Hadrian, on the left, in Corinthian style, with beautiful reliefs in the porch and a head of Medusa to keep out evil spirits. It was dedicated in 118 A.D. to Hadrian, Artemis and the people of Ephesus, but greatly reconstructed in the 4th century.

Across the street is a row of 10 shops from the same period, fronted by an elaborate 5th-century mosaic.

On the right side of Curetes Way across from the Temple of Hadrian, excavation and restoration work is still in progress on the Yamaç Evleri (hill-side houses). Several of the larger, grander houses with fine mosaics, frescoes and marble work are periodically opened to visitors. If you have the opportunity, be sure to see the rare glass mosaic in a niche off the atrium of one of the houses.

Further along Curetes Way, on the left, is the Fountain of Trajan, who was Roman emperor from 98 to 117 A.D.. A huge statue of the emperor used to tower above the pool; only the feet remain.

Curetes Way ended at the Gate of Hercules, constructed in the 4th century AD, a two-storey gate with reliefs of Hercules on both main pillars.

To the right is a side street leading to a colossal temple dedicated to the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD), which now serves as the Museum of Inscriptions, which may or may not be open when you visit.

Up the hill on the left (north) are the ruined remains of the Prytaneum, a municipal hall; and the Temple of Hestia Boulaea, in which the perpetual flame was guarded. Finally you come to the Odeum, a small 1400-seat theatre dating from I50 A1 used for lectures, musical performances and meetings of the town council. its lower seat; of marble, show something of the magnificence of the original.

To the east of the Odeum are the Baths of Varius and, farther east, the East Gymnasium and the Magnesia Gate, of which virtually nothing remains.

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Time Line (Chronology) of Ephesus

Ephesus (Efes) is located on the western coast of Turkey near the modern city of Selcuk in Izmir (Smyrana). The site has been almost continuously settled for the past 5000 years and was an early center of worship for Kybyle, the Anatolian mother-goddess who evolved into the Greek Artemis. A bustling commercial port in antiquity, the coastline has receded and it is now about 6 miles (10 km.) inland. Among its famous sites in ancient times were the great Temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), the Library of Celsus (considered second only to that in Alexandria), the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist and a house reputed to be the home to which Mary retired after Jesus's crucifixion.

  • Thraco-Phrygian settlement in the area..........1200's-800's with...
  • Mycenaean Greek settlement......................1100's-1000's
  • Aegeid (also known as Basilid, "the Kings")
  • Androklos..........................................fl. mid 1070's
  • ??
  • To the Cimmerians..................................695-626
    • Melas I.......................................fl. c. 650
  • Republic...........................................626-590
  • Tyrants
  • Pythagoras......................................c. 590-c. 580
  • Melas II........................................c. 580-c. 570
  • Pindaros........................................c. 570-c. 550
  • To Lydia...........................................560-546
    • Melas III..................................c. 550-c. 545
  • To Persia..........................................546-498
    • Aristarchus................................c. 545-c. 540
    • Aphinagorus...................................fl. c. 530 with...
    • Comas.........................................fl. c. 530
    • Melanchomas...................................fl. c. 510
  • Aristogoras of Miletos.................................498
  • To Persia..........................................498-454
  • To the Delian League...............................454-412
    • Hermodorus the Tyrant.........................fl. mid 400's
  • Spartan Client.....................................412-394
  • Member of the Maritime League......................394-387
  • To Sparta..........................................387-386
  • To Persia..........................................386-333
    • Syrphax....................................c. 345-333
  • To Macedon.........................................333-323
    • Hegesius...................................c. 330-c. 320
  • To Kingdom of Lysimachos...........................323-282
  • To the Seleucid Empire.............................282-263
  • To Egypt...........................................263-197
  • To Pergamum........................................197-133
  • To the Roman Republic..............................133-88
  • To Pontus...........................................88-86
  • To the Roman Republic...............................86-27
  • To the Roman Empire.............................27 BCE-395 CE
  • To the Byzantine Empire............................395-1071
  • To the Seljuqs....................................1071-c. 1100
  • To the Byzantine Empire........................c. 1100-1204
  • To Nicaea.........................................1204-1261
  • To the Byzantine Empire...........................1261-1308
  • To Aydin..........................................1308-1426
  • To the Ottoman Empire.............................1426-1922
  • To Turkey.........................................1922-
 

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Links

  • Ephesus Information Center

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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