One of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world, Ephesus is a fine example of Classical architecture. A Greek city was first established here in around 1000 BC and it soon rose to prominence as a center for the worship of Cybele, the Anatolian mother goddess.
The city we see today was built by Alexander the Great’s successor, Lysimachus, in the 4th century BC. But it was under the Romans that Ephesus became the chief port in the Aegean. Most of the surviving structures date from this period. The city declined when the harbor silted up, but it played an important role in the spread of Christianity. It is said that the Virgin Mary spent her last days nearby, cared for by St. John the Evangelist, and two ecumenical councils of the early Church were held here in AD 431 and 449.
CHURCH OF ST. MARY
Occupying a place of particular significance in the development of Christianity, the Church of St. Mary, located near the entrance to the site, is believed to be the first church in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was here, in AD 431, that the Council of the Church accepted that Jesus, son of the Virgin Mary, was also the son of God. Used as a warehouse in the Roman era, the long, narrow building has been altered overtime and was at one point used for training priests. In the 4th century, it was converted into a basilica with a central nave and two aisles. Later, an apse was created on the eastern wall and, to the western side of the church, a circular baptistry with a central pool was built. Additions dating from the 6th century include a domed chapel situated between the apse and the entrance of the original church
The archeological museum at Selcuk, 2 miles (3 km) from the excavations, is one of the most important in Turkey. It contains many of the remarkable artifacts uncovered at Ephesus since World War II. An entire hall is devoted to Artemis, the Greek goddess of chastity, hunting, and the moon. Other exhibits feature marble and bronze statues, ancient frescoes, and wall paintings, jewels, Mycenean vases, gold and silver coins, Corinthian column heads, tombs, bronze and ivory friezes, and the altar from the Temple of Domitian.
On the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the Macedonian empire—including Ephesus—was divided among his generals. Lysimachus (360-281 BC) was entrusted with Thrace. He soon added Asia Minor, and in 286 BC he took Ephesus, heralding a new era for the city. It was already a strategic trading port, but the receding coastline and silt-filled harbor threatened its livelihood. Lysimachus first dredged the harbor. Then he moved the city to its present site, fortified it with huge walls and renamed it (for a brief time) Arsinoe, after his third wife. The city soon became densely populated and began to prosper.
Murals in the houses opposite the Temple of Hadrian indicate that these were the homes of wealthy Ephesians.
Gate of Hercules
The gate at the entrance to Curetes Street takes its name from two reliefs showing Hercules draped in a lion skin. Originally a two-story structure, and believed to date from the 4th century AD, it had a large central arch with winged victories on the upper corners of the archway. Curetes Street was lined with statues of civic notables.
This was the city’s main market place. Three of its four sides were surrounded by a portico that contained shops.
Library of Celsus
Built in AD 114-117 by Consul Gaius Julius Aquila for his father, the library was damaged first by the Goths and then by an eartquake in AD 1000. The statues occupying the niches in front are Spohia (Wisdom), Arete (Virtue), Ennoia (Intellect), and Episteme (Knowledge).
This was adorned with a statue of Priapus, the Greek god of fertility.
Temple of Domitian
This 1st-century temple was the first at Ephesus to be built in honor of an emperor.
This short street, once flanked by columns, is paved with large, uneven marble blocks.
Temple of Hadrian
Built to honor a visit by Emperor Hadrian in AD 123, the relief marble work on the facade portrays mythical gods and goddesses.
Carved into the flank of Mount Pion during the Hellenistic period, this was designed for theatrical performances. Later alternations by the Romans also allowed gladiatorial contests to be held here.
The stage building featured elaborated ornamentation.
This small roofed theater was built in AD 150. It was used for meetings, and as a concert venue.
Lined with Ionic and Corinthian columns, this street runs from the Baths of Varius to the Temple of Domitian.
HOUSE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
According to the Bible, Jesus asked st. John the Evangelist to care for his mother after his death. John brought Mary with him to Ephesus in AD 37, and she spent the last years of her life here in a modest stone house. The House of the Blessed Virgin is located at Meryemana, 5 miles (B km) from the center of Ephesus. The shrine, known as the Meryemana Kultur Parki, is revered by both Christians and Muslims and is a place of pilgrimage, especially around August 15 (Assumption).
A FISH AND A BOAR
According to legend, Androklos asked the oracle at Delphi where he should build his city. He was told, “A fish and a boar will show you the place.” When he crossed the Aegean and went ashore to cook a fish, a bush caught fire and a boar ran out. Ephesus was founded on that spot.
1000 BC: The city of Ephesus is founded by Androklos, son of Kodros, King of Athens.
133 BC: Ephesus comes under the rule of Rome. It is made capital of Asia Province.
4th century: The harbor silts up, trade decreases and the city starts to decline.
1869: The first excavations of the city begin. Work continues to this day.