What is Ephesus famous for?

Ephesus is an ancient city located in the İzmir province in the west of Turkey. It is one of the top tourist destinations in Turkey and visited by millions of people each year. It ıs one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world. Therefore, it is visited by millions of tourists every year.

Ephesus is famous for being one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world, housing significant historical ruins like the Library of Celsus, the Basilica of St. John, and the Temple of Artemis. It is also very close to holy places like Seven Sleepers, and the House of the Virgin Mary. Especially, the House of The Virgin Mary is a very significant place for Catholic Christianity.

Ephesus was always an important city for the Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. Today, the legacy of the Roman Empire could be seen in several structures in the ancient city.  In this article, you will find information about Ephesus as an ancient city and the most important historical places in the area.

Ephesus as an ancient city

The oldest information about the history of Ephesus dates back to the mid 7th century BCE. According to historical sources, Cimmerians made an assault on the city in the 7th century BCE. However, the city resisted the attacks and was not destroyed.

Along the 6th century, the city was under the hegemony of tyrannies generally. One of those tyrants, Croesus rebuilt the Temple of Artemis, one of the most important structures in the city.  The 6th century BCE was an important period for the Ephesus according to historians. At that time, the population in the city increased. Moreover, there were important works for social life such as regulations in the laws. 

The city continued to take important roles in Greek society in the 5th century BCE. For example, it was an important base for Ionians in the war against the Persians.  After that time, the city became one of the most important cities for the Greek civilizations for thousands of years. It was an important ally of Sparta against Athens in the Peloponnesian War. After the city was conquered by Alexander the Great like its several neighbors, the Hellenistic period of the Ephesus started. The city was an important place for Alexander’s Empire. 

In 129 BC, the city became subject to Roman Republic.  However, the city’s relations with the Roman Empire have not been very good. Because of the high taxes, the city revolted against the Roman rule and supported Mithridates Eupator, who was the king of Pontus at that time.  Archelaus, the general of Mithridates entered the city. However, that event had some devastating results. Almost all Roman citizens who lived in the city were slaughtered by the armies of Mithirades.  Moreover, some important monuments and structures which had artistic value were destroyed by the Mithridates armies. 

In the rule of Mark Anthony, the city became a Roman subject again.  In the time of the Emperor Augustus, the city became the capital of Asia province of the Roman Empire. The city experienced the most magnificent days in that period.  The glorious days of the city ended with the attack of the Goths in 263 AD.  Then, the city entered a period of decline.  The city was rebuilt to a large extent in the rule of Constantine the Great. 

In the Byzantine era, the city was the most important city of its region after Constantinople for hundreds of years.  In the time of Justinian, one of the most famous historical structures of the city, the Basilica of St. John was built.

In the time of the Ottoman Era, the city was not an important place for the Empire.  Most of the historical structures in the ancient city are from the Byzantine and Roman era today.  

As you can see, Ephesus was an important center in the pre-Roman era, Roman era, and the Byzantine Era.  You can easily understand why this ancient city is visited by lots of tourists every year. If you like exploring historical sites in different areas of the world, an Ephesus trip would be very enjoyable for you.  Especially for the people who are interested in  Byzantine and Roman history, Ephesus trip is a unique experience. 

Temple of Artemis

Temple Of Artemis is one of the must-see places in Ephesus Ancient City. Although it looks like just a single column, this structure has a great historical and artistic value. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World before it was destroyed.

Although we can only see it as a column, it was a unique temple once.  According to excavations of archaeologists, there was a huge stone platform in the site and a monument of a goddess.

This temple had been a very important place of worship for many years. According to historians and archaeologists, there were also rooms for sacrifices and other activities. 

The temple was affected by lots of disasters throughout history, however, it was restored many times. Eventually, the restorations remained incapable, and the temple was destroyed almost completely. Only one of the columns reach the present day of 127 columns. On the other hand, the area of the temple and the size of the column could give you an idea about how big this temple was in its best time.

After its destruction, some stones of the temple were used in the construction of the famous Byzantine Church Hagia Sophia. 

Library of Celsus

The Library of Celsus is one of the oldest libraries in the world. When compared with its contemporaries, it is possible to say that it is the best-preserved one at the same time.

When you see the library, you will be amazed at the first sight. It is a really magnificent building with its columns, its stairs, and its height. Thanks to the great restoration project, you can feel yourself in the time of the Roman Era when you visit the Celsus Library.

The Celsus Library was built in the 2nd century BCE according to historical sources.  You can see four statues in front of the library. Those statues are actually replicas of the original statues but they were made in accordance with the original ones. The originals can be seen in the Ephesus Museum in Vienna. The statues represent four virtues; namely, Knowledge, Thought, Goodness, and Wisdom. 

According to estimates of experts, the capacity of the library was about 12.000 scrolls. That number makes Celsus Library the third biggest library of its time.  The inner and outer architecture of the library is also an amazing factor. There were very important texts in the library once, and the library was built in a way to protect those important texts from extreme cold or extreme heat. Another amazing architectural feature about the Celsus Library is the perfect usage of perspective. The architects of this magnificent library used perspective to make the library look bigger when looked at from the front.  Although it looks like the library has two floors when you look from the front, the library actually has three floors.  

It is a fascinating building both for its historical and architectural features. You should not skip the Library of Celsus in your Ephesus tour.  

Basilica of St. John

Basilica of St. John is another magnificent structure that you can visit in Ephesus Ancient City.

Although the building was restored many times throughout history, the building still preserves its original appearance. It is almost impossible not to be amazed by this fabulous structure. It is one of the best-preserved basilicas in the world when you take the time of the building into consideration. The basilica was built in the 6th century and is still standing in its original appearance. The historical atmosphere of the basilica is a decent reason to visit this place. However, this is not the only reason for the popularity of this basilica. Every year, many Christians around the world visit St. John Basilica because it is one of the sacred places of Christianity. 

St. John the Evangelist spent the final years of his life in Ephesus according to Christan belief. He spent years writing down his version of the Bible. Justinian, one of the most influential emperors of the Byzantine Empire believed that the tomb of St. John the Evangelist is in the area where the St. John Basilica is located today. Therefore, the basilica was built there in the 6th century.  This fabulous basilica has been restored many times throughout history. However, as we stated above, the appearance is still faithful to the original appearance. St. John Basilica is just 2 miles (3.5 km) away from the archeological site. 

House of the Virgin Mary

House of the Virgin Mary is another important structure that you must visit in the Ephesus ancient city area. 

It is 5.5 miles (9 km) away from the Ephesus ancient city, located on the ‘’Bülbül’’ mountain. According to Christian belief, the Virgin Mary spent her last day in this house. Because of that, it is a sacred place for Christians. The first Pope who visited the house of the Virgin Mary was Paul VI. Then, in the 1980s, the house of the Virgin Mary was declared as a place of pilgrimage for the Catholic Christians. 

In terms of architecture, it is a classical example of Roman Architecture.  The only material used in the construction of the house was stone. In the 4th century, a church was built in the area of the house. The church combined the house and the grave of the Virgin Mary.  The last restoration project for the house took place in the 1940s. Today only one room and the center of the house could be visited by the visitors. Near the house, there is a source of water which is known as the ‘’Water of Mary’’. It is believed that this water has some healing effects.

Seven sleepers

Seven Sleepers is a place which is known for an interesting story by Christians and Muslims.

According to the story, seven young men were fleeing from the Roman persecutions against Christians. They decided to hide in a cave around the city of Ephesus. They slept for hundreds of years, and when they woke up, there were no persecutions, and Rome was Christian.

According to Koran, the seven sleepers slept for 309 years. In the place of the cave, Christians built a church. It is one of the holy places for Christians. 

Other notable places around Ephesus

Ephesus Museum

After exploring the ancient city, you are ready to visit the Ephesus museum.

The most significant part of the museum for most of the tourists is the gladiator room.  You can learn some details about the lives of the glorious gladiators of Rome. There are several monuments in the museum which are found in the excavation site of Ephesus.  The gladiator room is not the only part of the museum worth visiting. You can see the statue of Eros and the fresco of Socrates in the museum. ,

In the ancient times, Ephesus was an important city for medicine.  In the museum, you can see lots of tools which were used for medical purposes.  Moreover, there are also drawings of the most important doctors of those days.

Statues of Aphrodite and Zeus are also significant pieces in the Museum. We advise you to allocate time for the museum if you want to explore the ancient city in detail. The museum is near the Basilica of St. John. 

Ayasuluk Fortress

As we said at the beginning of the article, Ephesus was an important center for the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. Therefore, these civilizations gave great importance to the protection of the city. Ayasuluk Fortress was an important structure to protect the city from the potential attacks of the enemies.

According to historians, the construction of the fortress dates back to Neolithic times. The fortress was modernized in the era of the Byzantine Empire. After the conquest by the Seljuk Empire, they also developed the fortress. Today, the fortress is still standing.

The fortress also presents you a great view of the city. You can see the town from above if you reach the top of the fortress. However, you should keep that in mind; excavation works still continue in the fortress. Thus, it could be closed to visitors from time to time.  

Roman Aqueduct 

The Roman and the Byzantine Empire are both known for their great architectural techniques beyond their time. Both of them built fabulous aqueducts to fulfill the clean water needs of the city. One of the best-preserved ones of these aqueducts is located in the Ephesus. It is a very impressive structure that was built in the time of the Byzantine Empire.

Another interesting fact about the aqueduct is that if you visit Ephesus in September, you can see the nests of storks on the top of the aqueduct. It would be a good scene to take a photo of it.

Isa Bey Mosque

The Seljuk Empire also built some important structures in the Ephesus ancient city. The most important one is the Isa Bey Mosque.

The construction of this mosque was completed in the 14th century. It is a good example of Seljuk architecture with its long columns and strong, big walls. The large columns of the mosque were constructed by the former Roman baths according to the results of the research. 

This flamboyant mosque from the 14th century is absolutely worth visiting. However, you should not forget that this mosque is still active. Therefore, you should follow the dress code for mosques, and cover your shoulders and knees. If you are a woman, you also need to cover your hair with a scarf. 

Sirince 

Sirince is a little village near Ephesus. Reaching Sirince from the Ephesus will not take much time. It is 5 miles (7.9 km) away from Ephesus ancient city. We advise you to visit this sweet village because it offers you a great view with wonderful, green nature and cute, small houses.

This sweet village was a Greek village until the exchange of population between Greece and Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century. Walking in the narrow streets of Sirince while watching the beautiful scene of nature and old houses at the same time would be a very enjoyable experience for you.

Moreover, you can also taste the domestic wines of Sirince while walking in the town. Sirince is famous for its domestic wines, and there are several wine houses in the town.  You can enter some of them while walking in the town, and taste their wines. We advise you to try handmade wines of different wine houses in Sirince. If you like tasting local wines, Sirince is one of the best places for you in the world! You can also buy bottles of wine if you want to give souvenirs to your loved ones in your home country.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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