The Ancient City of Ephesus

The Ancient City of Ephesus

Well-known from earliest times, this city was established on the delta of what is now called the Lesser Menderes River. The sheltered harbor of that period was the beginning of a royal road the ended at the gate of Susa, the capital or the Persian Empire, which secured the city its importance. It became the capital of the Roman province of Asia under Augustus and had a population of perhaps 200,000 in the second and first centuries BC. In the 6th century BC science, art and culture were prominent here along with Miletus. The famous philosopher Heraclitus, interpreter of dreams Artemidorus, the poets Callinos and Hipponax, grammarian Zenodotus and the doctors Soranus and Rufus were all from Ephesus.

The oldest finds are from the Neolithic Age dated 6000 years before Christ, found at the Çukuriçi Höyük. There was a Hittite settlement on top of Ayasuluk Hill from the Old Bronze Age. The name was then Apasus, according to Hittite inscriptions found there. Linguists believe the name Ephesus came from this Hittite name.

According to Herodotus, colonists came from the west and settled here about 1000 BC while the Karyali and Leleg people of Anatolia were in residence in the area. The colonists gave the name Artemis to the mother goddess Kybele. The temple to Artemis from that period became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The city was attacked successively by the Kimmer people in the 7th century, the Lydians in 560 BC, and later the Persians. It regained its freedom under Alexander the Great, after whom his general, Lysimachus, established his kingdom. Based upon finds from this latest time, he set up his city based upon the “Gridiron Plan” found in the Miletus Hippodrome. The streets thus intersected one another in a regular pattern.

Under Roman rule the city became the largest and richest in the province of Asia thanks to both land and sea trade. There were marble monuments everywhere in the city. It was the first city built entirely out of marble. In the 4th century AD trade had declined because the harbor was silting in. The Emperor Hadrian had the harbor dredged several times. The harbor was finned in by silt from the Marnas River and the Lesser Menderes coming from the north. In time the city was increasingly distant from the sea. In the 7th century Arabs attacked the coastal areas. The city moved to Ayasuluk Hill for better defense. When the Turks came in the 13th century Ephesus was just a small village. They built mosques, caravanserais, and baths typical of Turkish civilization.

There are two entrances to the city today. For an easy tour, begin at the Magnesia Gate (Upper Gate) located on the road going to the House of Mary. Immediately to one side is the East Gymnasium at the foot of Panayir Mountain. The first monumental work one comes to is the Odeion with the Varius Baths beside it. Ephesus had a bicameral legislation, the first being the Congress of Councillors, which met here, hence the name “Bouleterion”. In front of the Odeion was business council called the “Basilica.” Beside this was the Municipal Building, the “Prytaneion” with its massive columns. The Prytan functioned as the mayor of the city. His most important function was to keep alive the flame that had been burning in the building for centuries. This was done in the name of the local deity Hestia. The Artemis statues on display in the Ephesus Museum were found in the vault of the Prytaneion.

The area in front of the Odeion was the State Agora (Upper Agora). In the middle was a temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis. In 80 Laecanus Bassus erected AD a fountain in the southwest corner of the agora. From the agora one proceeds to the Square to Domitian where things like the Pollio and Domitian fountains, the Memmius Monument and the Heracles Gate are clustered together.

The famous Avenue of the Curates leads west from the Upper Agora. Things along this avenue include the Trajan Fountain, the façade of the Temple to Hadrian and the Scolasticia Baths. Immediately beside the Temple to Hadrian are the Bordello and the Latrines. On the left side of the avenue are the “Terrace Houses.” These houses are the most beautiful examples of peristyle houses and were as comfortable as houses are today. They all had frescoed walls and mosaic floors. Each had a heating system and bath. These houses are eminent in archeological literature and well worth seeing. At the end of the avenue is that most beautiful structure of Roman times, the Celsus Library. When Ephesus governor Celsus died in 106 AD, his son had the library built as his monument and grave. The sarcophagus is under the west wall of the library. One of the most interesting structures in Ephesus is the Temple to Serapis, immediately behind the Library. Beside the Library is the Mazeus Mithridates Gate that leads in the Market Agora (Lower Agora).Agora is the starting point for the Marble Avenue. This is where St. Paul preached. At the end of the avenue is the world’s largest theater, the Grand Theater, with a seating capacity of 24,000. Presently the theater is the site of months of various cultural and musical activities. At the corner of the theater is the Hellenistic Fountain, the smallest structure in Ephesus. The Theater Gymnasium and Baths across from it were built in the 2nd century AD.

The longest street in Ephesus is the Harbor Avenue (Arcadian Avenue) once lined with statues, and stretching from the theater to the presently silted-in harbor. The Four Apostles’ Monument was in the middle of the avenue. At the end of the avenue was the Harbor Gymnasium and Baths next to the ancient harbor. In the complex there stands the Church of Mary, site of the General Church Council of 431 AD.

At the city’s northernmost point is the Vedius Gymnasium with Byzantine walls beside it. There is also a stadium built in the time of the Emperor Nero.

Temple of Artemis

The temple is at the beginning of the Selçuk-Kusadasi road. This temple, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was first popular around 334 to 250 BC. It was destroyed and had to be rebuilt seven times because of earthquakes, looting and fire. Today there is nothing left of the Ionic structure surrounded by massive columns but its altar area. The temple was made with the world’s best marble and was a truly gigantic structure. Some of the remains are in the British Museum in London.

The present temple site was from the Hellenistic period. It is thought that similar to monotheistic religions, the Ephesian Artemis combined the strength of many gods. The temple had 127 columns, on a field 105 by 55 meters and was 17.65 m high. The altar was approached by 13 steps. Lydian king Croesus donated the 36 columns on the front.

There were a number of priests officiating at the temple, along with a high priest. It was considered an honor to be the high priest.

There was another class of priests serving the temple who were called “curates”, who were named for demi-gods in mythology. Mythology said that when Dionysius was born from Zeus’ leg the curates were instructed to make noise so Zeus’ wife Hera would not notice. In the same way these curates made noise when Artemis was born from Leto.

One of the noteworthy features of the Temple to Artemis is that it functioned as a bank. The high priest was also a credit officer and was security for those who deposited valuables in the temple or who made sizeable contributions. The drawing at the side shows something off what the temple’s former glory must have been. To see the drawing enlarged simply tic it. fe haven for those who took refuge inside. This, of course, led to quite a population of criminals living in the temple.

There are those who say that the cult and religious practices of Artemis, along with the temple were established along lines similar in structure to bee communities.

Library Of Ephesus

The Celsus Library was erected in A.D 135 by Julius Aquila for his father Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, the consul of Asia province of Roman Empire. He died in A.D.114 at the age of 70. In the Roman period all but the bodies of heroes were buried outside the borders of cities. Aquila was granted permission for his father to be buried in a marble grave in a burial chamber in the library. Celsus’s sarcophagus lay inside the building, under the middle apse.
The library, measuring 60.90 by 16.72 meters had a two storied facade and a large room inside. The columns at the sides of the facade are shorter than those at the center, giving the illusion of the building being greater in size. Its facade contains exemplars of architectural elements that are among the most beautiful ones of the period, such as doors, windows, gables, niches and columns. A gap of one meter between inner and outer walls of the the library protected the books from extremes of temperature and humidity. The sarcophagus of Celsus stand under the west side of the library. The semicircular niche on the main floor facing the central portal probably contained either the statue of Celsus or his son or the statue of Athena. It is thought that there was an auditorium for lectures or presentations between the library and the Marble Road.Four female statues standing between the columns personify the virtues of Celsus: Sophia (wisdom), Arete (virtue), Ennoia (intelligence), Episteme (knowledge). The original of the statues were taken to Vienna, Austria. Celsus himself is buried in a sarcophagus beneath the west side of the library.
Inside of the library is measured 10.92m x 16.72m. There were 12.000 rolls of books at the library. During the attacks of the Goths inside of the library was burned down however the facade of the library was not destroyed. The facade was restored together with the other structures at Ephesus in A.D. 4th century and a small nymphaeum was built near the stairs. The whola facade was ruined during a severe earthquake occured in A.D. 10th century. During the excavations carried out at the library the friezes on both sides of the nymphaeum which depicted the wars against the Parthians. It is assumed that these friezes belonged to the altar situated in the north of the court just in front of the library. The sarcophagus which lies in the court was unearthed in 1968. The inscriptions on it state that it belonged to Tiberius Claudius Flavianus Dionysos and it was built in the 2nd century A.D.


The Mazaeus and Mithridates Gate is the triple gateway next to the Celsus Library which opens into the commercial agora forming its southeast gate. According to the inscriptions in Latin, it was built by two freed slaves Mazaeus and Mithridates in honor of Augustus, his wife Livia, his daughter Julia and his son-in-law Agrippa. According to the inscriptions in Greek, Mazaeus and Mithridates dedicated the gate to their masters.The gate had three arched entrance of which the middle one is wider than the others. In the walls of the side entrances there are semicircular niches. The insciption on the right niche reads that anyone who pissed there would be punished severely.
The reconstruction of the gate was only completed in 1988. Missing parts were replaced with concrete and its surface was plastered

Church of St. John

The Church of St. John, located at the southern foot of the castle hill, is the most magnificent of the buildings from the Byzantine Period.

The historian Eusebius tells us that after the apostles were expelled from Jerusalem around AD 37 to 42, St. John continued his work in Anatolia from Ephesus. In this way we can understand when St. John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, who had been entrusted to him by her Son, came to Ephesus.

After the martyrdom of St. Paul, St. John wrote his gospel and labored in his ministry to the churches in the area. After his death, he was buried in the church that was built to remember him. After Christianity came into its own in the fourth century, a wooden-roofed basilica was built over the site of his grave. The basilica was cross-shaped with five naves and a narthex. The grave of St. John is purported to be under the central nave. Fortifications were built around the church in the 7th and 8th centuries at the time of Arab incursions into the area, giving it the appearance of an outer castle connected to the castle on the hill.

In the 14th century, after the Isabey Mosque was built near the church, the area became better known. It is visited today by numerous tourists thanks to the excavation work that is still going on.

Virgin Mary House

According to the Gospel of John, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, He presented His beloved disciple John with the care of His mother, Mary. Four of six years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, St. John and Mary are thought to have come to Ephesus and stayed on the site of what is not the Church of the Council of 431. Later, John took Mary to a house he had built on Nightingale Mountain. This house where Mary is thought to have spent her last days was forgotten in time and fell to ruin. In the Middle Ages it was often claimed that the house was found but to no definite result.

In 1878 German nun Katherina Emmerich talked about the location of the house in a book by Clementi Brentado and interest was revived. In 1891 the Lazarist priest Eugene Poulin, who was head of Izmir College, sent a group under priest Yung to find out if what was being claimed was true. The group explored the mountains south of Ephesus and came upon the house now know as the House of Mary.

Katherina Emmerich (1771-1824) had never left her hometown in all her life, was in a trance when making her explanation of ht house’s location. After this discovery, Eugene Poulin printed a number of things to increase interest in the find. The event was heard around the world. Many religious investigators shared the same conclusion. Izmir Patriarch Monsignor Timoni visited the site and gave permission for conducting services on the site in 1892. Pope John XXIII proclaimed the house a pilgrimage site, quieting all controversy over the site. In 1967 Pope Paul VI came, and Pope John Paul II came in 1979, both adding to the significance of the site.

There is a small, cross-shaped, domed church built at the end of the road leading from the cistern. This is the structure known as Mary’s House. This structure dates from the 6th or 7th century, and was repaired to its present condition. There is a red line marking where the ancient wall stops and where the newer wall begins. Inside the entrance with door-shaped niches at either end, there is a vaulted platform area. There is a statue of Mary in the apse which has been there for centuries. There was a fireplace at the front where gray marble separated it from the rest of the house. During excavations coal and house utensils were found dating to the 1st century AD. Because Mary is also honored by Muslims, the ritual Muslim prayer (namaz) can be performed in the house. The writings on the wall are translations of Kur’anic verses relating to Mary. There are even Kur’ans in a cabinet for those who wish to read more about this.

To view the interior of the house along the lines of the diagram above,
tic here or the small picture below.

Şirince Village

8 km. from Selçuk, Sirince village is a regional tourist center for day trips. Leading to its center at an altitude of 350 m above sea level is an asphalt road.

The village dates back to the 5th century. Its old name was Kirkinca or Çirkince. There were several reasons for the village’s settlement. First, the mountain it settled on was good for protection. Second, it was away from malaria that was rife in the Selçuk-Ephesus area. Finally, there was plenty of water, the soil was fertile and the climate was ideal.

According to some sources, the village was established in Aydinogullari times. Others say it was the Derebeylik times. The name Çirkince may have come from a group of people set free by the Derebeyliks. When asked if the place they were to be settled in were beautiful the answer may have been “Ugly” (“çirkince” in the local language).

The village was emptied at the time of the deliverance of Izmir and resettled with Turks coming from Thessaloniki. When the then mayor of Izmir, Kazim Dirik Pasa, came to visit the village, he heard the “village march” composed by the local schoolteacher and was quite moved by it and rename the village Sirince (“charming”).

The architecture of the village is different from other villages. The houses are two-story, made of stone or brick, with many windows all the same size. Hanging balconies, basement cellars with kitchens are also characteristic. The window frames and eaves are decorated with pictures and bird motifs. There are two churches in the village, a restored grammar school typical of the period, and a fountain and a monastery in the village.Among the sources of income to the village, the pre-eminent one lately is tourism. Thousands of local and foreign tourists come to the village every month of the year, take pictures, eat local pastries, and drink the locally made wine. Apple, cherry, peach, and strawberry wines made in local homes are favorites of all who taste them. The locals also grow peaches, grapes, and apples for sale

Cave Of The Seven Sleepers

Following the road leading east from beside the gymnasium of Vedius, one comes to the Cave of the Seven Sleepers. Christians during Roman imperial times had real problems because to the Emperor Cult, that demanded they sacrifice to the emperor in a temple built for him. When they failed to do this they became enemies of the emperor and state.

The legend is that in the times of the emperor Decius there seven young Christians who refused to offer to the emperor and were consequently forced toe flee the city and take refuge in a cave. After sleeping for a time they went back into the city to get some food and found out they had slept for 200 years. Christianity was now widespread in the Roman Empire. Theodosius II heard the story and accepted it as a sign of the truth of human resurrection. The idea or resurrection was being debated at the time.

Excavation in 1927-28 found a church and hundreds of graves here. Many grave inscriptions were addressed to the seven sleepers. For centuries, people wanted to be buried as close to the seven sleepers as possible.

Some are even brave enough to say the Mary Magdalene was buried here.

Although the castle was built in Byzantine times, most of the remains are from the Selçuk and Ottoman period. The castle has two gates, one being a memorial gate on the west and the other on the south. The walls were fortified with fifteen towers. A large section of the wall has been restored.

Legend has it that St. John wrote his gospel in one of these towers.

The hill was defended by this well-fortified castle in the Early Christian, Byzantine, and Selçuk periods. The part of the wall still standing is from the Early Christian period and was restored in Selçuk times.

The main gate in the wall was borrowed from Roman design and was built in the 6th century. Within the castle are a chapel and numerous cisterns. This old Byzantine church was later used as a cistern.

İsabey Mosque

Isabey Mosque is the last memorial work of art left by those civilizations that came and went through Ephesus. This great mosque was built on the side of the hill where Ayasuluk Castle and St. John’s Church are located. In early times Isabey Mosque attracted large crowds and was built between Christian and idolatrous centers of worship.
Because of its topographical situation the north and east faces were planted in the hillside. For this reason its stateliness and splendor are more noticeable on its western side. The building measures 51 by 57 m, nearly square. The great western door is decorated with stalactite-type figures and has an inscription of dedication. The inscription reads like this:

“This blessed mosque was built in the name of the merciful and compassionate God, by order of the great sultan Isa Aydinoglu son of Mehmet, sultan of Islam and Muslims, upholder of state, religion and the world. May God protect all that belongs to him. Ali Ibni Dimiski wrote this in the month of Sevval, the ninth day, in the year 776.”

As can be understood from this inscription written in Arabic, the mosque was built in 1375 by Isa Bey, son of Mehmet Bey and designed by Ali, son of Samli.

The outer court is entered through a magnificent door, the courtyard itself surrounded on three sides by a portico, with a ritual fountain in the center. There are two other doors that open into the court. It is supposed that the porticos were covered with a wooden roof. Beside the entrances on the eastern and western sides of the mosque are two brick minarets. A portion of the minaret on the west is still standing where one can see a turquoise glaze over the bricks. The eastern wall has completely fallen down.

The main part of the mosque can be entered from the court by a three-arched door. Four granite columns support this section with two domes on top. The dome pendants over the mihrab are decorated with ceramic tiles. Of the four column capitals three are decorated Turkish style with stalactites and the other is Roman style. Verses are written on the arches where they meet the columns. The mihrab was probably decorated with marble plaques. However, when the mosque was used as a caravanserai another door what opened and ruined the balance of the building, and the marble was stolen.

The best-preserved western side was built following Konya Selçuk style and possesses an asymmetric appearance. The applique marble plaques above the door may have fallen in an earthquake. We can understand from what remains, that in the corners there were stylized lilies. On the left above the windows were stalactite patterns and hadith verses. On the right were assorted patterns and on the lower windows were red keystone patterns.

It can easily be seen from the structure of the mosque, especially in the columns, that there was heavy borrowing from the ruins of Ephesus.

This mosque holds an important place in Art History and serves as a transition from Selçuk to Ottoman architecture thanks to being the first Turkish mosque to have two pla


Another leftover from the Byzantine period in Selçuk is the Aqueduct. This Byzantine water line coming east towards Ayasuluk Hill can be seen at the train station and at two places along the highway. This restored aqueduct is the breeding ground to that Selçuk symbol, the stork. Another aqueduct, built by Gaius Sextus Pollio in the Agustan period is 6 km down the road towards Aydin.
ces for congregation.

Turkish Bath of Selçuk

The Turkish Bath lies in the very heart of the city. During the season it is open till midnight.

The bath is allocated for women only on Fridays till 6 p.m.