Ephesus, Turkey

Ephesus is located in western Turkey and was once one of the most important port cities of the Roman Empire. Impressive remains remain to this day. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Today's ruined city of Ephesus near the west coast of Turkey, about 70 kilometres south of Izmir, was one of the most important and oldest Greek cities in Asia Minor in ancient times, with a population of about 200,000. Finds from Ephesus can be found not only at the excavation site itself but also in museums in Izmir, Istanbul and Vienna. The ancient city is one of the top 10 sights in Turkey.

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At that time, the city was located directly on the sea; in the meantime, it has migrated several kilometres inland. Excavations began in the 1960s under the direction of Austrian archaeologists and are still ongoing.

Ephesus - a greeting from antiquity

Ruined city of Ephesus: Curete Street, Hadrian's Temple and Celsus Library, Turkey - © Friedrich Nölle / Fotolia
© Friedrich Nölle / Fotolia

The ruins of the largest metropolis of the Roman Empire behind Rome and Alexandria give us an imaginative impression of the bustling harbour activity of the time. In addition to countless rocks in the grass and rough stone blocks piled one on top of the other to form low walls, one also finds spectacular remains such as free-standing columns, towers and round arches, and even entire façades are still partially preserved and bear witness to the splendour of Ephesus at that time.

Public toilets also served as a place of communication at that time, and in the Celsus Library, of which the façade and the ornate statues still remain, around 12,000 papyrus scrolls were kept on three floors.

Sights of Ephesus

Walking through this huge area of the most beautiful ancient buildings in the world, where time seems to have stood still, you can almost hear hooves clattering on the cobblestones and market criers advertising their wares.

Speaking of goods: In the Archaeological Museum, you can marvel at the legendary, many-breasted "Artemis of Ephesus", who was considered the goddess of fertility (and incidentally had nothing in common with the Greek Artemis) and Artemis' treasure of precious jewellery. If you take a small statuette home from the museum shop, you are continuing an old tradition. In earlier times, pilgrims also received a miniature version of Artemis to take home.

Tip: The area is huge, you should be prepared for a longer walk and take enough to drink and a headgear with you, as there is hardly any shade. The ideal starting point for exploring is the Magnesian Gate.

Temple of Artemis

The undisputed highlight in Ephesus is the Temple of Artemis, also called the Artemision. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The magnificent temple was first built in 580 BC and rebuilt about 200 years later after an arson attack. The ruins suggest that this masterpiece of ancient architecture was held up by over 100 columns almost 20m high.

The white marble columns were probably gilded and inside, too, findings suggest ornate paintings and silver statues, most of which have unfortunately fallen victim to the marshy ground today. Only one column and a few pieces of stone can still be seen. Large parts of the area are under water most of the time.

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Hadrian's Temple

Besides the Temple of Artemis, the better-preserved Temple of Hadrian and the amphitheatre are also extremely worth seeing. From the top row of the theatre, which had room for 24,000 spectators, you can enjoy the imposing view over the grounds of Ephesus to the sea.

Connection to Christianity: Mary, the mother of Jesus, is also said to have spent the last years of her life in Ephesus. A building 6km from the ruins was declared by Pope Benedict XVI to be her place of death and thus a place of pilgrimage.

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