Ephesus has always been on top of our list of “must see places”. As one of the seven churches of Asia cited in the Book of Revelation, this ancient city holds a special fascination in our hearts. We just had to see it and walk its marble streets for ourselves. Reading about it and watching it on TV wasn’t enough. Located near a town called Selcuk in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir, Ephesus dates back to the classical Greek era 6000 BC.
Just as we arrived, the heavens opened and it started to pour cats and dogs. It was almost impossible to photograph the beauty of this historical city without damaging our cameras. The heavy rains however didn’t stop us from exploring and navigating our way through the ancient remains and slippery marble floors. The very fact that we were walking through the pages of history was both fascinating and overwhelming. And as the icy sheets of rain and strong gusts of winds thrashed against us we entered the ancient city with trepidation and wonder.
After the Lydian rule, Persian invasion, Alexander the Great’s victory and the Hellenistic period, the Romans, Byzantine and finally Turks took control of Ephesus making the city a melting pot of culture and religion.It was a major trade hub with a growing economy and since Christianity was introduced to Ephesus from the 1st century AD by Paul the Apostle, it eventually became a religious centre for early Christians.
It is believed that during his stay in Ephesus, Paul wrote four letters to the church in Corinth admonishing them for their pagan behaviour. It is also the ancient city where John the Apostle remained for the rest of his life (except for the short exile to the isle of Patmos) after leaving Jerusalem. St. John died in Ephesus and is buried 3.5km away on the slope of Ayasoluk Hill. Emperor Justinian erected a basilica above his tomb in the 6th century AD.
As we meandered our way through the paths of old, we discovered many symbols, concepts and inventions of the Greeks and Romans that we still use today. During the Byzantine era, the city was rebuilt by Constantine I, but eventually destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD and abandoned during the 15th century as the city’s importance as a commercial centre declined when the harbour slowly silted up by the Cayster River.
What remains of the city are some rather well preserved ruins that highlight the past grandeur of Ephesus. There is still a lot of excavating going on and according to our guide, we were currently witnessing only a third of the original city and a great deal of excavation is still in progress. So as time goes on more of this fabulous city of the ancients will be unravelled. But while walking through its many lanes and by-lanes one can almost visualize what life would have been like here. We could not help but think that almost 2000 years ago the early apostles actually walked and spoke on these very streets that we were now walking on.
Our walk in near blinding rain from the entrance to the exit took about 40 minutes. We could not take detours due to the downpour. If it had not rained, we reckon we would have spent a good two or three hours exploring the site. What we saw has only fuelled our hunger to see more of this historic city. Someday we hope to go back again but if we can’t, our visit to Ephesus will stay in our hearts forever!
The government agora. Here lies a two storey building (stoa) built around 11 AD by C. Sextilius and family. It collapsed during the reign of Augustus and was not re-built again.
The Odean (Bouleuterion). It was used both for senate meetings and as a concert hall. Constructed in 2nd century AD by order of Publius Vedius Antonius and his wife Flavia Paiana. It had a capacity of 1500 spectators.
Ephesus was home to a large medical school. This symbol is a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. The symbol has continued to be used in modern times, where it is associated with medicine and health care.
Curetes Street. Named after the Curetes (a priests who took care of the flame of Prytaneion). Curetes Street connected the Gate of Hercules with the Library of Celsus. The street was made of marble and had been decorated with columns on both sides as well as several sculptures including reliefs of the messenger gods Hermes, the hero Heracles and the goddess of the victory, Nike.
The Temple of Hadrian was built in around 138 AD by P. Quintilius and dedicated to Emperor Hadrian who came to visit the city in 128 AD.
The Latrines were the public toilets of the city and there was an entrance fee to use them. There was a drainage system under the toilets.
The most beautiful structure – The Library of Celsus. Built in 117 AD, it was a monumental tomb for Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, the governor of the province of Asia. The grave of Celsus was beneath the ground floor, across the entrance and there was a statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom over it. The scrolls and manuscripts were kept in cupboards in niches on the walls. There were double walls behind the bookcases to prevent them from the extreme temperatures and humidity. The library held more than 12,000 scrolls and was the third richest library in ancient times after Alexandra and Pergamum.
The Great Theatre is located on the slope of Panayir Hill, opposite Harbour Street. It was first constructed in the Hellenistic Period, in the third century BC during the reign of Lysimachos, but then during the Roman Period, it was enlarged and formed its current style that is seen today. It is the largest in Anatolia and has the capacity of 25,000 seats.
Such a beautiful post about a great ancient site. I visited Ephesus more about 13 years ago and it’s remains one of my favorite Roman ruins. It’s wonderful to revisit it through your lovely words and stunning photos.
Marisol recently posted…The Mystic of Prayer Flags and Prayer Wheels
I’m so glad it brought back fond memories, Marisol. I would return in a heart beat if I could 🙂
Sucks about the rain but it looks like you got some great shots anyways!
Michael recently posted…Soggy days in Dublin are still camera-worthy
12 shots in total Michael. It deserves so so so much more 🙂
Your post is transporting me back to our marvelous visit to Ephesus, and like you, I recall the surreal feeling of walking the streets and standing on the ground where such great people of my faith once walked and stood. It looks like you guys had Curetes to yourselves for the most part which is awesome. It was quite crowded when we visited, but it didn’t diminish our awe of the experience.
Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans recently posted…Virginia: All Signs Point to Hampton Roads
Yes Dana, we hard to ourselves along with the rain 🙂 We visited in winter so there are no crowds from the cruise ships. We just love visiting places during the off-peak season.
Not sure why but the public toilets always make me giggle!
Natalie recently posted…The Shoe Maker from Gaziantep
Maybe it’s the thought about everybody going in the open and having conversations while at it. 🙂
I would love to see ruins like that! It’s amazing to think of being able to just walk around and experience everything, instead of seeing isolated pieces in a museum.
Jess recently posted…The Great Beringian Road-trip Part 4: North To Adventure on the Klondike Highway
Definitely, I share your sentiment. I love walking around ruins and we did just that in Thailand the other day too 🙂
Beautiful photos! We visited Ephesus 2 years ago and loved it!
Lovely blog, guys! Thanks for connecting with us on Twitter! Keep up the great work and travel safe!
Hitch-Hikers’ Handbook recently posted…Why visit León?
[…] of all, it is the gateway to Ephesus, an ancient city we would return to in a heartbeat. It is also a short distance (approximately 27 […]
[…] approximately 2 kilometres north-east of the ancient city of Ephesus, the basilica stands over the believed burial site of St. John, identified as the writer of the […]
Atmospheric photos! The great theatre and Library of Celsus are stunning. Interesting to know about the library construction. They were clearly planning for the ages. Wonderful post.
Lesley Peterson recently posted…Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to get UNESCO world heritage site status?
Your photos are definitely impressive. It is on my list to go back (I can never get enough of it) but ideally I want to return with a professional photographer who can help me capture some awesome shots.
Michael recently posted…Reasons to Visit Cesme in the Izmir Region