The Ancient City of Ephesus

The ancient city of Ephesus is one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in the world.

Sunset at Ephesus; stock photo

When I visited Ephesus many years ago, I didn’t really have the background history of the site to really appreciate it. At the time, it was just another one of those touristy places one goes to simply to say that they’ve been there. On my next trip to Turkey, I’ll definitely spend more time there. It’s a place that’s absolutely worth it.

Ephesus; stock photo

The ancient city of Ephesus is probably Turkey’s most famous archaeological site, and that’s saying a lot. Remember, this is the country that boasts the world’s oldest discovered settlement, Çatal Hüyük, the mythical city of Troy, God knows how many ancient Greek and Roman cities and of course Istanbul/Constantinople itself.

Artist conception of Ephesus; illustration source unknown

Founded in the 3rd century BCE, Ephesus had by the 1st century BCE become a major city along the Aegean Sea. At its height, the city boasted a population of over 300,000 people. Once the capital of Roman Asia, Ephesus prospered until its port silted up, causing people to abandoned the city altogether. The city remained ghost town for centuries, though remarkably well preserved.

Along the Marble Way; photo source Wikimedia Commons

Despite being abandoned, there are many parts of the city that didn’t disintegrate over the years and are worth seeing. One is Marble Avenue. As you probably guessed, this is a road paved out of marble that was once traversed by chariots, the boots of Roman legionnaires and of course, the ox carts and sandals of the cities residents. The street leads to a huge square that was surrounded by various buildings including a water clock and the city’s main brothel. Nearby was also the city’s great library that was stocked with papyrus rolls and later books, some of which can be seen on display.

The amphitheater; photo source Wikimedia Commons

Ephesus’ old stadium is also one of the city’s star attractions. It could hold a crowd of 70,000 for gladiator matches and chariot races that were once held on its 200-meter track. There is also the city’s amphitheater. Carved into the side of a mountain, it could hold up to 25,000 people for plays and vocal performances. The city also once held the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Destroyed centuries ago, no all that seems to remain of it is one lone column.

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