Europe’s most complete classical metropolis, Ephesus is an ancient site located in Aegean Turkey. By the 1st century BC, Ephesus was one of the largest cities in all of the Roman Empire, boasting one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis. The ruins of Ephesus are well preserved and contained within a large archaeological site, making it one of Turkey’s most popular tourist attractions. Its attractions include the massive Theater, the Temple of Hadrian and the magnificent Celsus Library, a two-story structure that was built to house more than 12,000 scrolls.
Places to Visit in Ephesus
1-) Ephesus Ancient City
Ephesus is one of Turkey’s major sightseeing attractions. This vast and beautiful Greco-Roman city was once home to 250,000 people, and the glorious monuments that remain point to it being a vibrant and rich metropolis. Supposedly founded by the Ionian prince Androclus in the 10th century BC, Ephesus was not only a center of trade but a great pilgrimage center, with the Temple of Artemis built in worship of the mother goddess. During the Roman era, the city continued to dazzle, and it was only after the Goths destroyed the city in AD 263 that its importance began to wane. Don’t miss the mammoth library (The Library of Celsus,3rd largest in the ancient world), the well-preserved theater, and the Temple of Hadrian.
2-) Ephesus Museum
After you’ve finished visiting Ephesus, head straight to this brilliant museum right in the heart of town. Some of the best finds from the ancient city are on display, including an exquisitely carved Artemis statue famous for its multi-breasted depiction of the goddess. The highlight of the museum for most tourists though is the Gladiator Room, with exhibits of the finds from the gladiator cemetery excavation and information panels that explain gladiator life in the golden days of the city.
3-) Basilica of Saint John
This citadel-like basilica once occupied the whole breadth of the hill it sits on and was ranked with the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (now the Aya Sofya) as one of the Byzantine Empire’s largest churches. According to tradition, the grave of St. John is under the church. Originally, a mausoleum with a domed roof borne on four columns was built over the grave, but the Emperor Justinian replaced this simple monument with a three-aisled basilica on a Latin-cross plan boasting six domed roofs. Including the narthex at the western end and the arcaded courtyard, the basilica was 130 meters long and 40 meters wide. After the Seljuks captured Ephesus in 1130, the church was converted into a mosque and later served as a bazaar until it was finally destroyed by an earthquake. Although only partially-restored, the basilica ruins that remain give a good idea of the awesome size of the original building.
4-) Temple of Artemis
Just one lonely column (topped by a stork’s nest) is all that remains of the Temple of Artemis, once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Excavations carried out by archaeologist JT Wood here showed that the site was originally occupied by a stone platform on which the cult image of the goddess stood, while underneath were rooms where votive offerings were presented. The renowned gigantic marble temple of Seven Wonders fame was built in the 6th century BC and boasted a staggering 127 columns. Although destroyed by fire and other disasters across the centuries, it was twice restored and rebuilt before finally falling into a state of complete dilapidation in the Byzantine era, when its stones began being used as a quarry for building material, including for Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia (now the Aya Sofya), where some of its columns and marble slabs can still be seen.
5-) The Virgin Mary House
The Meryemana (in Turkish) is a major tourist attraction and has a curious history. Tradition holds that the Virgin Mary journeyed to Ephesus with St. John, and is said to have died here. The main building here dates from the Byzantine era (6th century) but its association with the Virgin only began in the 19th century, following the visions of the German nun, Katharina Emmerich, who gave a precise description of the situation and appearance of a house at Ephesus in which she claimed the Virgin had lived and died. In 1891, on the basis of this account, a French priest discovered the ruins of a small church, which had evidently belonged to a monastery and this is now revered as the Virgin’s house. The chapel here is tiny, and be aware that the site is often crowded with tour bus groups. A small wishing well is on site, where it is customary to tie a piece of cloth and make a wish.
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