Ephesus / Efes

ephesus turkey
Ephesus

 

From Artemis to the Virgin Mary

The Ancient City of Ephesus, called the centre of civilizations, was the capital of the Asian State of the Roman Empire, and was once the most populated city in Anatolia, with a population of 200,000 between the years 100 – 200. Ephesus witnessed many historic events including the efforts of St Paul to spread Christianity, visits by the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and the Roman Emperor Mark Anthony, and the last days of the Virgin Mary and St John. It is Turkey’s most important cultural heritage site attracting about 1.5 million tourists a year.

 

The history of this most ancient settlement dates back to 6000 B.C. The administration for this magnificent site of ruins falls under thejurisdiction of Selçuk, Izmir, which has throughout history played a significant part in the fields of civilization, science and culture.

 

Legend has it that Androcles, the son of King Kadros founded the city. However, its foundation dates back to a much earlier period, as it was referred to by the Hittite inscriptions as Apasa, the capital of the Arzawa Country.

 

The immigrants, who started arriving from the islands in the Aegean Sea from 1000 B.C., wanted to convert Ephesus into a colony.

 

Ephesus is also home to the largest temple from the Artemis cult, based on the tradition of Kybele, the most ancient goddess in Anatolia. The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in the Classical Period. The port city of Ephesus where people immigrated by sea and began settling in 1050 B.C. was re-located to the environs of the Temple of Artemis in 560 B.C.

 

Lysimachus, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, built the Ancient City of Ephesus seen today by tourists, in 300 B.C. Although it experienced its most glorious times during this time and the Roman Period, the city was no longer a desirable settlement thereafter. The once busy port over time filled with alluvium, and as a result, the city had to be moved to the environs of St John’s Basilica built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527 – 565) on Ayasuluk Hill. Conquered by the Turks in 1330 and converted into the capital of the Aydınoğulları Principality, Ayasuluk began diminishing gradually from the 16th century onwards, adopting its present name, Selçuk, in 1923.

 

Excavations in the ancient city of Ephesus have been ongoing by the Efes Museum and the Austrian Archaeological Institute since 1895. Today, thousands of tourists stroll along the Port Street (Liman Caddesi) every day. They watch the most magnificent artistic performances of the year at the Grand Theatre (Büyük Tiyatro), enjoy the splendour of the breathtaking Celsus Library, witness Christians paying pilgrimage at the Virgin Mary’s House and are able to appreciate thousands of artefacts from the Mycenaean, Ancient, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman Periods at the Selçuk Archaeological Museum.

 

The deeply founded belief that the Virgin Mary and St John once lived in Ephesus has also turned the city into a sacred religious centre.

 

Vedius Gymnasium

 

Publis Vedius Antonius, a rich native of Ephesus, built the gymnasium in the 2nd century. It is a splendid structure with a courtyard in the east, a ceremonial hall in the centre, changing rooms and bathhouses, where the sports and cultural training were held. All of the structures reflect the features from the period.

 

Stadium

 

Located to the south of the Vedius Gymnasium, this structure was an important venue for social meetings. Sports events, Olympic Games and gladiator matches were held here.

 

The Church of the Virgin Mary (Twin Churches)

 

Located opposite the Byzantine bathhouses, The Church of the Virgin Mary has a special importance for Christianity. This is the church where the Council convened in431. The structure, which was converted into a basilica during the Roman Period in the 2nd century, was originally dedicated to Virgin Mary, and at the Third Council held there, the dogma that Jesus Christ was the son of both St Mary and God was upheld.

 

In the 7th century, a second church was built, reached via a second door from the apse of the church, and thus, this was called “Çifte Churches” (Twin Churches) thereafter. After a blessing by Pope Paul VI in 1967, the church was declared a sacred centre, because it was the first church dedicated to Virgin Mary.

 

Arkadiane Port Street

 

This columned road starting directly in front of the theatre and extending as far as Ephesus’ ancient port was dedicated to Emperor Arcadius, and it is believed that it was equipped with lighting in the 5th century. This street with its galleries on either side was also used as a ceremonial street.

 

The marble columns standing on the right and left of this splendid street on which the Roman General Mark Anthony and the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra walked together are believed to be quite strong, despite the length of time that has passed.

 

Grand Theatre

 

Although the theatre, which is one of the most beautiful structures within the ruins of Ephesus, was originally built in the Hellenistic Period with a 24 thousand-seat capacity, it is known that it underwent re-building in the time of the Roman Emperor Claudius, and that it was completed in the period of Emperor Trajan (98 -117). It is the largest, best preserved building in Ephesus and witnessed many gladiator fights in the Late Roman Period. St Paul attempted to deliver a sermon there in order to spread Christianity, but the devotees of the Ephesians’ Artemis prevented his efforts.

 

Marble Street

 

Starting from the Celsus Library, this street extends in a northern direction towards the Grand Theatre. The 400 m long marble paved street underwent re­construction in the 5th century. With a sewerage system beneath it, which was very advanced technology for the time; it was a long and sacred road leading to the Temple of Artemis.

 

Celsus Library

 

The Asian Consul, Julius Aguila in memory of his father, Celsus, built the Celsus Library situated near the commercial agora in 115. The library was the third largest in the world in the Classical Period after the Alexandria Library in Egypt, and the Pergamon (Bergama) Library in Anatolia. A door on the rear wall provides access to Celsus’ tomb. The statue of Celsus, originally erected there, is now exhibited in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The decoration on the front of the structure, reflecting all of the architectural features of the Roman Period, is cited as one of the most beautiful examples from that time. The four female statues situated among the front façade columns depict Celsus’ personal virtues – Wisdom (Sophia), Character (Arete), Judgment Power (Ennoia) and Experience (Episteme).

 

Commercial Agora

 

This trading centre was built in the Hellenistic Period. Surrounded by walls on all of the four sides, this site is 110 x110 m2 in size. During the times of the Emperors Augustus, Nero and Caracalla the agora was expanded and new parts were added. The small monument called Horologion, where the water and sundials can be found, is exactly in the centre of the bazaar.

 

Brothel

 

When going up Marble Street the intersection point with Curetes Street is where the Love House is found. This interesting house dating backto the 1st century comprises of a central hall with many rooms opening out into it. It is believed that the mosaic portraits of girls were those of the girls working in the house. The house had a wine cellar, a pool, a dining room and bedrooms.

 

Skolastika Bath House

 

Skolastika was a rich Roman woman who lived in Ephesus. At the entrance to this building also defined as an extension to the Brothel is a headless statue of Skolastika. It is understood that under her orders the building was repaired. Its date of construction is the 1st century and it has three floors. The floors and walls of the library, entertainment hall and rest rooms were all covered with marble.

 

Temple of Hadrian

 

The Temple of Hadrian is one of the most beautiful buildings on Curetes Street. Only a section of the entrance, the façade face and the sacred room has survived to present day. The most interesting mythological scene on the temple’s friezes is the scene where King Androklos, the founder of Ephesus, is depicted killing a wild boar. P. Quintilus built the temple in commemoration of Emperor Hadrian (117 – 138).

 

Trajan Fountain

 

Trajan Fountain is situated on Curetes Street near the Temple of Hadrian. The statues that decorated the floor of the fountain are exhibited in the Efes Museum. The fountain had two floors and a pool the size of 5.20 x 11.90 m located in front of it. At the point where water flowed into this pool there used to be a large statue of Emperor Trajan.

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Slope Houses

 

From the Celsus Library, turning into Curetes Street on the right hand side are the houses on the slopes of Mount Bülbül. These were the dwellings of rich Ephesians. Opened to visitors in 2006, the houses which have recently undergone restoration open straight onto the street with their wide staircases. Their walls are covered with marble decorated with frescoes and mosaics.

 

Temple of Domitian

 

This was the first temple in Ephesus to be built in commemoration of an emperor. It is situated in the most central section of the city opposite the State Agora. The cult statue and altar from the Temple of Domitian are exhibited at the Efes Museum. From the statue, only the head and the arm have survived to present day.

 

Municipal Palace (Prytaneion)

 

Hestia Altar, situated on the right hand side of the building was considered a sacred place in Ephesus. A sacred fire used to burn constantly at this altar. The Prytaneion was the venue for not only politics but also important ceremonies, festivals and receptions. The excavation of two Artemis statues here indicates that the Prytaneion was a place of religious importance as well.

 

Odeon (Bouleuterion)

 

Publius Vedius Antonius, a rich figure from Ephesus, constructed the Odeon in the 2nd century. The Odeon had a seating capacity of 1400, and was covered with a wooden roof.

 

Gate of Magnesia

 

This building, built by Emperor Vespasian in the first century, was a major gate linking the sacred road, from the Temple of Artemis with the theatre.

 

Temple of Artemis

 

The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is the most magnificent religious structure from the Hellenistic Period and was the first temple to have been constructed of marble. This splendid structure remains important despite surviving to present day with no architectural details and only a few foundation remains.

 

The first archaeological excavations indicate that there was a settlement in Artemision from 1500 to 300 B.C. Although the first temple built in commemoration of the Goddess Kybele dates back to the 8th century B.C., throughout the centuries it underwent many changes. In 356 B.C., the year in which Alexander the Great was born, the temple was totally burnt down in a fire, caused by a man named Herostratos. In 330 BC, the Ephesians re-built the Temple of Artemis using designs from the original plan, but this time because of the importance they attributed to it, they wanted it to be even more splendid than the previous one.

 

The Temple of Artemis, dedicated to the Mother Goddess of Anatolia, was built in the Ancient Period by the Architects; Chersiphron, Metagenes from Crete and Thedoros. It was used not only for worshipping and for protection from evil, but throughout the centuries was used as a storage place for the cult statues of the Goddess Artemis and other temple possessions including the altars.

 

Pieces of a column on which several storks have built their nests today are the only remnants of the temple that have survived to present day.

 

Cave of Seven Sleepers

 

It is estimated that the structure was built in a period between the 5th and 6th centuries, and the location of the Seven Sleepers ruin is thought to possess the features of a religious centre. Legend has it that, prior to the adoption of Christianity as the official religion; seven youths took shelter in this place. They were escaping from devotees of idol worshipping, and in this cave fell asleep, waking up two centuries later. When they awoke, Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire. Following this miraculous phenomenon, a giant monument was erected in the location where these seven youths were buried after their death. The structure unearthed in the excavations is of monumental dimensions, and also discovered were the remains of rock carved tombs, two churches and catacombs.

 

House of Virgin Mary

 

The house of Virgin Mary, who is considered to be the holy mother of Christianity, is situated on Mount Bülbül. Jesus Christ asked St John, one of his disciples, to provide protection for his mother, Mary, before he died on the cross. It is believed that based on this, St. John thought it unwise for the Virgin Mary to stay in Jerusalem, so brought her with him to Ephesus. Here she remained hidden in a cottage, surrounded by dense trees, on the outskirts of Mount Bülbül. The Virgin Mary remained here until she passed away.

 

Ayasuluk Hill and Castle

 

This hill was defended by a castle that was constantly fortified throughout the Early Christian, Byzantine and Seljuk Periods. The outer wall, which still stands today, was built in the Early Christian Period, and underwent major restoration in the Seljuk and Ottoman Periods.

 

St John’s Basilica

 

According to a Christian tradition emerging at the beginning of the 2nd century, St. John, one of Jesus Christ’s disciples, is cited as being one of the authors of the Bible. Following his death, a simple grave was built for him on the southern slope of Ayasuluk Hill. A wooden roofed basilica was built on this grave at the beginning of the 5th century, but this structure was replaced by Emperor Justinian in the mid 6th century, with a new domed basilica based on a cross design. From the 6th century following the relocation of Ephesians to Ayasuluk, St John’s Basilica became the location of the ancient Bishopric Church, and Ayasuluk Hill was encircled by perimeter walls. From 1974, following fundamental restoration work on the Basilica its environs have been turned into an archaeological park.

 

İsa Bey Mosque

 

Isa Bey Mosque is located on Ayasuluk Hill, on the western slopes of St John’s Basilica. The mosque built by Isa Bey in 1375, is a building from the Seljuk Period. The building is the oldest known example of a typical Turkish mosque with its courtyard and Anatolian columns. With its decorative techniques and its main gate’s monumental height it bears the features of traditional Seljuk architecture.

 

İsa Bey Bath House

 

The bath house was built to be part of the Isa Bey Mosque. It displays all the characteristics of a classic Turkish bath, and it is covered with domes.

 

Aqueducts

 

Dating back to the Byzantine Period, the aqueduct remains that extend towards Ayasuluk Hill from an eastern direction can be observed in the train station vicinity and on both sides of the asphalt road. The aqueducts that have undergone restoration work nowadays provide a shelter for storks – a symbol of Selçuk. Gaius Sextillius Pollio is another aqueduct located 6km along the Selçuk – Aydın Highway, and this was built during the Period of Augustus.

 

Sütini Cave

 

Returning from Şirince village, 2km from Selçuk and on the valley slopes, is the Sütini Cave, an important cave in the area. Inside the cave are stalactites and stalagmites, which have been formed by drops of white water. It is believed that women who are unable to produce enough milk after delivering their babies may be able to increase their milk supply by drinking the water in this cave. For those women that are unable to climb into the cave, stones are taken from the cave to be placed onto their breasts to increase their milk supply.

 

Bird Watching Site

 

To the north of the ancient city of Ephesus, the Selçuk Gebekirse Lake Water Birds Protection and Breeding Site covers an area of one thousand hectare, between Ephesus and Pamucak. 30-40 species of birds and mammals live in the area. These include animals such as wild boars, foxes and jackals, in addition to the birds, such as diving birds, pelicans, various species of ducks, woodcocks and rock partridges.

 

Efes Archaeological Museum

 

The museum exhibits various artefacts excavated in Ephesus and its environs. It accommodates about 80 thousand artefacts notjust from the Roman, Byzantine and Turkish periods, but also from the Mycenaean and Ancient periods, and from the time of Alexander the Great and his generals. The museum consists of two departments – the Archaeological and the Ethnographical Departments.

 

The artefacts exhibited in the Selçuk Efes Archaeological Museum include Mycenaean vases unearthed at Ayasuluk Hill, pieces from the temple of Artemis, Corinthian columns and sarcophagus from the Belevi Mausoleum, two statues of Ephesian Artemis, a fresco depicting Socrates, statues taken from various monuments and fountains, a relief of Theodosius from the Temple of Hadrian and invaluable full length portraits and busts from the Early Christian Period.

 

Another section of the museum is the Saadet Hatun Baths. The baths, dating back to the 16th century, show many features characteristic of a traditional Turkish bath; it has four parts – dressing room, cold room, warm room and hot room.

 

Besides these, new sections of the Ephesus Archaeological Museum have been developed and these are now open to visitors.

 

Arasta and Bath House Section

 

This section, which is an integral part of the museum, exhibits commercial life in old Turkish towns, and various handicrafts that face extinction. This area can be found adjacent to the central garden of the museum. The department displays various stages of the cereal grinding process (mills), which played a significant part in agricultural local life as well as various types of copperware and beads produced to avert the evil eye (göz boncuğu). Visitors can also see a 16th century Ottoman Bath, which has been recently restored.

 

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