One of the most important Graeco-Roman cities in Asia Minor, Ephesus also has religious significance as a major bastion of Christianity during the Roman period.
EphesusLast updated on
Located on the coast of modern-day Turkey, Ephesus was first inhabited in the 10th Century BC by Greek colonists. Ephesus' first claim to fame came in 550 BC when the Temple of Artemis was constructed in the city. Ephesus was therefore home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Throughout its history, Ephesus was controlled by the Lydians, Persians, and Greeks during various periods. Alexander the Great ruled for a short period until his death, succeeded by the Seleucid Empire. In 129 BC, Ephesus was taken over by the Roman Republic. But due to revolts and political shifts, Roman control was not absolute until 86 BC.
During his reign, Emperor Augustus gave Ephesus special status as the seat of Roman power in Asia. This began a Golden Age for Ephesus, which came close to matching Rome in its importance. But over the centuries, the city gradually declined until it was ransacked by the Goths in the 3rd Century AD. Despite a late flourishing during the reign of Constantine, Ephesus' star had faded.
From AD 50, the city was also an important site for Christianity in its early years. Paul, one of the Apostles, lived there for a few years. During this time, Christians were heavily persecuted by the Romans. But once Christianity became the dominant religion of the empire, Ephesus attained its status as one of the seven churches of Asia.
Thanks to its rich history, Ephesus boasts several impressive ancient structures. Sadly, the Temple of Artemis is not among them, after the wonder was destroyed sometime before 400 AD.
One of the main draws is the Library of Celsus. The glorious facade has been reconstructed, and when in use the archive could hold up to 12,000 scrolls. Another impressive sight is the amphitheater, which was perhaps the largest example in the Ancient world. At full capacity, the building could hold 25,000 spectators.
A smaller roofed theater, known as the Odeon, also survives. The structure was built in 150 AD and could hold an audience of approximately 1,500 people for plays or recitals. Several temples still survive at Ephesus, including the 2nd Century AD Temple of Hadrian and the 1st Century AD Temple of Sebastoi, which was dedicated to the emperors of the Flavian dynasty and is also known as the Temple of Domitian.
Visiting information and tips
Ephesus is located in the modern-day Turkish province of Izmir, with Selcuk being the closest city. The region is 1-hour away from Istanbul via domestic flights. Various guided tours operate from nearby towns and cities. It's a 1-hour bus journey or a 45-minute solo drive from Izmir.
General admission to the site is 120 Turkish Lira (approximately €8), but this doesn't include admission to certain sites or the museum. A ticket to the museum or the Basilica costs 25 Lira (€2.50), and 45 Lira (€4) for the terrace houses. Admission is free for children under eight.