Ephesus is located between two hills with the silted ancient port and about three kms from Selcuk town. It belongs to greater Izmir province and 10 kms to Kusadasi, 65 kms to Izmir. The ancient town used to be the home of historical Greek and Roman ages so it grabs millions of visitors each year. There is a good connection to Ephesus from all over Turkey and it is only 40 minutes drive from the third biggest airport called as Izmir to Ephesus.
The name comes from Hittite Word “ Apasas” due to Greek could not do the correct pronouncation so they converted it as Ephesus. It means “the bee “ so Ephesus was the city of the bee. The bee was minted on the coins dated 11th BC in Hittite period.
Ephesus has been known as the home of Greek Artemis, Roman Diana, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, used to be center of the paganism about one thousand years, later it became the first of the seven churches of Revelation. First Pagan then Christian pilgrims made Ephesus as the center of their faiths like Vatican today so it was visited by millions each year. On the other hand, The port of Ephesus was the central of sea trade in antiquity between Asia, Macedonia(Europe) and North Africa.
The first settlement in the area was done by Amazons according to some legends but the findings shows us Ephesus was first founded by Hittites about 13 th C BC and it fell into Greek hand after the fall of Troy in 11 th BC by Greek commender Androklos . Then the Romans captured Ephesus in 1st C BC and Roman emperor Augustos declared Ephesus as the capital of Roman Asia.
Ephesus was noted for all over the world as one of the three wealthiest cities of Roman empire between the 1st and 2nd C AD, in the time of Pax Romana (Roman peace). The population was 250.000 without slaves and the third largest city after Rome and Antioch. During Pax Romana, 2 apostles, 4 deciples, 16 Roman emprors and so many famous people in the history have been to Ephesus. Trade, religion and politics made Ephesus much visited city in Roman province of Asia. St. Paul had 3 years and St.John had 7 years in Ephesus in order to set up a Christian congregation.
But the glory was ended up at the end of the of 7th C AD because of the earthquakes and mosquitos. The city first lost its natural port and then invaded by mosquitos so maleria became the main threat for the inhabitants. The city was abondent and was left in ruins for centuries. In 13 th AD Selçuk Turks conquered the ancient town and the new name was Ayasuluk that they built a castle to defend the Selçuk town against the Crusaders later. In 1413 Ottomans took over the town.
THE SIGHTS IN EPHESUS OPEN AIR MUSEUM TODAY
Present Ephesus for visitors covers about 200 acres between Nightinagele and Pion hills. and some parts of the area is closed for excavations. Today the expedition trip is done between two gates and the visitors usually begin their journey from upper gate to lower one where the big parking lot is located so 2.5 miles is the distance to see ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine edifices. 85 % of the ruins are original, 15 % of them are reconstructed by Austrian archeological team. Here are some highlights of Ephesus.
THE ODEON- BOULETERION-SENATE HOUSE
It has two different names ; a city council chambers (bouliterion) and concert hall (odeon) for watching the politicans and listening to classical music. It looks like a small theatre with 1400 in capasity. The edifice was used for all important events for only rich and distiguished Ephesians such as poetry redaings, prize giving ceremonies, court cases and beauty contests twice a year were held.
TEMPLE OF VESTA
Attached to the senate house where 12 virgins had to keep an eye on the sacred fire to be burn alive for 30 years, known as Vesta Virgins in the history. It is believed that the sacred fire was brought from Parthenon in Athens to Ephesus as the city was established. You can see colonnaded walkway in front of the vesta temple in three orders today ; Ionic-Doric and Corinthian types.
1st century AD building was the persecution center of Ephesus for early believers where they had to worship to the emperor’s cult every day. It is situated in centre of the state part with ruins and statues. Emperor Domitianus declared himself as Zeus in 85 AD and later he sent John the evangelist to Patmos island as a prisoner from Ephesus that is called exile in the Bible.
THE NIKE RELIEF
Nike in Greek, Victoria in Latin, was one of the olimpians as the goddess of victory, has a flying relief in the middle of the square of Domitian. Here all of groups stop to be taken the picture with Nike, if a Turkish guide makes a joke saying “Look Goddess has Nike trainers !.”
One of the monumental Roman fountains in Ephesus with the restoration work in 1970s makes you stop in Curetes Street. It was built in 2nd C AD and dedicated to empror Trojan to provide the free water to public. The mark of the edifice is the globe figure claiming the world is round. It is amazing beacuse not only yhe Ephesians but also the Romans knew that the world was round even in 2nd AD.
TEMPEL OF HADRIAN
Hadrian was one of the idolised Roman emperors, successor for Trajan in the second half of the 2nd C AD. The temple has been restored, repaired and redone recently by archeologists. Although it is very small, it is worth visiting and looking at Medusa, dangerous lady with snakes in Greek mythology, eggs freezes means fertility and acanthus as the leaves of life tree in belief can be seen both on the facade and on the walls of the temple.
This 2nd C AD building locates in down town as the highlight of Ephesus city. It was not only the second largest library of its time, but it was also a big university as Standford for Romans scholars. It was restored in between 1970 and 1978 and front wall has four main statues with written inscriptions in Greek. Between the front and rear walls shelves with books made from papyrus can still be seen today.
THE COMMERCIAL AGORA-FORUM
The business center of Ephesus in square shape with a big courtyard in the middle had large stores to sell all kinds of goods to the visitors. It was opened in 6.30 AM, and was closed 3.30 PM. The agoranames, the groups of the peole who were responsible checking out prices and scales in. Four big barber shops in four corners of the square used to get info from shoppers while having a haircut as tourists offices.
THE GRAND THEATRE-AMPHI THEATRE OF EPHESUS
It was curved on the slope of Pion and faced to overlooking the harbor to understand which cruise ship was appoaching to the port. It was the home of public announcements, greek tragedies which last long hours,important speeches by pagan priests, elections and gladiator fights were happened. It had 24.000 spactators’ capasity and is divided into two main parts ; lower seats for aristocrats, senators, rulers and rich merchants, upper seats for poor. Today it is under the preservation so some upper parts were closed.
FIRST OF SEVEN CHURCHES IN REVELETION
We know that John came to Ephesus with Mary and he was exiled to Patmos island. After spending 14 years there, he was freed and came bak to Ephesus to complete the Gospel here. During his last days, he also visited seven major cities that are known as seven churches of reveletion. In the first chapter of Reveletion, a letter to Ephesus is written and the church is warned with a nickname as lovelist church”. God warns both the church elders and the believers not to lose their love to the Christ and always follow their promises.
VIRGIN MARY’S HOUSE
It is about 9kms/ 7miles far way on the top of the mount Nightingale and takes half an hour drive from Selçuk town. The house is over 1200 feet / 300 meters from the sea level among the pine woods. It is belived that Blessed mary has spent hin her last say in this house and the house was noted for vatikan as one of the final resting places of Holy Mary. Three popes from Vatican, pope Paul VI in 1967, pope John Paull 2nd in 1995 and pope Bebedictus in 2008, have been to the house so far.
IMPORTANCE OF THE HOUSE
The house has been noted for as pilrimage center by Christians after a long research and careful inspection by Vatican in 1967 so almost five million visitors all over the world pay a visit to the house. It has been a tradition among the Turkish moslems to visit the house because holy Mary is accepted as the mother of Jesus in Koran and Mary has a special chapter called “ Meryem’s chapter 16 th “ in Koran telling her story in fetails. Of course, Koran never indicates the place of the house where Mary lived, but it advices to the islam believers that they give a respect both mary and Jesus. While visiting the house of Mary, if you may come across with Muslims, never be surprised because they are paying their respect to her. Turkish government and local municipality of Selçuk both pay a great attention to the house of Mary today and a father and some sisters stay in doormitories by the house. Ever Sunday at 10.30 there is a regular mass and if the church groups would like to have a special mess a day before their arrival, it is oganised by the authorities during their visit.
“On the crucifixon day, Jesus was a standing on the cross with his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the youngest saint among 12 standing by whom he much loved, he said to his mother, “ Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the deciple, “ Behold your mother. “
This was a secret mission given to John to care for Mary till she passed away by Jesus so Mary and John came to Ephesus six years after the crucifixon. As soon as they arrived ephesus, the atmosphere was awful for early believers because a big percecution on Christians were going on. To save Mar’y life, a simple house was built on the top of the mount nightingale and mary began living there with Mary Magdelena. John began advertising Christianity in Ephesus and paid a visit to the house from time to time in secretly. During his mission John refused to worship pagan gods and emepror Domitians’s cult in Ephesus so he was sent as a prisoner to Patmos island as punishment.
We do not know what happened to Mary after John’s exile. Alot of therioes are still told nad never ends. The strongest one depends on the theory of assumption which has been celebrated by Orthodox world for centuries. According to this theory, Mary never passed away, she was risen up to sky on the 1th of August by god.
The house ,which is open for visitors, was dicovered after a vision done by Anne Catherina Emmerich, a Bavarian bed ridden lady, has never been aout of Germany in her life. She began dreaming about the house in 1895 and gave a full description of the place in details. Due to this information, lazarists fathers, from church of Smyrna (izmir ) were able to discover the house in 1900.
After Turkish republic was proclaimed in 1923, the great restoration was begun. The house got restored by Turkish authotirites and roof was added and repaired in 1951. Vatican noted for the house duing the offical visit of Pope Paul VI th on 26 July, 1967 and the house began visited by millions.
Today, it is considered as one of holy and much visited shrines of Turkey for all tye of visitors coming to Selçuk or Kuşadası. Municipality of Selçuk and ministry of Tourism are both responsible to maintain the house in good condition. The house is protected by armed soldiers of Turkish army.Whoever you are, whatever your faith is, to visit the house of Mary makes you fresh and relaxed.
The traffic to the house may be overcrowded during the high season, assumption day on 15 th August and on Sundays at about 10. There is a small parking lot at the entrance, a cafeteria and restrooms in good conditions, three fountains to take some or to drink as holy water undeneath of the house and wish Wall to put the visitors’ wishes after visiting. It has been a great tradition to follow three steps among the Turkish muslims ; Visiting the hosue is the one, drinking the holy water as the second and writing the wishes is the third main steps.
BASILICA OF ST.JOHN, CHURCH OF EPHESUS
It was built on the former tomb of St. John the evangelist, one of Bible authors, during the Byzantine period according to cross plan by emperor Justinien I between 532-537 AD. The church building has served as the church of Ephesus till the Selçuk town was seiged by the Arabic troops in 10th C AD.Today it is one of the most visited places in the area of Kusadasi for both cruise clients and holiday makers. Three popes from Vatican city had been and prayed in the ruins of the church so far. Excavations are still going on under the supervisor of Turkish government. It is the most beautiful Byzantine monument in this area.
It is located in down town of Selcuk on the footstep of Ayasuluk castle. The location is very near in the center and it is available to reach on foot in 10 minutes on the way to Izmir road. It takes about 30 minutes from Kusadası port, about an hour from Izmir airport.
JOHN THE EVANGELIST – BIBLE AUTHOR
St.John was the youngest among the twelve apostles of Jesus. He was the witness during the crucifixion so he promised to Jesus to care for Mary’s life till she passed away on the cross. After Jesus, St John and Mary left Jarusselam and they came to Ephesus in 43-44 AD in order to advertise Christianity. Blessed Mary was old and Ephesus was unsafe for living. Therefore John and his deciples made a house for her on the top of the Nightingale hill which is about 7 miles far away from Ephesus and 300 metres above the sea level as a sacred place. Blessed Mary, Mary Magdelana and two sisters began living in the house. John paid a visit from time to time. Some years later, John was sent as a prisoner to the island of Patmos in the middle of Aegean Sea by Roman emperor Domitianus that we call “ exile . “
While John the evangelist was staying in his grotto, one day he suddenly heard a sound coming behind him like a thunder. The sound said, “ I am alfa and omega. Write what you have seen on a scroll and send it to Ephesus, Smryna, Pergamon, Sardis, Thyatira, Philadelphia and Laodecia. “He was the first and the last so He was God. Later John was dictated to write Gospel. When he was freed after the emperor Domitianus had been assasined in Rome, he came to Ephesus and was able to complete his book in this city. John also heard that St. Paul was martyred in Rome so he became the head of the followers of Jesus and he taught how the people got baptised. He also had a big fight to Diana temple and visited seven churches of the Revelation and gave the letters to them as the warnings of God.
In one speculation, St. John passed away at the age 127 at the end of the 1st C AD and he was buried on Ayasuluk hill. Till the Christianity legalised by Constantine the Great in 330 AD, his tomb place was only known by church elders not to be destroyed and kept secret from generation to generation.
HISTORY OF THE BASILICA
In 400 AD, a stone church was built with wooden top on the former tomb of John. Later in 537 AD, Byzantine emperor Justinien added a big basilica on the cross shape with 5 domes. The construction was walled by the castle in order to prevent Arap raids in 9th C AD. 11 th C AD Selçuk Turks took over the town and the church was left in ruins at the end of that century. In 1390 the town and the church were taken over by the Selçuk Turks whom they established a great empire before Ottomans here. In the beginning of 20th C AD, The excavations began and American firm from Ohia called George Quatman foundation became the sponsor for diggings in 1960s. The church is considered as holy so it was visited by Pope John Paul the VI in 1967, Pope John Paul II in 1995 and John Benedictus in 2007. The present pope is expected to pay a visit soon. The church is still being excavated by archeologists today.
Today a visitor can see a nartex ( outer courtyard ), a treasure hall, an atrium, a syntrenom,a chapel, the tomb of John under the main dome , Maltese columns with curved crosses and a lovely baptismal pool. It is believed that the church of John in Ephesus as holy place for Christian believers so it has become one of the main pilgrimage centers on the way to Jarusselam since medieval times.
TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS
One of the seven wonders of the ancient world called Artemis temple is about 1km away from Selçuk down town on the way to Kusadasi. It situates on the right hand side of the bottom gate of Ephesus which is near Selçuk town’s museum in ruins.
WHO WAS ARTEMIS
One of the Olympians ; as the daghter of Zeus and Leto and a sister of Apollo, healing and sun god according to the Greek mthyhology. Artemis and Apollo were the twins borned at the same time as a sister and brother. Both of them had the great temples in ancient Greece and Roman provinces in the long history. In honour of Artemis many temples both in Greece and Asia minör had been built for centuries but the temple in Ephesus is the biggest and the most beutiful one dedicated to her.
Artemis, was the goddess of chestity, fertility and wood. She was also the moon goddess and virginity. She was the savor of hunters, soothsayers, nymphs and muses. She walks in the woods and forests with Nymphas and all animals respect to her. She was the goddess of fertile ladies so before getting married, virgins used to come to her temple, sacrifices an animal depending her richness and prays for a ll her “good marriage. Artemis is described as a hunter and there are the bow and arrows on her chest. She is known as “ Artemis “in Greece and Romans call her “ Diana. Deer is her symbol and the bear helps her.
ARTEMIS TEMPLE AS ONE OF THE SEVEN WONDERS
It is accepted by the historians as one of the seven wonders of the antiquity. It was supposed to be completed about 550 BC by the order of famous Lydian king Coresos and it was dedicated to Greek goddess Artemis. Then the temple became as the center of the pagan world till the time of Christianity. Pagan visitors all over the world used to come to Ephesus to visit this temple. It was the big income source of the city treasure. Anybody coming to Ephesus, He calls first in commercial agora in Ephesus, he purchases a silver image of Diana temple, he brings and leaves to the responsible priest and then sacrifies an animal. The ceremony is held in the holy atmosphere by pagan priests so he is effected easily and tells what he wants and waits the respond. This systems created a huge touism industry to invite millions of the pagan believers to visit Artemis temple for about 1000 years.
Artemis temple used to have 127 high columns of which thirty-six of them sculpted with the freezes and gifted to the temple by the neighboring kings. The temple was about 250m long and 75m wide and the columns were in 33 m. in length.The area used to be a marshyland and got dried by coal and the constrcution took about 83 years to be built.It still covers a huge area and all precious stones, jewellery, gold coins and treasures were kept in the cella, back treasure office, by the priests who they werehe richest people of Ephesus. The temple was also noted for as the federal reserve-Centrl Bank of Asia- throughout the ancient world. The investors whom they left their valuables to the temple, as the safe hands of the Artemis, could be given 5 % annual rate as the gift. The money from investors used to be credited to the merchants in Ephesus and the merchants could pay 7 % to the priests working in the temple. 2 % in between was the priests’ profit so it was robbed and fired several times.
In Roman times everything was great during the 1st C BC, but there was a great threat during Paul’s stay in Ephesus. Before Paul came to Ephesus, silvesmiths were making the fortune by selling Diana images to the visitors, but when Paul was in Ephesus, whenever he awas with the crowd and his followers, he used to begin his words saying “ Gods by hands are not the gods at all, they are hand made or man made gods.These words stopped the buisness in three years and nobody wanted to buy silver images of Artemis temple.
Temple of Artemis or Roman Diana was destroyed by the Gots in 282 AD and the marble columns were used to make another structures in Byzantine period. In 434 AD, John the Crysustom, destroyed the satan’s seat in ruins. Byzantines used the marble colums to make churches, Selçuk and Ottoman Turks used them to make mosques in later centuries. The last and final columns in green were taken out illegally by Bristish archeologists before the World War I and now they are on display in Bristish Museum in London. Unfortunately there is semi column left in the place of the temple as if saying.” I was burnt, I was destryed and I was robbed.