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About Ephesus

Ephesus, made of stone and marble, is one of the most beautiful cities in Antiquity. Formely it was a flourishing port where the Royal Road from Sardis naturally opened on the sea, but because of the silting up of its different harbours, it lost its pre-eminence. Ephesus witnessed successive settlements at different places in different times. First, native Anatolian populations (Amazons, Carians, Lelegians) who whorshipped the Great Earth Mother Cybele, who later was identified to Artemis of Ephesus. The second Ephesus was founded in the 11C BC on the slopes of Mount Pion (Panayır Dağı) by Ionian Greeks. In the mid-6C BC, Ephesus acknowledged king Croesus of Lydia as suzerain before beeing ruled by the Persians in 546 BC. As an attempt to regain its freedom, like other Ionian cities, Ephesus joined the Delian League in 478. In 334 BC, after Alexander the Great conquested the Persian Empire, his sucessor general Lysimachus founded the third city between Mount Pion and Mount Coressus (Bülbül dağı). In 190 BC, it was controlled by the kingdom of Pergamum, ally of Rome, and finally in 129 BC passed into the Roman’s hands, and became the capital of the Roman Province in Asia Minor, but was run under its proper laws. In the 2C AD, Ephesus reached its climax thanks to a wealthy and intellectual population who built luxuous marble monuments. The ruins which can be seen today date back to that period.

Ephesus was not only the meeting point of ancient religions, but was above all a place from where Christianity spread. Between 55 and 58, St Paul spent two and a half years in Ephesus on his third missionary journey.Through his sermons and proselytism, he made many conversions among the Jewish and Greek colonies. But as he damaged the profit that priests and others were making out of the cult of goddess Artemis whose supporters were more powerful, a riot finally forced him to flee. Paul is also believed to have been imprisoned in Ephesus where he wrote a part of his epistles. Between 37 and 48, John and the Virgin Mary came to Ephesus and lived here. Christianity finally prevailed over paganism and Ephesus became the third city of the Christian world after Jerusalem and Antioch. Between 196 and 476, six conciles were held in Ephesus. In 431 Emperor Theodosius II convoqued a third ecumenical concile at which the dogm relating to the divine maternity of the Virgin Mary was established, making her the "Theotokos" (Mother of God), as well as Christ's double human and divine nature. Ephesus was among the Seven Churches of Revelation.

In the 6th century, the harbour totally silted up by the alluvial deposits of the Cayster river, the new Byzantine city spread around the Basilica of St John. In the 8th century, repeated raids by the Arabs and once again the impossibility for the ships to come alongside gave the city the deathblow. Conquired by the Turks at the end of the 14th century, the fifth settlement called Ayasuluk took the name Selçuk centuries later, in 1914.

Ephesus was also home for the philosopher Heraclitus who lived in the 6C BC.

The following main places of interest are eather located around or in Selçuk..

There are two main entrances to the archaelogical site, but as it slopes gently, it is recommended to start the visit from the upper entrance at the Gate of Magnesia:

The Bath of Varius is a 2C AD Roman bath complex.

The State Agora, a vast public square remodeled in the mid-1C BC, also had the function of a basilica.

The Odeon, built in the 2C AD, was used both as a theatre and a bouleterion for civic meetings. It had a capacity of 1,400 people.

The Temples of Dea Roma and Divus Julius (1C AD) were intended for the Imperial Cult.

The Prytaneion was the city hall where political life and also ceremonies, banquets and receptions took place. In the Hestia Temple, the Curetes, who were the priestesses of Hestia, were in charge of the sacred flame burning eternely.

The Memmius Memorial

The Polio Fountain was built in the 2C BC and restored in the 3C AD. Water was brought here by aqueducs.

The Domitian Temple was the first sacred monument (1C AD) dedicated to a Roman emperor. Domitian, who was a tyrant-emperor, called himself “god-sovereign”.

The Hercules Gate has two reliefs depicting Hercules wearing a lion skin.

The Curetes Street is named after the priestesses of the Prytaneion.

The Nympheaum of Trajan was built in the 2C AD. The pedestal and the two feet of the colossal statue of Trajan where water was cascading into a pool, are among the remains of the huge fountain.

The Terrace Houses, dating from the 1C AD, were luxurious private houses. Most of them were three-storied and had open-air courtyard. They are beautifully decorated with frescoes and mosaics.

The Scholastikia Baths were a large three-storied complex founded in the 2C AD. In the 5C, the baths were restored with stones brought from the Prytaneion, by a Christian lady named Scholastikia whose statue can be seen here in a sitting position.

The Hadrian Temple, built in the 2C AD, is a very attractive Corinthian style temple. The beautiful columns and arch of the facade of the porch (pronaos) remain as well as the entrance to the cella. Friezes depicting mythological scenes were added in the 4C .

The Latrines were part of the Scholastica Baths and were for public use.

The Private House was a brothel part of the same complex. The statue of Priapus (the Anatolian god of abundance) found here is now exhibited in the Ephesus Museum.

The Celsius Library was built in the beginning of the 2C AD by Consul Gaius Julius Aquila, to the memory of his father Julius Celsus Polemaeanus who is buried here. The Library which has been restored betwen 1975-1980 has a two storied facade. The inside was composed of a sole hall containing three stories of niches where rolls and volumes were stored on shelves and inside chests. An external wall surrounded the building to keep it away from humidity. The three entrances are flanked by four niches with statues representing the virtues of Celsus: Sophia for wisdom, Arete for Valor, Ennoia for thought, and Episteme for Knowledge.

The Commercial Agora (market square) was built in the Hellenistic period and transformed in the 1C and 3C AD. It is surrounded by stoas behind which were shops and stores. According to the inscriptions in Greek and Latin of the south-east triple gateway, this gate was built by two enfranchised slaves Mazaeus and Mithridathes in honor of August and his wife Livia. A water-clock and a sundial stood in the middle of the Agora and hundreds of statues whose basis can still be seen, were erected here.

The Marble Road was originally part of the Processional Road that stretched as far as the Artemis Temple through the Magnesian Gate.

The theatre was originally a 3C BC Hellenistic theatre, later transformed (a three storied skene or stage building was added) and enlarged by the Romans (1C and 2C AD) until it reached its present seating capacity of 24,000 people. The auditorium rises 30m/100ft above the orchestra.

The Arcadiane, of Hellenistic origin, was a 600m/1,970 ft long and 11m/36 ft wide colonnaded avenue renovated in honor of Arcadius in the 5C AD.

The Caves of the Seven Sleepers : the Legend of the Seven Sleepers states that this is where seven young Christian men and their dog were hiding from their persecutors, were found and murdered during the reign of Roman Emperor Decius in the mid 3rd century, and were resurrected 200 years later. As a result Christian believers wanted to be buried here and a graveyard of over a thousand graves, tombs and monasteries was formed on this site.

The Ephesus Museum, located in Selçuk, displays the findings from the excavations made at Ephesus, the Basilica of St John, the Belevi Tomb Monument, and various places in the surroudings. The highlight of the museum are the two white marble statues of Artemis, the Goddess of Fertility, Abundance and Earth venerated like the former Anatolian mother-goddess Cybele. The bigger statue, known as “Colossal Artemis”, is 2,92 m /9.58 ft high and dates from the 1C AD. The other one, called “Artemis the Beautiful”, is 1,74 m high and dates from the 2C AD. The four rows of protuberances on their chest have been interpreted as differently as breasts, eggs, figs, but according to a more recent theory, they seem to rather represent the testicles of bulls, also a symbol of fecundity (bulls were an object of cult but were also sacrificed to Artemis). The museum also displays an interesting reconstruction of one of the hillside villas excavated at Ephesus, and a gladiator section.

Since 1898 excavations at the city of Ephesus have been conducted by the Austrian Institute of archaeology. The early findings are displayed at the Vienna Ephesus Museum in the Neue Burg. The most important exhibits are the 40 m / 131 ft long frieze of the Parthian Monument and the bronze statue of an athlete from the Hercules - Centaur Group.

The Temple of Artemis (Artemision) was built for the first time in the 6C.BC, and was supported by 127 Ionic columns. It was rebuilt between 334 and 250 BC, after having been set on fire by a madman the same night Alexander the Great was born (23 July 356 BC). Pilgrims came from all over Asia Minor to see the Artemision which was considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World because of its decoration, its monumental dimensions, its magnificence and its luxury. When Christianity became state religion in the 5C AD, the temple was finally destroyed by a fanatic mob, marking the end of paganism. The site became a marble quarry for the Byzantine constructions. On the spot, what is left of this masterpiece are only one single re-erected column and foundation stones. It is located at the exit of Selçuk on the right hand side of the road to Kuşadası.

What could have the Artemision looked like The Basilica of St John: according to an opinion based on the decisions of, and thus at least as old as the Council of Ephesus held in 431, John the Apostle came to Ephesus with the Virgin Mary. As he was dying on the cross, Jesus entrusted his mother Mary to the care of his beloved disciple John who brought her to Ephesus between the years 37 and 48. John, after 67, spent the rest of his life preaching the Gospel. He was later exiled to the Island of Patmos where he wrote the Revelation, and returned to Ephesus in 95. There he lived on top of Ayasuluk hill where he was buried when he died approximately at the age of 100. At the beginning his grave was indicated by a stela placed in a chapel in the 4th century.

A basilica built by Emperor Justinian (527-565) was dedicated to his memory in the 6th century. The walls constructed around the basilica were reinforced with large marble blocks taken from Ephesus, and an outer wall was added to protect it better during the pirates and Arab attacks in the 7th - 8th centuries. The walls had gates opening to the east, west and south. The main gate is the Persecution Gate (John was twice threatened by death under Emperor Domitian), which was flanked by two high towers. The entrance was through an atrium opening onto the narthex. The three naved basilica, whose dimensions are 40 by 110 m/ 131 by 360 ft, is cruciform. It is made of stone and brick and its roof was once composed of six domes. The grave of St John, today covered with marble, was located under the central dome, that was originally supported by the four columns with spiral flutes. As seen in the model made by the museum, the top of the grave was covered with colored marble mosaics. During the middle Ages, the church was an important place of pilgrimage and it was believed that the fine dust coming out of the grave by the opening located above it, had miraculous and healing properties.

On the capitals of the columns on the north side, the monograms of Emperor Justinian and Theodora can be seen. The chapel to the north of the apse was built later in the 10th century and has frescoes among which is one of St. John. Next to the Baptistery is a small buiding, where holy relics were kept. A terrace, with an atrium on top of it, was buit to support the west end of the church. After 1304, when Ephesus came under the Turkish domination, part of the church was converted into a mosque. The basilica was destroyed by an earthquake at the end of the 14th century.

The Citadel is located at the very top of Ayasuluk Hill which overlooks Selçuk. It was built in the 6th century by the Byzantines in order to insure a better protection of Ephesus which, at the time, had weakened considerably. The Seljuks strenghtened and extended the citadel which was used until the early Ottoman period.

Isa Bey Mosque, located below the Basilica of St John, is one the most important work in Turkish transition art between Seljuk and Ottoman periods. It was erected in 1375 for Isa Bey, grandson of the founder of the Aydınoğulları emirate to which Ayasuluk belonged. The architect who built this most unusual mosque was Ali of Damascus. The mosque is composed of a huge courtyard which was surrounded by porticos topped with domes. Today theses colonnades are lost, only a few ancient columns, from the baths and gymnasium of the harbour in Ephesus, are still standing. The octagonal ablution pool has remained.

The entrance to the prayer room, which is composed of two naves covered with a double smooth wooden roof, is made through a gateway with three arches. The mihrab room is topped by two domes supported by four ancient marble columns and capitals. The pendentives are decorated with turquoise and blue enamelled ceramic.

The House of the Virgin Mary (Meryemana) is located in the heights above Ephesus, and can be reached by a 9 km/ 5.6 miles long scenic road leading to the Bülbül Mountain.

According to an opinion based on the decisions of, and thus at least as old as the Council of Ephesus held in 431, John the Apostle came to Ephesus with the Virgin Mary: as he was dying on the cross, Jesus asked his beloved disciple John to take care of his mother.

As John thought it was dangerous for Mary to remain in Jerusalem, between the years 37 and 48, he brought her to Ephesus. Mary lived and ended her days in a remote place while John spent the rest of his life preaching the Gospel. German nun Anna Katherina Emmerich (1774-1824) who had never been to Ephesus, had visions where she described the last place where the Virgin Mary lived, as beeing a house on the top of a hill at Ephesus. After reading Clemens Brentano’ s book “The Life of the Virgin Mary” containing the revelations of A. K. Emmerich, a clergyman named Gouyet discovered the mentionned place, sent a report to Paris and Rome but was not taken seriously. Ten years later in 1891, H. Jung in turn found the ruins of a “chapel” that corresponded to the descriptions and which was called by the Christian locals Panaghia Capouli: it was a small place of worship with the roof fallen in, the walls in ruin and there was standing a statue of the Virgin Mary with the hands broken off. On his return he convinced P. Eugene Poulin, Superior of the Lazarists in Izmir, to accompany him with a scientific research team. Restoration works were made until 1894. In 1950-51, during the excavations made before the construction of a church, a sacred spring with rather salted water and curative properties, was discovered.

This place was officially declared a shrine by the Roman Catholic Church in 1896. It was sanctifìed by Pope Paul VI in 1967, after the Vatican confirmed that the Virgin Mary had spent the last years of her life here. Since John – Paul II’ s visit in 1979, it has become a popular place of pilgrimage and every year, on August 15th a ceremony is organized to commemorate Mary's Assumption. Mass is celebrated here every morning at 7:30 and on Sunday mornings at 10:30.

The Selçuk "Camel Wrestling Festival" takes place every year in January. Camel wrestling is now mostly restricted to the Aegean region, although it was once widespread to a greater part of Anatolia.

12 km/ 7.5 miles south of Selçuk and 14 km/ 8.7 miles east of Kuşadası is Çamlık village, famous since 1991 for its Steam Engine Museum (Buharlı Lokomotif Müzesi) which displays one of the largest steam engine collection in Europe. Çamlık station was on the former ORC line, the oldest line in Turkey. As it is located at the highest and most difficult part of the line, with steep gradient and sharp curves, the station has been disused (except for a slow local train operating between Selçuk and Ortaklar) since the Izmir - Aydın main line has been following a new route . The museum also displays two interesting hand powered quay cranes among other miscellaneous items.