There is as yet no definite knowledge about the exact date of the foundation of Ephesus, but famous historians such as Strabo and Pausanias, agreed on the idea of that Ephesus was founded by Amazons, and inhabited by the oldest settlers of Anatolia - Lelegians and Carians, as early as 3000 BC.
The legend says that in the year of 10 BC, Androclos, the son of King of Athens-Kodros, was searching a location for establishing a site. Androclos who belonged to Akhas, was running from the Dor invasion in Greece. He was leading one of the migration convoys. It was predicted by an Apollo oracle that a fish and a boar would show the location of the new settlement.
The area surrounding Ephesus was already inhabited during the Neolithic Age (about 6000 BC), as was revealed by excavations at the nearby höyük (artificial mounds known as tells) of Arvalya and Cukurici.
Excavations in recent years have unearthed settlements from the early Bronze Age at Ayasuluk Hill.
In 1954, a burial ground from the Mycenaean era (1500–1400 BC) with ceramic pots was discovered close to the ruins of the basilica of St. John. This was the period of the Mycenaean Expansion when the Achaioi (as they were called by Homer) settled in Asia Minor during the 14th and 13th centuries BC. Scholars believe that Ephesus was founded on the settlement of Apasa (or Abasa); a Bronze Age city noted in 14th century BC Hittite sources as being under the rule of the Ahhiyawans, most probably the name of the Achaeans used in Hittite sources.
Ephesus was founded as an Attic-Ionian colony in the 10th century BC on the Ayasuluk Hill, three kilometres from the centre of ancient Ephesus. The mythical founder of the city was a prince of Athens named Androklos, who had to leave his country after the death of his father, King Kadros. According to the legend, he founded Ephesus on the place where the oracle of Delphi became reality (A fish and a boar will show you the way). Androklos drove away most of the native Carian and Lelegian inhabitants of the city and united his people with the remainder. He was a successful warrior, and as a king he was able to join the twelve cities of Ionia together into the Ionian League. During his reign the city began to prosper. He died in a battle against the Carians when he came to the aid of Priene, another city of the Ionian League.
When Androklos died a mausoleum was built to the memory of the first king of Ephesus. The mausoleum is considered to be placed around The Gate of Magnesia.
The Greek goddess Artemis and the great Anatolian goddess Kybele were identified together as Artemis of Ephesus. The many-breasted Lady of Ephesus, identified with Artemis, was venerated in the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the largest building of the ancient world according to Pausanias (4.31.8). Pausanias mentions that the temple was built by Ephesus, son of the river god Caystrus, before the arrival of the Ionians. Of this structure, scarcely a trace remains.
About 650 BC, Ephesus was attacked by the Cimmerians who razed the city, including the temple of Artemis. After the Cimmerians had been driven away, the city was ruled by a series of tyrants. Following a revolt by the people, Ephesus was ruled by a council. The city prospered again under a new rule, producing a number of important historical figures such as the elegiac poet Callinus and the iambic poet Hipponax, the philosopher Heraclitus, the great painter Parrhasius and later the grammarian Zenodotos and physicians Soranus and Rufus.
Ephesus was ruled by the Lydian king, Kreisos, in the mid-6th century BC. The city reached the Golden Age and became a good model to the Antic World in culture and art, as well.
Later in the same century, the Lydians under Croesus invaded Persia. The Ionians refused a peace offer from Cyrus the Great, siding with the Lydians instead. After the Persians defeated Croesus, the Ionians offered to make peace, but Cyrus insisted that they surrender and become part of the empire. The Persians then incorporated the Greek cities of Asia Minor into the Achaemenes Empire. Those cities were then ruled by satraps.
Ephesus continued to prosper, but when taxes were raised under Cambyses II and Darius, the Ephesians joined the Ionian Revolt against Persian rule in the Battle of Ephesus (498 BC), an event which instigated the Greco-Persian wars. In 479 BC, the Ionians, together with Athens, were able to oust the Persians from the shores of Asia Minor. In 478 BC, the Ionian cities with Athens entered into the Delian League against the Persians. Ephesus did not contribute ships but gave financial support.
During the Peloponnesian War, Ephesus was first allied to Athens but in a later phase, called the Decelean War, or the Ionian War, sided with Sparta, which also had received the support of the Persians. As a result, rule over the cities of Ionia was ceded again to Persia.
In 356 BC the temple of Artemis was burnt down, according to legend, by a lunatic called Herostratus. The inhabitants of Ephesus at once set about restoring the temple and even planned a larger and grander one than the original.
When Alexander the Great defeated the Persian forces at the Battle of Granicus in 334 BC, the Greek cities of Asia Minor were liberated and Alexander was warmly greeted by the inhabitants. He proposed to finance the re-building of the temple under the condition that his name should be inscribed on the front which inhabitants demurred claiming that it was not fitting for one god to build a temple to another. Alexander was flattered and gave some special privileges to the city. It was the Ephesian architect, Dinocrates who restored the Temple of Artemis.
After the death of Alexander the Great, Ephesus was ruled by his successor, the general Lysimachus. In 287 BC Lysimachus decided to change the location of Ephesus moving it further west, due to the destruction of the port by the alluviums, and the inhabitants were forced to settle in the new place named Arsinoeina, the name of Lysimachus’ wife. The city was surrounded by wide stone walls in 10 meters height and 9 meters length.
In 190 BC Ephesus, a territory that was traditionally Greek to the core became a subject of the Roman Republic.
For some short time Ephesus enjoyed the self-governing before becoming a part of the Bergama Kingdom. However, by the death of King Attalos III in 133BC, the city returned under the rule of Romans. Ephesus reached to its height and was notorious for its wealth and luxury in the 1st – 4th centuries AD, especially during the reign of Augustus. During this period the population mounted to 225 000, and the city became the capital of the new Asia. By cleaning the river Caystros from the alluviums, the great trade port of Ephesus, a gateway to foreign countries, contributed to the prosperity and the city continued to thrive with commerce and culture. The city was constructed, adding new models to the former magnificence of Ephesus such as the Library of Celsius which is an example of the perfecta of the era, with the delicate details of the construction, and a theatre which was capable of holding 25,000 spectators. Ephesus also had several major bath complexes, built at various times while the city was under Roman rule. The city had one of the most advanced aqueduct systems in the ancient world, with multiple aqueducts of various sizes to supply different areas of the city, including four major aqueducts. They fed a number of water mills, one of which has been identified as a saw mill for marble.
The city and temple were destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD. This marked the decline of the city's splendour.
Ephesus was an important centre for Early Christianity from the AD 50s. From AD 52–54, the apostle Paul lived in Ephesus, working with the congregation and apparently organizing missionary activity into the hinterlands. Initially, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul attended the Jewish synagogue in Ephesus, but after three months he became frustrated with the stubbornness or hardness of heart of some of the Jews, and moved his base to the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9) where he publicly proposed and defended the doctrines of the gospel.
Paul introduced about twelve men to the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” who had previously only experienced the baptism of John the Baptist (Acts 19:1-7), and later became embroiled in a dispute with some artisans whose livelihood depended on selling statuettes of Artemis (Latin: Diana) in the Temple of Artemis (Acts 19:23–41). Between 53 and 57 AD Paul wrote the letter 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (possibly from the 'Paul tower' near the harbour, where he was imprisoned for a short time). Later, Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians while he was in prison in Rome (around 62 AD).
Asia Minor of those days was associated with St. John, one of the chief apostles, and the Gospel of John might have been written in Ephesus, c 90–100. Ephesus was one of the seven cities addressed in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 2:1–7), indicating that the church at Ephesus was strong.
A legend, which was first mentioned by Epiphanius of Salamis in the 4th century AD, purported that Mary may have spent the last years of her life in Ephesus.
Since the 19th century, the House of the Virgin Mary, about 7 km from Selçuk, has been considered to have been the last home of Mary, mother of Jesus in the Roman Catholic tradition, based on the visions of Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich. It is a popular place of Catholic pilgrimage which has been visited by three recent popes.
The Church of Mary near the harbour of Ephesus was the setting for the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, which resulted in the condemnation of Nestorius. A Second Council of Ephesus was held in 449, but its controversial acts were never approved by the Catholics. It came to be called the Robber Council of Ephesus or Robber Synod of Latrocinium by its opponents.
The emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected a new public bath. Ephesus remained the most important city of the Byzantine Empire in Asia Minor after Constantinople in the 5th and 6th centuries. Emperor Flavius Arcadius raised the level of the street between the theatre and the harbour. The basilica of St. John was built during the reign of emperor Justinian I in the 6th century.
The city was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614.
The importance of the city as a commercial centre declined as the harbour was slowly silted up by the river despite repeated dredging during the city's history. The loss of its harbour caused Ephesus to lose its access to the Aegean Sea, which was important for trade. People started leaving the lowland of the city for the surrounding hills. The ruins of the temples were used as building blocks for new homes. Marble sculptures were ground to powder to make lime for plaster.
Sackings by the Arabs first in the year 654–655 and later in 700 and 716 hastened the decline further.
When the Seljuk Turks conquered Ephesus in 1090, it was a small village. The Byzantines resumed control in 1097 and changed the name of the town to Hagios Theologos. They kept control of the region until 1308. Crusaders passing through were surprised that there was only a small village, called Ayasalouk, where they had expected a bustling city with a large seaport. Even the temple of Artemis was completely forgotten by the local population. The Crusaders of the Second Crusade fought the Seljuks just outside the town in December 1147.
In 1307 Seljuks took control of the city again. However, years later, the River Caystros was silted up leaving the site far inland and the city losing its significance as sea port and giving way to the ports of Izmir and Kusadasi in sea-trade.
The town knew again a short period of prosperity during the 14th century under these new Seljuk rulers. They added important architectural works such as the İsa Bey Mosque, caravansaries and Turkish bathhouses (hamam).
After a period of unrest, the region was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1425 and was completely abandoned by the 15th century.
Main Historical Sites & Destinations Around Izmir & Kusadasi
♦ The Archaeological Museum of Izmir exhibits an impressive collection of pre-Roman and Roman artefacts recovered from area
excavations, including Bergama, Iasos, Bayrakli and Izmir's Agora… more
♦ Ephesus Open Air Museum - contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated… more
♦ Ephesus Archaeological Museum was reopened in November 2014 after extensive renovations. It houses finds from the nearby
Ephesus excavation site… more
♦ Basilica of St. John was built in the 6th century AD, under emperor Justinian I, over the supposed site of the apostle's tomb. It was
modelled after the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople… more
♦ Temple of Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood 137 m x 69 m with 127 marble pillars each 18 m high. The temple earned the city the title Servant of the Goddess… more
♦ The House of Virgin Mary. Located on the top of Nightingale mountain, the House of the Virgin Mary
Turkish: Meryemana), is located in a nature park between Ephesus and Seljuk, and is believed to be the last residence of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The peaceful site is sacred to both Christians and Muslims, and is visited by many tourists and pilgrims… more
♦ Village of Sirince. Once known as Kirkince, the village was built by the Greeks around 800 years ago and since the population
exchange in 1924 has since been inhabited by Muslims from Thessalonica. Indeed its habitants gave this name on purpose as they did
not want to be bothered by foreigners not to share the beauty of their village.… more
♦ The Site of Ancient Pergamum – City of Science & Satan…? Perched atop a windswept mountain along the Turkish coastline and gazing proudly over the azure Aegean Sea... more
♦ Didyma - Priene - Miletus - the three towns of Priene, Miletus, and Didyma make up part of Ancient Ionia, homeland of many of the ancient world’s greatest artistic and scientific minds, and each endowed with haunting ruins... more
♦ Pamukkale & Ancient Hierapolis. Deriving from springs in a cliff almost 200 m high overlooking the plain of Curuksu in south-west
Turkey, calcite-laden waters have created an unreal landscape, made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced
basins given the name of Pamukkale (Cotton Palace)... more
♦ Aphrodisias is one of the oldest sacred sites in Turkey. The site has been sacred since as early as 5.800 BC, when Neolithic farmers came here to worship the Mother Goddess of fertility and crops... more