The ruins of Ephesus, one of the largest archaeological sites in the world, are one of the best preserved of the many treasures of the Turkish coast and offer a glimpse of daily life in the classical world.
Magnesian Gate was discovered during the excavation carried in 1869. The original building was possibly erected in the Doric order with a passageway 3.70 m wide and an almost square courtyard on the city side. There were three entrances to Ephesus; The Magnesian Gate (on the road the house of Mother Mary), the Koressos Gate (at the back of the Stadium) and the harbour.
East Gymnasium building was actually a bath-gymnasium complex, erected in about the 2C AD.
It lay immediately north of the Magnesian Gate. There was a lecture hall (palaestra) at the entrance. During the excavations, the statues of healing god Asclepius, Aphrodite, Dionysus, Hygeia, and Pan were found enriching here. They are in Izmir Archaeology Museum today.
There were enormous bathing halls in the centre of the structure, surrounded on three sides by vaulted halls for physical exercise, games and for strolling after the bath.
Early Christian Basilica was built over the Hellenistic city wall to the east of the lecture hall in the late 4th or 5th century. Then it was converted into a three-aisled basilica with narthex and arcades. Most of the floor surface was covered with decorative mosaics. The church was abandoned after the fire in 7 century AD.
St. Like’s Grave - there was a circular structure which was described as the grave of St Luke because of the bull carved into the door.
Apostle or Evangelist Luke is the author of the Gospel of Luke, the companion of the Apostle Paul (Phil 1:24, 2 Tim 4:10-11). He was born in Antioch, studied Greek philosophy, medicine, and art in his youth. He came to Jerusalem where he came to believe in Lord Jesus. He and Cleopas met the resurrected Lord on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24).
In addition to his Gospel, St. Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Luke was 84 years old when the wicked idolaters tortured him for the sake of Christ and hanged him from an olive tree in the town of Thebes, in Boethia. He was the patron of the medical profession. He was reported to be a fine painter and is also patron of artists, painters, sculptors, craft workers and lace makers.
His symbol was the bull, the third symbolical beast mentioned by Ezekiel (1:10), which is a symbol of Christ's sacrificial and priestly office, as pointed out by St. Irenaeus.
Bath of Varius - The ruins to the east of the Basilica belong to the bath of Varius, dating to the Roman period. The construction dates to the 2nd century AD and the mosaics in the 40 meters long corridor dates to the 5th century. It is built of cut blocks of marble. It has three sections, frigidarium (cold water), tepidarium (warm water) and caldarium (hot water). The excavations have not been completed yet.
State Agora is located on the southern part of the Basilica and was built in the Roman Period in the first century BC. This agora was used not for commerce but for business; it played an important role as a meeting place for the governmental discussions. During the excavations in the northeast corner of the Agora a great number of graves from the 7th - 6th centuries BC, a stone-paved road, and an archaic sarcophagus of terra cotta were found. From this it was understood that in the archaic period that part of the Agora had been used as the necropolis of Ephesus. There is a water reservoir at the corner of the Agora, which played an important role in Ephesus. Its water was brought to the city through the Pollio Aqueduct; the remains of the Pollio Aqueduct can be seen 5 km away, along the Seljuk-Aydin highway.
The Temple of Isis was destroyed during the reign of the Emperor Augustus because of Augustus’ hostility towards Anthony and Cleopatra. Some of the parts of this building were used for the construction of The Polio Fountain.
Ephesus throughout its history always had a large Egyptian population and Isis was a very important Egyptian goddess. She is the wife and sister of Osiris and the mother of Horus. There was a temple of Isis rectangular in shape and in the centre of the State Agora. The temple was built during the Hellenistic period when Ephesus had close relations with Alexandria.
Her name literally means Queen of the throne, which was portrayed by the emblem worn on her head, that of a throne. She is known as being the goddess of magic and healing. Ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile flooded every year because of her tears of sorrow for her dead husband, Osiris. He was killed by her other evil brother, Set, god of chaos and destruction.
Her origins are uncertain but are believed to have come from the Nile Delta; however, unlike other Egyptian deities, she did not have a centralized cult at any point throughout her worship. First mentions of Isis date back to the Fifth dynasty of Egypt which is when the first literary inscriptions are found, but her cult became prominent late in Egyptian history, when it began to absorb the cults of many other goddesses. It eventually spread outside Egypt throughout the Middle East and the Roman Empire, with temples dedicated to her built as far away as the British Isles. Worshipping of her remained in Christian Europe as late as the 6th century.
Isis gave the hope of eternal life or resurrection. In Anatolian religions this idea gained popularity because there had been no belief in an afterlife before her. Today the name Isis is still a beloved name among modern Coptic Egyptians, and in Europe the name Isadora is very common.
Hydrekdocheion or the Fountain of Laecainus Bassus was ordered by Gaius Laecanius Bassus in 80-82 AD. The facade of this fountain constructed by Bassus, one of the governors of Ephesus, was richly decorated, and consisted of two floors which faced the street. The statues of Tritons and Muses (sea creatures and river gods), which were found at the fountain, are now on display at the Ephesus Museum. Because of the enormous size of the fountain it has been referred to as the Water Palace.
This fountain is connected to another fountain which is located just opposite it to the west of the State Agora, and also at the same time to a storage cistern. The main section consists of a body in the form of a semicircle and was built in the 2nd century AD. The fountain building aligned with Domitian Lane and the terrace of the Temple of Domitian. The main basin was measuring 12.35 m x 8.30 m, which served as a water reservoir, had the U-shaped aedicule facade.
The fountain underwent repairs in the reign of Constans and Constantius II (337-350) when the present wings were added. In inscriptions, this structure is referred to as the Nymphaion. It is the terminal point of the Aqueduct of Sextilius Pollio, which was built during the reign of Augustus between 7 & 15 AD. The aqueduct was 3.5 kilometres long, and its remains may still be seen along the Seljuk-Aydin highway. There was a cistern in the upper part of the fountain, and the surroundings of the structure were decorated with statues of the Emperor.
Basilica is a typical Roman Basilica 160 meters long, and located on the northern part of the state agora and has a nave and three-aisles. The Ionic columns in the basilica are adorned with bulls' head figures dating to the 1st century AD.
The basilica was used for stock exchange and commercial business. Meetings of the law courts were also held here. It has three gates opening onto a “stoa” leading to the Bath of Varius. The statues of Augustus and his wife Livia were found at the east end, and now they are displayed in Ephesus Museum. The Basilica was rebuilt for the last time during the reign of the Emperor Augustus. It was destroyed by an earthquake in the middle of the 4th century AD.
The Odeon was a small roofed theatre constructed by Vedius Antonius and his wife around 150 AD. It was a small salon for plays and concerts, seating about 1,500 people. There were 22 stairs in the theatre. The upper part of the theatre was decorated with red granite pillars in the Corinthian style. The entrances were at both sides of the stage and reached by a few steps.
It had double function in use. First it was used as a Bouleuterion for the meetings of the Boulea or the Senate. The second function was the Odeum as a concert hall for the performances.
It had 3 doors opening from the stage to the podium. The podium was narrow and one meter higher than the orchestra section. The stage building was two-storeyed and embellished with columns. The podium in front of the stage building and some parts of the seating were restored. The Odeon used to be enclosed with a wooden roof.
Two councils administrated Ephesus. These were Demos or the parliament which was open to the public was taken place in the great theatre and the Bouleia which gathered in this small theatre. The members of the “boulea” were chosen from the aristocratic class of Ephesians. The most important decisions and city matters were discussed here.
Temenos (the Temples of Dea Roma and Divus Julius Caesar) used to be two temples between the Prytaneum (town hall) and Odeon (Concert hall). They were Imperial Cult erected in the 1st century AD with the permission of Augustus in honour of his adoptive father Julius Caesar, and of Rome. The Imperial Cult never became a true religion. They aimed to have good relationship with emperors and flatter. There was an altar serving the worship of Artemis and Augustus.
The Prytaneion was a place where religious ceremonies, official receptions and banquets were held. The sacred flame symbolizing the heart of Ephesus was kept constantly alight in the Prytaneion. The construction of the building dates to the 3rd century BC, during the reign of Lysimachos, but the ruins of the complex dates to the Augustan age.
The four-cornered pit in which the sacred fire is burned is a relic from the reign of Lysimachos. The front of the building is four columns, beyond the columns is a courtyard surrounded by a portico, and on the north is the centre of the building, the ceremonial hall, and its side rooms. The eternal flame was here in the centre of the ceremonial hall, the red colour on the floor determined the location of the flame. Towards the back, there was a large area with wooden roof; the base of an altar is still recognizable today.
The double columns on the corners of the hall held up the wooden roof. During excavations, two Artemis statues, which are now presented in Ephesus museum, were found.
The Temple of Domitian (also known as the Temple of the Sebastoi), dedicated to the Flavian dynasty, was the first temple to be built in the name of an emperor (81 – 96 AD) and one of the largest temples in the city and is located to the south end of the Domitian Street. It was erected on a pseudo dipteral plan with 8×13 columns. The temple and its statue are some of the few remains connected with Domitian.
Domitian Square derives its name from Domitian Temple. The Polio Fountain and Memmius Monument stands opposite of each other.
The Polio Fountain was situated on its left side of this temple. Water brought by aqueducts is distributed from this fountain by a branching system of baked clay pipes. Richly decorated sculpture from the Hellenistic period was excavated there. The sculpture depicts Odysseus while he was blinding Polyphemus (cyclops) in order to escape from his cave.
Memmius Monument was a memorial which was dedicated to Memmius, son of Caius and grandson of Sulla.
The Tomb/Fountain of Pollio was erected in 97 AD in honour of C. Sextilius Pollio, who constructed the Marnas aqueduct, by Offilius Proculus. It has a concave façade.
The Memmius Monument is situated on the north side of the Domitian Square. It was constructed during the reign of Augustus in the 1st century AD by Memmius, the grandson of Dictator Sulla. One can see the figures of his father and grandfather on the blocks today. The structure has four facades; in the 4th century AD a square fountain was built on the northwest facade. When Rome increased taxes enormously the Ephesus folk repined. It was Mithridates of the Pontic Empire on the Black Sea Coast whose motto was “Asia for Asiatic:” came to their rescue and started a revolt, in which 80,000 Romans were killed. Three years later the revolt was suppressed by the Roman army under the command of Dictator Sulla and this monument was erected to commemorate his victory, in 87 BC.
The Hercules Gate is located towards the end of the Curates Street and bears the relief of Hercules on it. The pillars were placed here in the 4th cCentury but their workmanship suggests a 2nd centure craft and they were presumably moved from another building. Only the two sides of the columns remain today while the other parts of it have been lost. The relief of the flying Nike in the Domitian Square is thought to be a part of this gate. The space between allows passage for only two people side by side and is presumed to have blocked vehicular traffic from clogging the city's main street.
On these reliefs Hercules is seen wrapped in the skin of the Nemean Lion.
HERCULES AND THE NEMEAN LION - the first and easiest of Hercules' twelve tasks set by his cousin Euyrstheus was to slay the Nemean lion, a vicious mythological predator with a fondness for human flesh. The huge beast was the son of the 100-headed monster Typhon and Echidna (half woman, half snake). The skin of the lion was so thick that arrows could not harm it. Hercules, never a master of subtlety, clubbed the lion into unconsciousness and then put his arm down the lion's throat and choked it to death. The skin was so tough that only the claws of the lion could cut it off. Realizing its protective value, Heracles then wore the pelt with the jaws forming the headpiece and the paws knotted across his chest to form a cloak. The olive wood club and pelt are two of the symbols typically associated with Hercules.
The Curetes Street is one of the three main streets of Ephesus between the Hercules Gate and the Celsius Library. This street took its name from the priests who were called Curetes. Their names were written in Prytaneion.
Those days the fountains, monuments, statues and shops lined the sides of the street. The shops on the south side were two-storied. In the cause of its history Ephesus had been severely damaged by a number of earthquakes that destroyed its many structures including the Curetes Street. The columns had been restored, but after the devastating earthquake of the 4th century, the columns were replaced by the ones brought from different buildings in the city. The differences of the design of the columns can be seen clearly. The street that exists today belongs to the 4th century.
There were also many houses on the slope. Those belonged to the rich Ephesians. Under the houses there were colonnaded galleries with mosaic floors in front of the shops covered by a roof to protect the pedestrians from sun or rain.
Fountain of Trajan - Along the Curetes Street, in a wonderful succession of ancient ruins, sculpted pillars decorated with sculptural figurations, we can see reconstruction on a reduced scale (the original reached a height of 12 meters) of one of the most remarkable Ephesian monuments. The fountain was erected between 102 and 104 AD and as the attached inscription reads, was consecrated to the Emperor Trajan. The tympanum which dominates the upper line is supported by Corinthian columns, in the central niche was one located an enormous statue of Trajan, of which only the base with the feet and the globe remain. The many sculptured figurations which once populated this fountain (members of the Imperial Family, Dionysus, Aphrodite, Satry) have been carried to the Museum.
The Terrace Houses (Slope Houses) were owned by the richest Ephesians. These were high ranking officers, governors and rich tradesman. The sizes of the homes are starting from 90 sq. m and the largest one was 560 sq. m. They date back to the 1st century. AD and some of them were used up to the 7th century AD. Many of them were two storied houses and had peristyles; peristyle meaning that each home had a courtyard surrounded by rooms without windows. Above the courtyard there was an opening for fresh air and when it rained, rain water was collected either in a pool or a well. Floors of the homes were decorated with marble and mosaics; the walls with stucco having mythological scenes. They were luxuriously furnished private houses with fountains, private baths and central heating. Between the street and houses was a portico with a mosaic floor, behind which were shops. Their homes were single family homes. Homes were made, quite often, of brick with red tile roofs, with rooms arranged around a central courtyard. The windows and balconies faced the courtyard, not the street, to keep homes safe from burglars. There was very little furniture, and no carpeting. Wealthy Romans might have a house with a front door, bedrooms, an office, a kitchen, a dining room, a garden, a temple, an atrium, a toilet, and a private bath.
Library of Celsius, the façade of which has been carefully reconstructed from all original pieces, was originally built c. 125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an Ancient Greek who served as governor of Roman Asia (105–107) in the Roman Empire. Celsus paid for the construction of the library with his own personal wealth and is buried in a sarcophagus beneath it. The library was mostly built by his son Gaius Julius Aquila and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls. Designed with an exaggerated entrance — so as to enhance its perceived size, speculate many historians — the building faces east so that the reading rooms could make best use of the morning light.
Celsius was a native of nearby Sardis and amongst the earliest men of purely Greek origin to become a consul in the Roman Empire and is honoured both as a Greek and a Roman on the library itself. Construction on the library began in 117 AD and was completed in 120, in Ephesus, a territory that was traditionally Greek. The building is important as one of the few remaining examples of an ancient Roman-influenced library. It also shows that public libraries were built not only in Rome itself but throughout the Roman Empire. The interior of the library and all its books were destroyed by fire in the devastating earthquake that struck the city in 262 A.D. Only the façade survived. About 400 AD, the library was transformed into a Nymphaeum. The façade was completely destroyed by a later earthquake, probably in the eleventh or tenth century.
The library is built on a platform with nine steps the full width of the building leading up to three front entrances. The central entrance is larger than the two flanking ones, and all are adorned with windows above. Flanking the entrances are four pairs of Composite columns elevated on pedestals. A set of Corinthian columns stands directly above the first set, adding to the height of the building. The pairs of columns on the second level frame the windows as the columns on the first level frame the doors, and also create niches that would have housed statues. It is thought there may have been a third set of columns, but today there are only two registers of columns. This type of façade with inset frames and niches for statues is similar to that found in ancient Greek theatres (the stage building behind the orchestra, or skene) and is thus characterised as scenographic.
The main entrance is both a crypt containing Celsius’ sarcophagus and a sepulchral monument to him. It was unusual to be buried within a library or even within city limits, so this was a special honour for Celsius.
The interior of the building, not fully restored, was a single rectangular room (measuring 17x11 m) with a central apse framed by a large arch at the far wall. A statue of Celsius or of Athena, goddess of truth, stood in the apse, and Celsius' tomb lay directly below in a vaulted chamber. Along the other three sides were rectangular recesses that held cupboards and shelves for the 12,000 scrolls. Celsius was said to have left a legacy of 25,000 denarii to pay for the library's reading material.
The second and third levels could be reached via a set of stairs built into the walls to add support to the building and had similar niches for scrolls. The ceiling was flat, and there may have been a central square oculus to provide more light.
The style of the library, with its ornate, balanced, well-planned façade, reflects the Greek influence on Roman architecture. The building materials, brick, concrete, and mortared rubble, signify the new materials that came into use in the Roman Empire around the 2nd century AD.
The Temple of Hadrian dates from the 2nd century but underwent repairs in the 4th century and has been re-erected from the surviving architectural fragments. The reliefs in the upper sections are casts, the originals now being exhibited in the Ephesus Archaeological Museum. A number of figures are depicted in the reliefs, including the Emperor Theodosius I with his wife and eldest son.
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