Ephesus, Turkey

The ruins at Ephesus are among the most spectacular in the world. (Lori Erickson photo)

Ephesus (Efes in Turkish) is one of the world’s great pilgrimage sites as well as the location of some of the best preserved Greco-Roman ruins in the Mediterranean. Located on the western edge of Turkey, at one time Ephesus was an Aegean coastal city but today, thanks to the silting in of its harbor, it lies about three miles inland, close to the modern town of Selçuk.

Ephesus grew rich both because of its favorable location and as the site of the Temple to Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. During the first century it was one of the most important centers for the early Christian Church and was one of the Seven Churches of Revelation. The city is known for its connections to figures that include St. Paul, St. John, and the Virgin Mary, and was also the site of the Third Ecumenical Council in 431.

Many tourists reach Ephesus via a short airplane flight from Istanbul to Izmir (the ancient city of Smyrna). Ephesus itself has no overnight accommodations, but the nearby resort city of Kuşadası has many hotels and restaurants. Kuşadası is about an hour’s drive from Izmir.

The history of Ephesus stretches back to at least 1000 B.C., though the ruins visible today are remnants of a fourth-century B.C. city founded by Alexander the Great’s successor, Lysinachus. Under the Romans Ephesus became one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world.

Statue at the Library of Celsus in Ephesus (Lori Erickson photo)

The city was destroyed by the Goths in the third century but was rebuilt by the Emperor Constantine, only to be destroyed again by an earthquake in 614. The marble blocks from its homes, temples, and other structures were carted off to make other buildings or were left in disarray, and the site was completely abandoned by the 15th century.

Today Ephesus is one of the major attractions in the Mediterranean, drawing millions of visitors each year. Excavations of Ephesus have been underway for more than a century and archeologists continue to work at the site. Just a small portion of the city has been excavated, but what has been done is spectacular.

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