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Ephesus, the most renowned of the ancient towns founded in the Ionian region in Western Anatolia, is located on the south of Izmir's Selcuk Town. It is considered as one of the most important centers not only in Western Anatolian civilization but also in the history of word civilization. The ruins of Ephesus take on a value and a special significance among the innumerable sites of an archaeological interest: this is due to its inestimable artistic patrimony, its enormous heritage of history and culture, and the inexhaustible beauty and charm of its archaeological site...
The original site of Ephesus was most likely established on the Aegean coast, on the shores of that sea which today is located eight kilometers (5 miles) away from the archaeological excavations. Over the centuries, in fact the rubble brought onto the plain of the Kucuk Menderes has enlarged the alluvial plain surrounding the archaeological zone, leaving behind in actual fact the shores of the Aegean.
The foundation of Ephesus took place between the 16th and 11th centuries B.C., and this assertion is confirmed in part by subsequent archaeological findings. Certainly its founders were if Greek ancestry. In the mean time, the Ionic colonization in Asia Minor progressed rapidly, and very soon the new Ionic cities united in the Ionic Confederacy.
Visits of personalities such as Brutus, Cassius, and Cicero gave testimony to the importance which Ephesus held in the Roman world. During the Hellenistic, Pergammonian and Roman era the importance of the town was sustained. It was the Roman era in which the city grew to become an important commercial center. It was also one of the first five cities of the Roman Empire. In 17 AD a disastrous earthquake brought down the city. The city was re-built later in 123 AD by Tiberius and Hadrian.
During the Christian era Ephesus became a magnificent metropolis of the ancient world such as Alexandria and Antioch. The city was also one of the seven churches of Asia. John the Apostle, is buried (in the church named after him) is also located near Ephesus. Virgin Mary is also believed to have spent her life after the Crucifixion near Ephesus. Both of these events make Ephesus one of the most important landmarks in the history of Christianity. Virgin Mary was verified as the God's Mother by the council convened in the Mother of Mary Church in Ephesus in 453 AD.
The decline of the city began with the invasion of Goths in 262 AD by which the town was burnt down. Ephesus was never to reach its former splender again. Nevertheless in Justinian era (6th century A.D.), landmarks like the Basilica of St. John, was erected by the same Emperor. When Seljuks invaded the city in 1090 AD, Ephesus was far from its past glamour and prominence.
Ephesus which has been of great archaeological value has been first excavated in 1869 by an Englishman. Today excavations are continued by the Austrians and the Turks.
AGORA The Agora is a popular structure found in most Greek cities. The word literally means a gathering space, and the Agora of Ephesus is a large area located in the centre of the city. It lies directly opposite to the grand theatre and served as the central market place before the city turned to ruins. The compound is surrounded by high columns from all sides and is an imposing structure. It has three separate entrances which lead to the library, theatre and harbour respectively. It is a semi enclosed structure, with three sides closed with the help of a portico which was used to set up shops. The Agora in Ephesus is a beautiful compound and is adorned by frescos and statues of the several noted figures of that time. In the middle of the Agora lie a sundial and right next to it is a water clock. The sun dial is still accurate today and is proof of the scientific capabilities of the Greeks. The entire compound along with the city was rebuilt several times and it was completely reconstructed by King Caracalla in the 3rd century.
AQUEDUCT OF SEXTILIUS POLLIO Sextilius Pollio had a giant aqueduct constructed to bring water to the city from the nearby river. The construction of the aqueduct took a long time and nearly 3.5 kilometres of land had to be dug out to connect the city to the river. It was designed with a slope to ensure water would flow naturally towards the city. You can witness the complete aqueduct by climbing the Derbent as you approach the original source of supply for the water.
The original city of Ephesus had a long road connecting the grand baths of the city to the theatre. It suffered a lot of damage through the centuries and was rebuilt on the order of Arcadus. The street was then named after him and was used to set up street markets. It was decorated with columns which are a standard part of most cities from the Hellenistic age. The Arcadian Street is also called the Harbour Street by many since it continues all the way to the harbour of Ephesus.
BATHS OF SCHOLASTIKA
The grand baths of the city of Ephesus are also called the Baths of Scholastika and can be accessed by going through a stairway that passes the Temple of Hadrian. The bath gets its name from an immense statue that is displayed prominently in the hall that leads to the ba
The grand baths are an immense structure and are believed to originally have been a three storey structure. The building had all services for people to wash themselves and had bathrooms as well as changing rooms for the convenience of the city people.
The baths were made to contain a hot room and a cold room. People could use the hot room, or the caldarium, as a sauna. The tradition of group baths and saunas is still popular in Turkey and owes its popularity to the abundance of such structures all over the land. The Frigidarium, or cold room was a large hall with a swimming pool that contained cool water. The entire structure was made using marbles and as many as one thousand people could use the baths at the same time.
BATHS OF VARIUS
The Baths of Varius are of Roman origin and found near the Basilica of Ephesus. Made entirely of marbles, the baths are covered by an outcrop of rocks which serve as a natural roof for the structure. It shares many similarities with the Baths of Scholistika and also contains a frigidarium and a caldarium. The Baths of Varius also had a tepidarium, which is a wet bath, which provided a bathing experience very similar to the showers that we use today in our bathrooms. The baths also contained a fairly large public toilet.
Due to its proximity to the Basilica, it was restored several time in the Byzantine era and bears the mark of the modern architecture styles which are a start contrast to its original Roman architecture.
The Basilica, which starts from the Gymnasium before the Odeion and extends to the foundation chambers on the west was originally devoted to commerce, having been constructed as an exchange. The Basilica was constructed in three sections during the reign of Augustus over a gallery with a single hall, which was located during the Hellenistic period. This is a typical Roman basilica, one unusual feature of which is columns, most of which were restored and installed here.
Its location next to the State Agora permitted commercial transactions to be carried out more rapidly. It has been established that to the east of the Basilica there was a stoa, which underwent major alterations. From here, there were three entrances to the Basilica of which the largest was in the middle. It was here that the statues of Augustus and his wife Livia, on display in the Ephesus Museum, were found. The Basilica is 165 metres long and contains columns with typical 1st century A.D. bulls' heads and Ionian capitals.
The brothels in Ephesus are found both in the Baths of Sholastika, and the Baths of Varius. The brothels closest to the Temple of Hadrian were discovered first and are situated right next to the public toilets of the baths. Initially researchers thought that the building was an extension of the baths, but later an inscription was found on a street sign close to the building that indicated the true purpose of the building.
The brothel was a simple building that had two storeys with small rooms on the upper floor. The ground floor is made up of a large hall where researchers think the women awaited customers.
The hall also contains a few frescos which have mostly faded away. The statue of Priapos was discovered in a well at the end of the building and is now part of the collection at the Ephesus Museum where it attracts curious onlookers because of its comically large phallus.
A legend says that the Celcus library was said to be a gift to Cleopatra from one of her many suitors, however most historians have rubbished this claim. It was an immense library that attracted scholar from far and wide. The restoration process for the main building of the library finished recently and tourists can now enter it to witness this colossal structure from the inside. It is built on a raised structure and a large set of stairs leads to the main entrance of the library. Some historians say that the library was actually built by Gaius Julius Aquila to honour the memory of his father, after whom the building was named. The Library of Celcus is adorned with many facades and columns and has a row of niches on the walls that run throughout the building. Rows after rows of books were kept on these niches and the corners of the niches were adorned with small statues that depicted virtues of reading like wisdom and intelligence. Celcus Polemaeunus, in whose honour the Library was commissioned, is interred within the building and his tomb lies beneath the very centre of the building. Aquila could not see the memorial to his father get completed and it was years later that the library was finally finished by his heirs using the twenty five thousand dinars which Aquila left for this purpose.
CHURCH OF THE VIRGIN MARY
The House of Mary is another important location for anyone who comes to Ephesus for a Catholic pilgrimage. This is the place where Mary lived and died after having to flee Jerusalem after the uprising that followed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, her son. The house was later rebuilt and expanded and converted into the church with the help of the continued efforts of The Vatican. It has spent a lot of money and time to ensure that the Church of Virgin Mary was as grand as possible.
The Church is close to the harbour and promoted Christianity in Anatolia long before the Catholic missionaries started travelling across the world to promote their religion. The building was also used at one time to train priests. The church has been renovated several times since its contraction and sections were added to it each time. Finally the church was transformed into a basilica and several columns and aisles were added to the structure. Different materials were used each time the church was expanded, causing some sections to have mosaic floors while other to have marble or stone floors. The sections added to the basilica similarly vary in size and design, since they often belong to separate centuries and made by different artists using different architectural styles.
Toda the House of Mary has become synonymous with piety and attracts a lot of attention from people of different religions. It is a prominent religious spot and a significant historical site and attracts visitors with varied interests.
The grand theatre of Ephesus was created somewhere during the Hellenistic period and the ample columns supporting this building are proof of that. As many as twenty five thousand people can be seated comfortable in the theatre and in the ancient times the theatre was used to hold events of special note and dramatic performances from travelling companies of theatre artists. The building was razed to the ground by invaders and earthquakes several times and was restored each time.
This much is evident from looking at the photos, the theatre was magnificent building when it was still used actively and had several storey in specific areas for special guests and distinguished personalities. The acoustics of the building are amazing and even the faintest whisper on the stage clearly resonates around the hall. The building was rebuilt so many times that most of the early Hellenistic designs are gone and have been replaced by newer styles and art forms. Many skein fell or were destroyed and the beautiful Theatre of Ephesus is now just a big pile of ruins.
FOUNTAIN OF THE LEOCANIUS BASSUS
The state Agora was adorned by a water fountain, the grandeur of which can now only be imagined. Tourist will be able to see the ruins of a fountain in the South west area of the compound. It was built around 80AD and the site was completely covered by the ground before it was excavated. The fountain was lavishly adorned and the facade of this monument was built on the behest of Bassius who was a well to do businessman and had the orders for the work of making the fountain issued.
The fountain was massive in size and was taller than most single storey and two story buildings that surround them. The fountain was richly decorated and there no expense spared by Bassius to leave behind the fountain as his legacy. He succeeded in ways he could never have even imagined and now a full two millennia later people are still talking about his work. The best stonemasons were employed to decorate the fountain with statues and these statues can be found at the Ephesus Museum now. Constantius the second had the fountain restored once in an effort to allow the people of the city a quiet place in the corner. The fountain was expanded and some sections were added to the fountain during this rebuilding. This section is called the Nymphaion because of the Ephesus aqueduct ending here.
FOUNTAIN OF POLLIO
Sexitilius Pollio commissioned the construction of this fountain and it was later completed by his son, E. Atillius. Sextilius is also the man who had the great aqueduct of the city built. The pool of the fountain is covered and the base has been made out of large block of marbles that were cut carefully into slabs. The statue group of Odysseus and Polyphemus, where a great epic is being told, was found at this site and the Ephesus Museum now holds it.
FOUNTAIN OF TRAJAN
This huge fountain was built to honour King Trajan and stands next to the Hadrian temple. Thanks to the prolonged efforts of the Austrian archaeologists, the fountain has been partially restored and is now kept at the Museum of Ephesus. The pool of this fountain was very wide and was spread over a area of 200 square metres. There is a giant statue of Emperor Trajan that sits atop the facade of the fountain. The statue is in pieces but is still one of the most well preserved items recovered so far from the site.
GATE OF MOZAEUS AND MITHRIDATES OF THE A
Mithridates and Mazeus were slaves who had constructed a giant gate on one side of the Agora. This gate was to lead to the Celcus Library and is one of the grandest gates in the city. The slaves dedicated the gate upon completion to Emperor Augustus. An inscription in Latin is clearly visible on the door and refers to the master of the two slaves, Augustus and his wish to have this door completed. After the demise of Augustus, these two slaves came under the ownership of his son in law Agrippa. They were freed because of their beautiful handiwork and were legally manumitted and given a piece of land in Ephesus where they could live. They became very successful as artists and had the gate built in the memory of their caring master.
The only gate in the city grander than this was the main gate of the city. It was decorated with traditional Ionian arches and columns for which the Hellenistic era is famous.
Built in the 2nd century A.D., it was repaired during the reign of Constantine II(337-361 ). Oriented along an north-south axis, it stands between the harbour and the Gymnasium, and is one of the largest structures in Ephesus, measuring 160x170 m. and 28 m. in height. In the centre of the large hall to the east is the frigidarium, flanked on both sides by dressing rooms. The frigidarium contains a pool, 30 m. in length. Marble composite columns are set on piers 11m. in height. Several statues were found there. The Caldarium, to the west, is a spacious, high-roofed building. Large numbers of statues were found in the baths, and their bases remain in situ.
HARBOUR GYMNASIUM AND VERULANUS BATHS
The harbour baths were originally created for the purpose of travellers and merchants who arrived to the port of Ephesus to conduct business. Here they could wash themselves and freshen up before continuing with their business. The building was constructed in 200 AD and was repaired and expanded once more around 350 AD when Constantine the second was in power. Ephesus was an important centre of commerce and saw thousands of travellers each day. To ensure their comfort, the baths were built on an immense scale and the building is one of the largest structures in the city. The Harbour baths have a frigidarium just like the Baths of Varius and Scholastika and contains a swimming pool that drew water directly from the river. The baths were richly adorned and many statues were discovered in the frigidarium as well as the caldarium of the baths.
The beautiful marble way is one of the monuments recovered from the excavation that could not be properly restored despite the best efforts of researchers. It was found near the Herakkles gate and is believed to have been built somewhere around 100 A.D. The inscription that was found along the monument describes it as part of a larger water fountain that was built upon the orders of Memmius who was a descendant of the famed dictator Sulla.
The Memmius family built an extensive monument around 400 A.D that was made from blocks of marble and was just beyond the gate of Herakkles. Memmius descended Sulla, who was a famous but terrible dictator. The monument was greatly damaged over the centuries of neglect and the Ephesus museum tried restoring the monument but could success only partially. The fragments of the monument are too small and many of them are also missing, which has made it next to impossible for the monument to be fully restored.
The Odeon is a central office in every Greek city where the matters of the state related to city managements are held. They were also sometimes used to hold concerts and were commisoned by a wealthy couple of Ephesus . Publius Anotonius and his wife Flavia ordered the construction of the Odeon and personally oversaw all the expenses for the building.
The Odeon is an enclosed building and could accommodate roughly fifteen hundred at one time. The situation of a podium next to the stage where the actors would perform and right above the place where the orchestra would be seated suggests that the function of the Odeon was primarily business and not entertainment. It was most probably used to hold meetings which the townspeople could attend and discuss events about their cities which needed their attention.
PRITANEION ( MUNICIPAL HALL)
The building next to the Altar of Hestia is believed to have been the Municipal Hall for Ephesus. The area is also believed to be considered sacred by the residents and was treated with reverence. This was most likely due to the Altar being so close to the building. A sacred flame was always kept burning on this altar and artists had toiled extensively to create exact replicas of the temples adorning the Temple of Artemis. The only difference was that while the statues in Temple of Artemis were mostly wooden, the Altar statues were made exclusively using marble.
The Pritaneion was originally constructed before 300 B.C but researchers are confident that the remains that are now lying in the ruins of the city are from a much later date. They explain this using the general trend of Ephesus where separate dynasties would restore old buildings and make their own additions in the process.
The building is surrounded from all sides by smaller buildings that served as offices for municipal officers. The entire building suffered a setback when the marbles and the stones from the building were ordered to be removed and used for building the Baths of Scholastika.
The tower right behind the fountain of Trajan is also known as the Round Tower. It now lies in ruins but was believed to one of the best columns to ever be erected in the city and had beautiful arches that were set on two courses. The tower can today be found near the foothills of Panayyr Mountain.
The stadium of Veralanus is famed for its Hellenistic design that has not suffered much alteration over the years. It was created alongside the Gymnasium of Vedius and both the structures were generally considered as one by historians until some inscriptions were found that indicated otherwise. Sporting events were held at the stadium and athletes from cities far and wide attended the event to represent their homes.
The stadium has row after row of seats that are connected by vaulted passageways. Some of the most popular events that were held in this stadium include chariot races and fight among gladiators.
The open square right outside the basilica near the centre of the city is believed to have served the purpose of a state Agora. An Agora is a large open space where people can convene meetings and social functions. This Agora was built over the one that the original Ephesians constructed centuries ago. The new agora was bigger and much more luxurious than the original one. Upon excavation of this site, archaeologists discovered a number of graves. The sarcophagi recovered from the site were carefully examined and it is believed that the area was used as a necropolis at some point of time.
The renovated Agora roughly has an area of 28000 square metres and researchers are sure that it was built by Emperor Augustus or Emperor Claudius in the first century. Layers upon layers of the city lie on top of each other. The centre of the Agora contains a temple, the Temple of Isis, which is said to have a style that is unusual for that era. Archaeologists have been unable to find the complete temple and so far only its foundations have been found. Historic records suggest that Theodosius ordered the temple to be demolished to make room for the Agora to be expanded.
STREET OF THE CURRETES
The road that lead connect the Celcus library to the Magensia gate on the far east side of the city is believed to have been called the Street of the Curretes. The name was given to the street after a special type of priests called the curettes. Ancient records suggest that these priests were tasked with the responsibility of protecting the sacred fire that had to be lit all the time inside the temple of Hestia. The temple was on this road and their constant presence earned the street this name.
The street is lined with beautiful decorative items like statues and fountains and there were several important monuments that were connected by this street. The street was last seen in the 5th century and no longer exists due to lack of renovation.
TEMPLE OF DOMITION
Ephesians made it a point to never build a temple in the honour og any king. They refused the offer of help from Alexander the Great himself, at a great peril to the city, because Alexander wanted the Temple of Artemis to be dedicated to him. Domitian was the first Ephesian king to ever have a temple dedicated to him. Domitian was a Roman king and a great ally to Ephesus. The people of the city dedicated the temple to the king to honour him and express their gratitude. The temple has almost completely vanished now, and little remains to even mark the spot where the temple once stood. An immense statue of the king Domitian was erected at the temple and the statue can still be seen at the Izmir Museum, along with the altar of the temple which was also subsequently recovered.
TEMPLE OF HADRIAN
The temple of Hadrian is an important landmark in the city of Ephesus primarily because it has been one of the few building in the city that were not completely reduced to rubble. It lies on the now ruined Street of Curretes. It was commissioned by P. Quintillius in the first century and honoured the king Hadrian who had ensured the prosperity of Ephesus by making tremendous efforts. The temple has a facade which contains a very famed frieze. This frieze is supported by Corinthian columns that were a specialty of the era. The frieze is very colourful and depicts several scenes from the daily lives of the Ephesians along with an important scene where the city of Ephesus was first established.
The Vedius gymnasium is the first sight that will catch you eyes when you enter the ruins of Ephesus. It is a large building that looks imposing in spite of being in ruins. The building gets its name from Pubilius Vedius Antoninus, who was a prominent member of the Ephesian society and had the gymnasium built near 200 A.D. The gymnasium helped the city's athletes prepare for sporting events that were held throughout the land and win accolades for their city. The inscription on the gymnasium dedicates this building to Goddess Artemis as well as the Emperor of the city at the time, Antoninus Pius. A special asphalt road was built for the purpose of making the entrance to the gymnasium. When you pass the first doorway, you will reach the palaestra which means the courtyard. The entire palaestra is adorned by columns on all sides. If you move on from the courtyard, you will reach the hall of emperors which has beautiful mosaic floors and contains a large statue of King Pius to whom the gymnasium was dedicated.
The gymnasium also had a bath complete with a frigidarium, a caldarium and a tepidarium for athletes and sportsmen to shower and relax once they were done with the day's activity. The statues that were recovered from this structure are now at display at the Izmir Archaeological Museum.
VICTORY ARCH WITH RELIEFS OF HERCULES
A huge victory arch was constructed at the point where the Street of Curettes seems to meet a secondary street. Records indicate that this arch had reliefs which depicted Hercules and that the arch was commissioned somewhere in the 4th century. Few parts have been found of this arch but the entire arch is still far from being completed. Archaeologists suggest that the arch would bear a close resemblance to the famous arch of Constantine that is in Rome. Historians say that the arch was originally made in another location and was transported to Ephesus for reassembly and erection.