I had the fortune to visit Ephesus in late September with Melek and it did not disappoint. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of modern day Turkey (it sits three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk). It was built in the 10th century BC by Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League and the city really flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.
The city was famed for housing one of the former Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC). This is also where Paul wrote the first letter to the church in Cornith (1st Corinthians) and later he wrote a letter to the church of Ephesus (Ephesians). Also John lived in the city for a long time and wrote the gospel, letters, and Revelations within the city.
Ephesus’ decline began in 263AD with the invasion by the Goths, the harbor slowly silting up, and an earthquake in 614AD.
Today it is a ruins that is being excavated and has a lot to offer, which is why it has been deemed a World Heritage Site. There are three entrances into the ancient city and I recommend the upper (or southern) gate. It took us three plus hours to explore the ancient city as we walk down the marble clad streets seeing many foundations and partially recreated houses, shops, temples, baths, and fountains. The big highlights for me were:
The Celsus Library – Built 120AD as a library over the tomb of the father of the builder, this library held 12,000 scrolls and was the third largest and most important in the ancient world. The facade has been rebuilt and is amazing in details. For me this was the main reason I wanted to visit Ephesus.
The Terrace Houses – This remarkably preserved Roman block is amazing. It is housed under a protective roof and there is an extra fee to enter, but it well worth the $6. Within the block are six houses used for centuries (changes made here and there just like homes today) and they have uncovered a treasure trove of mosaics, frescoes, and marble works of art showing how the Roman upper class lived.
Great Theatre – Do not mistake the smaller theater at the upper gate for this 25,000 seat theater that was built in 200BC. It was built right in the middle of the city and is impressive in size.
Church of Mary – A large church ruins built in the 5th century and hosted two different Ecumenical Councils.