Ephesus was captured by the Kimmers (Cimmerians) in the 7th century BC, by the Lydians in 560, and later in 546 BC by the Persians; and was rescued from the Persian domination when Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in 334 BC.
Lysimachos, a commander of Alexander’s, had the settlement removed from the whereabouts of the Temple of Artemis to the location between the Mount of Panayir and the Mount of Bülbül and had a wall built around the city. The city was taken by the Kingdom of Pergamon after 190 BC, by Rome in 133 BC, and later by Byzantium. Ephesus maintained its importance during the period of Christianity; the Apostle St. Paul arrived there during the years of 50 AD, and St. John was buried on the hill of Ayasuluk (in Selcuk) at the beginning of the 2nd century. Ephesus lived through its third glorious period during the reign of Justinian in the middle of the 6th century AD. At this time, the Church of St. John was built by the Byzantine emperor.
The ruins of Ephesus, situated near Selçuk town at 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Izmir, is the main center of archaeological interest owing to the ancient remains that still exist. When you enter through the Magnesia Gate (south gate or upper gate), you can see the State Agora (or Upper Agora). The Temple of Isis is situated at the center of the Agora, and Stoa is placed on the Northside of it. The Odeion (Bouletarion or Parliament) with a capacity of 1,400 persons is placed behind it and the Prytaneion (Town Hall) where the sacred fire used to burn, is on its flank. The Baths of Varius are placed on the east side of Odeion. On the west of the Agora, the Monument of Memmius built in the 1st century BC., the fountain of Sextilius Pollio built in the year 93 AD, and the Temple of Domitian (81-93 AD) are placed. On the south of the Agora, the fountain of Laecanius Bassus is situated. The Curetes street starts downwards from the Temple of Memmius. The Gate of Heracles (Hercules) is placed on this avenue. After passing through this part, the fountain of Trajan built in the years 102-114 is seen on the right-hand side and after this, the Temple of Hadrian appears in front of us, in all its splendid beauty (117-138 AD). The Scholastica Baths, built in the 4th century AD, are situated behind the Temple of Hadrian. The houses of the rich people of Ephesus which were in front of it, have been restored and opened to visitors.
At the corner formed by Curetes street and Marble Road, the House of Love (Pornaion or Brothel) is placed and the Library of Celsus restored and reestablished in recent years, stands right in front of this. The library which had been built in the name of proconsul Gaius Celsus completed in the year 135 AD by his son Tiberius Giulius Aquila, is entered by way of a stairway, 21 meters (69 feet) in width and having 9 steps. The southeastern gate of the Trade Agora opens to the Library of Celsus. Emperor Augustus’ slaves, Mazaeus and Mithridates, liberated by him had this gate built in the year 1st century AD; it comprises three sections and has been restored today. The Corinthian columns of the Stoa encircling the Trade Agora with the dimensions 110 x 110 meters (361 x 361 feet), are standing erect today. The Temple of Serapes built in the period of Antony (138-192 AD) is placed behind the Trade Agora.
One of the magnificent buildings of Ephesus is the Great Theater, the largest in Asia Minor, which had a capacity of more than 24.000 people and is in a rather well-preserved condition. The construction had started during the Hellenistic period but it could only be completed during the time of Trajan (98-117 AD). St. Paul was dragged into this theater to face the crowd because of his famous letter to Ephesians but rescued by the security corps of the city. Festivals are celebrated in this theater today.
All the streets of Ephesus were illuminated at night with oil lamps, this shows us the richness of the city. The Port Avenue extends in front of the theater. The avenue is 11 meters (36 feet) wide and 600 meters (1970 feet) long, and it has been called Arcadian Street because it was renewed during the time of Arcadius. On the whole north side of the avenue, there are the Harbor Gymnasium, baths and the Theater Gymnasium. The avenue that passes along the front of the theater, extends towards the Stadium built during the Nero period (54-68 AD) and towards the Vedius Gymnasium. The Church of the Virgin Mary built at the beginning of the 4th century AD is situated behind the Port Gymnasium just before the exit from the lower gate (north gate). This was also the meeting place of the 3rd Ecumenical Council.
In July 2015 Ephesus archaeological site with surrounding Virgin Mary’s House, Ayasuluk Fortress, and Cukurici hoyuk has entered into the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Other places to visit around Ephesus are; the Cave of Seven Sleepers, House of Virgin Mary, the Temple of Artemis from 8th century BC, the Isa Bey Mosque built-in 1375; the Church of St. John where he was buried after his exile in Patmos; Roman Aquaducts; and the Archaeological Museum in Selcuk where the ancient remains found in the ruins of Ephesus and environs are beautifully displayed. Also, Sirince village represents an interesting mixture of past-Greek existence with today’s local Turkish people producing homemade wine and olive oil.
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