Ephesus is one of the best-preserved ancient cities in Turkey. Both Saint Paul and Saint John the Evangelist preached here. The Ephesus theater could seat 24,000 people back then.
The other big attractions in Ephesus are the Temple of Hadrian, the Library of Celsus, and the Terrace Houses for the ultra rich people of the ancient world.
The gleaming marble monuments of Ephesus, 80 km south of Izmir on the coast road, comprise one of the best-preserved ancient cities on the Eastern Mediterranean, and are an absolute magnet for tourists. Note that Ephesus and the adjacent town of Selcuk are really a pair, so what you see in the Selcuk museum will illuminate your visit to the ancient city, and Selcuk is the site of the great Temple of Artemis, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient World.
Set on a sheltered harbor and at the mouth of a river, Ephesus has been a settlement for millennia. It was originally built by immigrant Athenians in 1000 B.C., was conquered by the rich King Croesus, and was then held, in relatively peaceful succession, by the Persians, Alexander, the Romans, and the Byzantines. Originally founded to celebrate the Greek goddess Artemis, the city moved as smoothly through its various religious incarnations as it did through its political ones. Both Saint Paul and Saint John the Evangelist preached here. Saint John may have been accompanied by the elderly Mary to Ephesus. The city was the site of two church councils. The decline of the worship of Artemis somehow sapped Ephesus of its founders’ vigor; this, and the silting of its harbor caused it to decline in both influence and size during the Byzantine era.
Nonetheless, what remains is magnificent. The first century A.D. stadium was designed to seat 30,000 people. It was a venue for everything from chariot races to gladiatorial contests. The ancient theater was started in the Hellenistic period, what stands today is almost entirely Roman. It is a huge semi-circle edifice backed by Mount Pion. The pitch increases as you climb up the rows of seats, allowing a clear view of the stage for spectators in the upper reaches. The theater could seat 24,000 and, over the centuries, viewers were treated to plays, as well as the preaching of Sain Paul; in modern times, the theater hosts music and dance performances in May.
The theater stands at one end of the Arcadian Way, a wide colonnaded Street that runs to the middle harbor gate. Built in the fifth century A.D., it was the model of an urban thoroughfare. On the either side were covered walkways protected strollers from the sun and the rain. Plus illuminated at night with lamps. Crews from ships made their way into the city by this way. They must have mingled with the townspeople here, exchanging news of the outside World while they relaxed in this comfortable, cosmopolitan port city.
From the theater, follow the Marble Avenue, paved with marble slabs, to the Library of Celcus. It was erected in the second century A.D. by the Roman Consul Gaius Julius Aquila. His father Celcus was subsequently buried in an ornate sarcophagus under the building’s western wall. The library housed 12,000 scrolls that were stored in the niches seperated from the outer walls, to protect them from heavy heat and humidity during the hot summers.
Near the library, the Kuretes Street crosses the Marble Avenue, and at the corner is the city’s brothel. The small Temple of Hadrian lies farther up the street. Dedicated in the second century A.D. as a gift to the city, and to Artemis by the roman emperor Hadrian. This gracious structure fronted by Corinthian columns. The original friezes are in the selcuk museum. Nearby, note the large mosaic floors are located at front of the row of shops. Behind them, steps lead up to the Terrace Houses. These airy, frescoed, mosaic-decorated structures were home to the ultra riches of Ephesus in the imperial and early Christian period. They will give you an idea of what life was like fort he well-to-do.
The Street of Kuretes continues past the Odeon, a small theater for poetry readings and music, to the Magnesian Gate. Here a colonnaded road to the Temple of Artemis begins. Also caravans bound for the east left from this point for the ancient Persia and India passing through Susa.