Ephesus itself is one of the best-preserved and most visited of Turkey’s ancient cities. It’s marble streets and monuments have been extensively excavated and restored by the archaeologists, and with only a little imagination it is easy to transport yourself to Roman times.
The city was always indissolubly linked with the Anatolian fertility goddess Cybele, who became the Greek goddess Artemis and Roman Diana. The Temple of Artemis was three times the size of Athens Parthenon and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Today, it’s hard to imagine its glorious past from the only single column left at site and often flooded foundations. The acts of the Apostles record that St Paul came to Ephesus in the 1st century AD and preached that the silver images of the Artemis were not divine. Plus he provoked a riot among the local silversmiths by saying this: ‘Handmade God can’t be the true God.’
Ephesus itself was founded around the 10th century BC by the Ionian Greeks from Samos, and was ruled in turn by the Lydians, Persians, the Attalid kings of Pergamum and finally the Romans, under whom the city became capital of Asia Minor with 240,000 inhabitants. It’s greatness was linked to its port and its Artemis Temple. When the harbor began to silt up the city eventually declined, and around the 6th century AD it was probably deserted. Most of what we see today belongs to the imperial Roman period.
The scale of the site is awesome. With its well-defined streets, a host of public and private buildings, details such as masonry inscribed in Latin and Greek, and with Christian crosses and chariot ruts in the thoroughfares, few places in the world can evoke, more effectively, the feel of a great metropolis 2,000 years ago.