Ephesus city in Turkey, where is the ancient city

Ephesus city in Turkey, where is the ancient city

Ephesus (Turkey) – detailed description with photos. Interesting facts about Ephesus and location on the map.


Ephesus is an ancient city on the west coast of Turkey. It is located south of Izmir on the river Maly Menderes (in ancient times, the Cairo River). Ephesus is one of Turkey’s most famous landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a striking cultural landscape that includes the heritage of ancient Greeks and Romans, Byzantines and Seljuks.

Ephesus is the largest archaeological site in Asia Minor. In Antiquity it was home to one of the most important ancient Hellenistic cities. Ephesus was built on the coast of the Aegean Sea, it grew and grew rich through trade. Subsequently the bay grew shallow, the sea receded, and that caused its decline. Earthquakes buried the city underground until it was discovered by archaeologists in the 1960s.

Ephesus. Celsus Library

Ephesus. Celsus Library

How to get there

Ephesus is located near Selcuk city about an hour away from Izmir. It can be reached from Izmir by train or bus.


The first city in the site of Ephesus emerged already in the Hittite era. It was called Apasha and was the capital of the kingdom of Artsava, which was hostile to them. In the 11th century BC Ephesus was settled by the Ionians and became the capital of the kingdom of Caria. The Ionians built here a classic Hellenistic city with the temples of Athena and Apollo. In the 6th century BC Ephesus was conquered by the Lydians. During this period the city reached its highest prosperity. The temple of Artemis was built here which was recognized as one of the seven wonders of the world.

Temple of Artemis

Temple of Artemis

In the 5th century, Ephesus was the site of a battle between the Persians and the Greeks, in which the latter were defeated. During the Peloponnesian War the city fought in alliance with Sparta against Athens. After the Corinthian War Ephesus was captured by the Persians and only freed by Alexander the Great. After Alexander’s death, Ephesus was taken by one of his generals, Lysimachus. Under him the city was moved to a valley closer to the mountains and fortress walls were built.

The ruins of Ephesus

The ruins of Ephesus

In the 2nd century BC Ephesus became part of the Roman state. The city experienced a new rise under the Romans in the 1st and 2nd century AD. An impressive theater, the famous library of Celsus, temples and the aqueduct were built here. In the 3rd century Ephesus was ruined by the Goths. After the collapse of the Roman Empire the city became part of the Byzantine Empire, and in the 5th-6th century was one of its most important cities. In the 7th century Ephesus was destroyed by an earthquake, the bay became shallow. The city gradually fell into decay. In the 11th century there was a small village here and there was little reminder of the ancient city. In the 15th century Ephesus was finally abandoned. The city was discovered by archaeologists in 1860s.

The sights of Ephesus

Ephesus is a unique archaeological site that is known primarily for sites from the Hellenistic and Roman periods, as well as early Christian structures.

Temple of Artemis

Temple of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, an impressive ancient structure dedicated to the Greek goddess of the same name. The temple was an imposing marble building surrounded by 36 huge columns and decorated with sculptures. All that remains of the temple of Artemis are ruins. The most interesting finds are on display in the British Museum.

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Library of Celsus

Celsus Library

Celsus Library is one of the main attractions of Ephesus. It was built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD. The library was one of the most beautiful buildings of the ancient city with an impressive facade with Corinthian columns.

Great Theater

Roman theater

The Roman theater is one of the most imposing structures of ancient Ephesus. The theater was originally built in the 3rd century BC during the reign of Lysimachus. It was later greatly expanded by the Romans. It is the largest structure of its kind in Anatolia and was used not only for plays, but also for religious, political and philosophical discussions.

House of Our Lady

The House of Our Lady

The House of Our Lady is a typical example of Roman architecture. According to tradition, this ancient house was where the Virgin Mary spent her last days, fleeing persecution after the death of Christ.

Basilica of St. John

Basilica of St. John

St. John Basilica is the ruins of an early Christian church dedicated to John the Theologian who lived and preached in Ephesus.

Isa Bey Mosque

Isa Bey Mosque

The Isa Bey Mosque was built in the 14th century and is one of the prime examples of Seljuk religious architecture.

What else to see in Ephesus:

  • The Magnesian Gate, the ruins of the ancient city gate.
  • The Agora is a Roman square. An ancient acropolis was found in its northeast corner.
  • Temple of Isis, dedicated to the Egyptian goddess and destroyed during the reign of Emperor Augustus.
  • The Odeon is a small theater with a stage for 1,500 spectators.
  • Street of the Curets – stretched from the gates of Hercules to the library of Celsus and the agora.
  • Trajan’s Fountain – One of the finest Roman monuments in Ephesus. It was built in the early 2nd century and is dedicated to the Roman Emperor Trajan.
  • The Temple of Hadrian is one of the best preserved structures of the ancient city. It was built in the 2nd century.
  • The Marble Road is a path leading from the theater to the library of Celsus. The road was built in the 1st century. Here you can see the drawings, which are known as the first advertisement in history.

Interesting facts

  • At its height, Ephesus had a quarter of a million people.
  • The Great Theater could seat about 24,000 spectators.
  • The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus lived in Ephesus.
  • The library of Celsus was one of the largest in the world and contained 12,000 scrolls.
  • Ephesus which in ancient times was located on the shores of the Aegean Sea, is now located 6 km away.

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The ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey. The Temple of Artemis and the House of the Virgin Mary

If you have long wanted to visit the ruins of an ancient metropolis and get into the ancient atmosphere, it’s time to go to the historical complex of Ephesus, Turkey. The unique city-museum, which is listed as a UNESCO heritage site, annually gathers travelers from all over the world. The Temple of Artemis, the Library of Celsus, and the House of the Virgin Mary are only a small part of what awaits you in this cradle of antiquity. Let’s take a look at Ephesus and see the sights that are to be found on its territory in our article.

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The Ancient City of Ephesus

General Info

Map of Ephesus

The ancient city of Ephesus is located in western Turkey, 7 km from the coast of the Aegean Sea and 80 km south of Izmir. It is a historical complex of ancient structures spread over an area of 4.15 square kilometers. The city is widely known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, because of the cult of Artemis the goddess of fertility, in whose honor the city built a temple, which was later added to one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The nearest towns are Selcuk, 3 km to the east and Kusadasi, a resort located 17 km to the southwest. The historical complex is considered one of the most valuable tourist attractions in Turkey and is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. And to make your acquaintance with Ephesus more fascinating and informative, let’s dive into its rich history for a moment.

Historical Background

Statue of Artemis of Ephesus

Artemis of Ephesus.

The ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey is located in an area where the first settlements appeared as early as the Neolithic period, i.e. around the ninth millennium BC. The metropolis itself was founded in the 10th century BC. According to the legend, its creator was the son of the ruler of Athens Androcles who fell in love during the construction of the city with an Amazon from the local tribes named Ephesia. In her honor, as the legend goes, the city was named. It is noteworthy that Ephesus was originally located on the shores of the Aegean Sea, but over the centuries the coast dried up, and the antique metropolis receded into the interior of the mainland.

Bust of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Because of its geographical location Ephesus quickly became an important port and trading center, becoming a real tidbit for conquerors from different parts of the world. In the 6th century BC, the Lydians ruled here, then overthrown by the Persians who were in turn supplanted by the troops of Alexander the Great. At the height of the Roman Empire, the city went to the Romans and was under their patronage until the middle of the 3rd century, when the Goths invaded and sacked Ephesus, bringing it to absolute ruin.

The glorious city was restored during the reign of Byzantium. By the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries Ephesus had become the second most important megalopolis of the empire after Constantinople. The Byzantines rebuilt the city and used it extensively for trading purposes. But in 7th century the coast of Ephesus dried up and gradually filled in with sludge, which led to the loss of access to the Aegean Sea. As a result the trade stopped, and the city lost its importance for the Byzantine Empire.

The first mosque in Ephesus

Isa Bey Mosque

During the formation of the Ottoman Empire Ephesus briefly regained its status as a thriving metropolis. The Seljuks who came here built new baths, mosques and caravanserais. But in the 15th century the neighboring town Ayasoluk (modern Selçuk) became more important to the Ottomans and Ephesus was finally abandoned.

What can be seen on the territory of Ephesus today

Even with a fleeting glance at the photos of the sights of Ephesus in Turkey, you can understand what the scale of this historical complex reaches. In addition to the well-known Temple of Artemis here are scattered unique monuments of antiquity, many of which have survived in excellent condition. What can be seen on the territory of modern Ephesus?

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Of course, we will begin our description with one of the Seven Wonders of the World in Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis, of which today, unfortunately, almost nothing remains. The structure was erected in the 6th century BC in honor of Artemis, the goddess of fertility and patroness of all life on earth. The construction of the temple took about 120 years. Originally the structure consisted of 36 huge columns, later expanded by order of the Lydian king Kreysos in the VI century BC.

The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus

However this wonder of the world was not destined to live long. Already in the 4th century BC a madman by the name of Herostratus set fire to the temple of Artemis. As a result, the main part of the structure burned down, from which only the columns remained. Later, Herostratus explained his action by his desire to be written in the annals of history, after which he was executed, and his name was forbidden to be mentioned in chronicles. During his reign, Alexander the Great tried to rebuild the temple, but it was soon destroyed by the Goths, and subsequently the shrine of Artemis finally fell into disrepair.

The new building of the temple of Artemis was rebuilt in the 2nd century BC. Located on top of the previous one, it had colossal dimensions: 125 columns 17.5 meters high each. The temple was up to 110 m long and 55 m wide. Unfortunately this temple was also destroyed by fire, reconstructed and again destroyed by earthquakes, rebuilt and finally sacked by the Goths a year later.

The statue of Artemis was a symbol of the temple as well as a symbol of abundance, hunting and wildlife. The original statue of Artemis, removed during the fire, is on display today in the Selcuk Museum. Many copies of this statue were found during recent excavations and date back to the Roman period.

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

Modern photos of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus confirm the fact that it was built on a plain that eventually turned into a marsh. That is why the building literally disappeared from the face of the earth, sinking into the abyss over the centuries. Today all that remains of the structure is one dilapidated column, bored in the middle of the swamp, and a couple of blocks of stone in the vicinity. A miniature replica of the Temple of Artemis can be seen in Istanbul’s Park of Miniatures, but it is unlikely it can even partially convey the grandeur of the vanished structure.

The House of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus

In addition to the Temple of Artemis there is another historically important landmark in Ephesus: the House of the Virgin Mary. According to the Catholic version, after the ascension of Christ, the Virgin Mary stayed in Jerusalem and preached Christianity. But there is also another version, which states that the Virgin spent the last years of her life (about 9 years) in Ephesus. Such information has arisen from the testimony of a number of local residents, as well as on the basis of a vision that appeared to a German nun, A. K. Emmerich in the late 19th century.

House of the Virgin Mary

Today the House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus is a miniature building with a small basement inside. In the middle of the last century the building was renovated, and within its walls there is a chapel where believers from all over the world come to pray. Although officially the Catholic Church rejects the version that the Virgin Mary lived in Ephesus, in the last half century three popes have already visited here.

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Great Theater

When visiting the House of Our Lady of Ephesus, be sure to check out the Grand Theater and the Odeon, which have survived to this day in excellent condition. The grandiose three-tiered structure in the form of an ancient Roman amphitheater once held up to 25,000 spectators, and its upper rows were 30 meters high. Today the height of the building reaches only 18 m, and in total there are 66 rows. In ancient times the stage of the theater was decorated with carved columns and artful sculptures, which, unfortunately, have not survived to this day.

Odeon in Ephesus

In Ephesus there is another theater of much smaller scale, but no less interesting – the Odeon. It seats 1500 people and is a two-tiered semi-circular structure divided into four sections, separated from each other by staircases. In ancient times this type of theater was used primarily for singing events, but this theater was used primarily for the meetings of the Senate, in between which theaters were staged.

Library of Celsus

Among the sites of Ephesus the ruins of an outstanding architectural monument of the Roman Empire deserve particular attention. The Library of Celsus was built in the early 2nd century, at the height of the Roman Empire. The building was designed by the architect Tiberius Julius Aquila, who named it after Celsus, the well-educated statesman who was his father. The library was not only a repository for more than 12,000 scrolls, but also a tomb for Celsus himself. During excavations in Ephesus in the early 20th century, archaeologists were able to find a marble tomb with the remains of the once famous Roman.

Ruins of Celsus Library

However, like the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, the library of Celsus did not survive to this day due to the invasion of ruthless Goths who burned the building almost to ashes. Only the facade was left of the building, but it was destroyed in an earthquake during the Byzantine Empire. The remains of the library that we see today are just a reconstruction of the building, which was reconstructed from the surviving ruins. Today it has a two-story facade with columns, the space between which is decorated with four sculptures of women symbolizing Virtue, Wisdom, Knowledge and Thought. But these statues are only copies; the originals are now preserved in the Vienna Museum.

Other sights of Ephesus in Turkey include:

  • The Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, built in Byzantine times
  • Ruins of the ancient Agora, a marketplace once decorated with colonnades
  • The Temple of Domitian, in ancient times decorated with 21 columns and sculptures, of which today only ruins remain
  • the Terrace Houses, the former homes of the city’s well-to-do citizens, where each house served as a terrace for the next, and where frescoes and mosaic floors have survived
  • the Temple of Hadrian, built in honour of a Roman emperor and once decorated with colonnades, arches, and sculptures of other rulers
  • Via Cureta, once paved with marble and decorated with statues and columns

Opening hours and ticket prices

Ephesus Historical Complex

Ephesus Historical Complex in Turkey is open every day. From April 15 to October 2, the attraction is open from 8:00 am to 6:30 pm and from October 3 to April 14 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

  • The cost of admission is $9 in local currency. If you are a museum card holder, admission is free.
  • Visits to the terraced houses, St. John’s Basilica and the archaeological museum are charged separately: the ticket price varies from $2 to $3, depending on the attraction.
  • An audio guide in Russian is also available for $5.
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Admission tickets are sold at the ticket offices and self-service terminals.

Helpful tips

The Gates of Hercules in Ephesus

Hercules Gate

Many travelers have already managed to visit the city of Ephesus in Turkey and not stingy to share useful recommendations, taking into account which you will be able to organize the most comfortable tour of the ancient complex.

Lots of tourists

  1. In order to get acquainted with the most interesting objects of the city, you will need at least 3 hours.
  2. It is better to go to the complex closer to its opening, because in the daytime you can be caught by the unbearable heat, and the shade among the ruins is very difficult to find.
  3. If you decide to go to Ephesus in high season, be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen and water.
  4. When visiting the Grand Theater, tourists recommend climbing to the top rows, which offer spectacular views of the city.
  5. If you can’t make it to the attraction in the morning, we recommend visiting closer to 4 p.m. It’s not as hot at that time, and there are far fewer people.
  6. Many travelers recommend hiring a professional guide or buying an audio guide. In this case, your tour will be the most interesting and informative.
  7. If you want to save money, then go to Ephesus on your own, not with a travel agency. Otherwise, you run the risk of overpaying at least three times.
  8. Since there are so many sights scattered throughout the complex, you’ll need a full charge on your camera (phone) to capture all of these unique sites.
  9. Take everything you need with you (wet wipes, batteries, sunglasses, etc.), because there are no stores on the grounds of the ancient city, and the shops at the entrance are selling goods at three times the price.
How to get to Ephesus

The best way to get to Ephesus in Turkey is from nearby towns – Selcuk and Kusadasi. Ephesus is 3 kilometers west of Selcuk and you can get here by dolmus from the bus station. The trip takes no more than 10 minutes. The cost of travel is $0.5.

Dolmush to Ephesus

If you stay in Turkey at the resort of Kusadasi, located 17 km southeast of Ephesus, the road to the complex will take you about half an hour. Go to the ancient city can be reached by dolmusha, following the route Kusadasi – Selcuk, which departs from the city bus station several times an hour. The fare is $1 and you should tell the driver you are going to Ephesus and get off at the turn with the sign ‘Efes’. All you have to do then is to drive 1 km along a straight road to the complex.

You can take a cab, a rented car or a guided tour to the antique city. But all these options are much more expensive. It’s up to you to decide which way to get to Ephesus, Turkey.

The video tour of Ephesus with a lot of informative facts. Check it out!

Author: Catherine Unal

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