What to see in Turkey
A dream come true for any classical history buffs, a trip to Ephesus reveals centuries of history, from classical Greece to the Roman Empire, and beyond. Situated in Turkey’s Central Aegean region, close to the modern-day city of Selcuk and easily reached from Kusadasi or Izmir, Ephesus is an open-air museum showcasing some of the most important and best-preserved ruins in the Mediterranean. Nestled in the old estuary of the River Kaystros, a tour of Ephesus is a journey through Hellenistic and Roman cultures, with its grand monuments which once attracted pilgrims from across the Aegean and Mediterranean. Thought to have been founded as far back as 6000 BC, Ephesus was both the capital of Hellenic Greece and, later, the capital of the Roman Empire’s Asian province. Ephesus’ most famous monument is the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, although only fragments of its original ruins remain in Ephesus today.
Theologians and archaeologists have always been enamoured by Ephesus as not only was it constructed in honour of the ancient Greek god, Artemis, it later became an important place of pilgrimage for early Christians. The apostles Paul and John both had ties to the city, and it’s thought that the Virgin Mary lived her final years near the city.
As one of the largest archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean, walking through the extensive complex of buildings and ruins it’s easy to imagine the former splendour of magnificent Ephesus.
The ancient city of Ephesus is sure to leave you captivated by its immense historical significance and magnificent structures. The whole site works together as a whole to reveal its complex story, but there are a few top things to see in Ephesus that cannot be missed!
The Library of Celsus is the most important structure to explore if you travel to Ephesus. An ancient Roman construction, it is strikingly impressive, both in its size and well-preserved state. It was the third largest library in the world during the Roman-era, home to thousands of scrolls, and this marvel of Roman architecture lay in ruins until the 1970s, when archaeologists reconstructed the library from its ruins, returning it to its former glory.
Any tour of Ephesus will include the magnificent Great Theatre. Constructed in the 3rd-century BC and enlarged in Roman times, it would have been used to host concerts, plays, political discussion and gladiator shows and seated up to 25,000 spectators! In recent times, the theatre has hosted concerts by huge international artists, but now it is reserved for more intimate performances in order to help preserve the delicate structures.
Having uncovered the public spaces of this ancient city, be sure to visit the Roman House in Ephesus, which gives visitors an extraordinary insight into the lives of upper-class Romans. Located in the heart of the city under a protective roof, the admission fee is more than worthwhile for the unique opportunity to examine an authentic two-storey Roman villa for yourself.
Finally, if you travel to Ephesus to uncover its spiritual past, be sure to visit the Basilica of St. John, located just 3 kilometres from the main city of Ephesus. Constructed in the 6th-century by the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian, it is thought to have been built on the original burial site of John the Apostle himself. The ruins of this impressive basilica still hold great importance to Christian pilgrims today.