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This week, Natalie Sayin explores the ancient ruins of Ephesus and explains why, in a land full of similar ruins, this stands out as the place for tourists to explore.
Turkey has a diverse collection of ancient ruins situated across the land. Although all of them are magnificent and equally hold much importance to historic civilizations, one stands at the forefront of them all. Enticing an ever growing stream of tourism to the Aegean coast, Ephesus has an impressive story to tell.
History of the Ancient city of Ephesus
Historians say the area where Ephesus is located, has been inhabited since Neolithic times, but the actual city itself was founded in tenth century BC. With neighbouring cities of Miletos and Priene, It became a member of the prominent Ionian League around the seventh century BC.
Around 560 BC, Ephesus was conquered by the Lydian king Croesus. His greatest achievement was to help build the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Unfortunately, the first temple burned to the ground. Rebuilding work had just started when the city came under invasion by a great conqueror of history, Alexander the Great. Many other rulers came and went, before Ephesus was eventually given to the Imperial Roman Empire and it became the second most important city, succeeded only by Rome itself.
Commercial success flourished, the infrastructure was ground breaking architectural work and citizens achieved great wealth. Sadly, the year 263 AD marked the beginning of its demise.
Arab invasions and earthquakes caused extensive damage but Ephesus‚Äôs main role as a successful commercial city diminished because the coastline was naturally edging away, reducing its purpose as a sea trading port. By the fifteenth century, it was completely abandoned and left for ruins until 1863 when excavations started.
Visiting Ephesus today
Ephesus usually appears on most travel lists of things to do in Turkey. Excavations have uncovered many ancient buildings across a vast landscape but historians estimate that roughly only 10% of the actual city has been uncovered.
Notable attractions include the agora and gate of Augustus but it is other monuments that promptgasps of amazement. Estimated to seat 24,000 people, the large ampitheatre nestled into the side of a hill never fails to impress. First built for entertainment purposes, the Romans turned it into the arena of gladiators, who were then buried in a designated grave yard nearby.
The second illustrious landmark called the Celsius library appears on picture postcards of the city.Reconstructed from all original stones, it held 12,000 scrolls and was built with a unique architectural style aimed at achieving the best daytime sunlight for ease of reading.
In later years, excavations on terraced houses have also made vast achievements. Located opposite the Temple of Hadrian, painstaking work has slowly revealed original floor and wall mosaics, open ceiling courtyards, frescoes and heating pipes. These were rich family houses and two are open to the public. Sadly, the magnificent temple of Artemis does not stand proud and glorious anymore because just one column is visible.
Ephesus, Christianity and the Virgin Marys house
The historic link between Ephesus and Christianity is strong. Mentioned as one ofthe seven churches in the Book of Revelation, historians also believe Saint John wrote his Gospel in the city.After a visit to Ephesus, head to the nearby hills of Selcuk to visit the Virgin Marys house. Believed to be her last resting place, the house is run by monks and nuns who hold numerous services throughout the year.
Ephesus is open daily from 8.30 to 7pm in summer but closes at 5pm in winter. Visit early morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday heat. Ticket booths shut half an hour before closing. Ephesus is close to the resort of Kusadasi and takes roughly two hours to reach from Altinkum. Entrance fee is 25 lira to enter the city and 15 lira to see the terraced houses.
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Originally from the UK, Natalie now lives in Turkey and it is her aim is to visit every town, city & village in this large and beautiful country! Take a look at her Google+ page for more travel insights and wonderful stories.