All About Turkey

Ephesus

Library of CelsusThe findings obtained in this region where the native people, namely the Lelegs and the Carians have lived since the beginning, indicate that the city is dated back to 2000 years B.C. As far as the years of 1000 are concerned, it is assumed that the Ions came to this region, lead by Androckles. Ephesus was captured by the Kimmers (Cimmerians) in the 7th century B.C., by the Lydians in 560, and later in 546 B.C. by the Persians; and was rescued from the Persian domination when Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in 334 B.C.

Lysimachos, a commander of Alexander's, had the settlement removed from the whereabouts of the Temple of Artemis to the location between the Mount of Panayir and the Mount of Bülbül, and had a wall built around the city.  The city was taken by the Kingdom of Pergamon after 190 B.C., by Rome in 133 B.C., and later by Byzantium. Ephesus maintained its importance during the period of Christianity; the apostle St. Paul arrived there during the years of 50 A.D., and St. John was buried on the hill of Ayasuluk (Selcuk, near Izmir) at the beginning of the 2nd century. Ephesus lived through its third glorious period during the reign of Justinian in the middle of the 6th century A.D. At this time, the Church of St. John was built by the Byzantine emperor.

The ruins of Ephesus, situated near Selçuk town at 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Izmir, is a main center of archaeological interest owing to the ancient remains that still exist. When you enter through the Magnesia Gate (south gate or upper gate), you can see the State Agora (or Upper Agora). The Temple of Isis is situated at the center of the Agora, and Stoa is placed on the North side of it. The Odeion (Bouletarion or Parliament) with a capacity of 1,400 persons is placed behind it and the Prytaneion (Town Hall) where the sacred fire used to burn, is on its flank. The Baths of Varius are placed on the east side of Odeion. On the west of the Agora, the Monument of Memmius built in the 1st century BC., the fountain of Sextilius Pollio built in the year 93 A.D., and the Temple of Domitian (81-93 A.D) are placed. On the south of the Agora, the fountain of Laecanius Bassus is situated. The Curetes street starts downwards from the Temple of Memmius. The Gate of Heracles (Hercules) is placed on this avenue. After passing through this part, the fountain of Trajan built in the years 102-114 is seen on the right hand side and after this, the Temple of Hadrian appears in front of us, in all its splendid beauty (117-138 A.D). The Scholastica Baths, built in the 4th century A.D., are situated behind the Temple of Hadrian. The houses of the rich people of Ephesus which were in front of it, have been restored and opened for visits at present with special permits.

Curetes street in EphesusAt the corner formed by the Curetes street and the Marble Road, the House of Love (Pornaion or Brothel) is placed and the Library of Celsus, restored and reestablished in recent years, stands right in front of this. The library which had been built in the name of proconsul Gaius Celsus completed in the year 135 A.D. by his son Tiberius Giulius Aquila, is entered by way of a stairway, 21 meters (69 feet) in width and having 9 steps. The southeastern gate of the Trade Agora opens to the Library of Celsus. Emperor Augustus' slaves, Mazaeus and Mithridates, liberated by him had this gate built in the year 1st century A.D.; it comprises three sections and has been restored today. The Corinthian columns of the Stoa encircling the Trade Agora with the dimensions 110 x 110 meters (361 x 361 feet), are standing erect today. The Temple of Serapes built in the period of Antony (138-192 A.D.) is placed behind the Trade Agora.

One of the magnificent buildings of Ephesus is the Great Theater, largest in Asia Minor, which had a capacity of more than 24.000 people and is in a rather well preserved condition. The construction had started during the Hellenistic period but it could only be completed during the time of Trajan (98-117 A.D.). St. Paul was dragged into this theater to face the crowed because of his famous letter to Ephesians, but rescued by the security corps of the city. Festivals are celebrated in this theater today.

All the streets of Ephesus were illuminated at night with oil lamps, this shows us the richness of the city. The Port Avenue extends in front of the theater. The avenue is 11 meters (36 feet) wide and 600 meters (1970 feet) long, and it has been called Arcadian Street because it was renewed during the time of Arcadius. On the whole north side of the avenue, there are the Harbor Gymnasium, baths and the Theater Gymnasium. The avenue that passes along the front of the theater, extends towards the Stadium built during the Nero period (54-68 A.D.) and towards the Vedius Gymnasium. The Church of the Virgin Mary built at the beginning of the 4th century A.D. is situated behind the Port Gymnasium just before the exit from the lower gate (north gate). This was also the meeting place of the 3rd Ecumenical Council.

The Temple of Artemis

a statue of ArtemisThe Temple of Artemis is one of the places to visit in Ephesus besides the Church of St. John. The Temple, which had been built at first during the Archaic period (8th c. B.C.), was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world later during the Hellenistic period. In 356 B.C., at the night when Alexander the Great was born, the temple was destroyed by a lunatic called Herostatus who always wanted to be remembered in the future (and he succeeded) and was reconstructed by the citizens of Ephesus. It had 127 ionic style columns and its dimensions were 55 x 115 meters (180 x 377 feet). Some of the column bases of the temple are ornamented with raised relief design. Today, two marble statues of the goddess Artemis can be seen in the nearby archaeological museum. Some other friezes are in British Museum in London.

The House of Virgin Mary

House of Virgin MaryOn Bulbul Dag (Nightingale mountain) there is the House of the Virgin where it's believed that she passed last years of her life and passed away. She came to Ephesus together with St. John and taken up to Panaghia Kapulu mountain to survive the Roman persecutions. The House was destroyed by many earthquakes and not discovered until 1951 thanks to a German nun, Catherine Emmerich, who saw its location in her visions. The site is recognized as a shrine by Vatican and visited by the Popes. Today, the House of Virgin Mary is renovated by George Quatman Foundation from Ohio and serves as a small church which attracts many Christians as well as Muslims coming to pray for Her. The Mass is held here every Sunday. On the 15th August 2000 there was a great ceremony for the Assumption of the Virgin, the year which marked the two thousand years of the birth of Jesus.

The Seven Youths of Ephesus

Maximilian, Jamblicus, Martinian, John, Dionysius, Exacustodian (Constantine) and Antoninus.

These saints lived in the third century in Ephesus. Saint Maximilian was the son of the Ephesian city governor; the remaining six youths were the sons of other notable Ephesian citizens. The youths were friends from childhood, and all were in military service. When the Emperor Decius (249-251) arrived in Ephesus, he commanded all the citizens to appear for the offering of sacrifice to the pagan deities; but torments and the death penalty awaited the recalcitrant. Upon denunciation by those who sought the Emperor's favor, the seven Ephesian youths were also called to account. While standing before the Emperor, the holy youths confessed their faith in Christ. Immediately, their military insignia - their military belts - were taken from them. However, Decius set them free, hoping that they would change their minds while he was on a campaign. The youths left the city and hid in a cave on Mount Ochlon, where they passed the time in prayers, preparing for the martyric struggle. The youngest of them - Saint Jamblicus - clothing himself in pauper's rags, would go to the city and buy bread. During one such excursion to the city, he heard that the Emperor had returned and that they were being sought in order to be put on trial.

Saint Maximilian inspired his friends to leave the cave and appear voluntarily in court. But the Emperor, having learned where the youths were hiding, ordered that the entrance to the cave be blocked up with stones so that the youths would die therein from hunger and thirst. Two of the officials present at the blocking up of the entrance to the cave were secret Christians. Desiring to preserve the memory of the saints, they placed among the stones a sealed coffer in which were two tin plaques. Written thereon were the names of the seven youths and the circumstances of their passion and death.

But the Lord brought upon the youths a miraculous sleep, which lasted nearly two centuries. By that time, the persecutions against the Christians had ceased, although under the holy, right-believing Theodosius the Younger (408-450), heretics appeared, who rejected the resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of them said: "How can there be a resurrection of the dead, when there will be neither body nor soul, since they will be annihilated?" Others asserted: "Only souls will have a recompense, since it is impossible for bodies to rise and come to life after a thousand years, when even dust from them does not remain. It was then that the Lord revealed the mystery of the awaited resurrection of the dead and the future life through His seven youths.

The owner of the parcel of land on which Mount Ochlon was situated began a stone building, and the workers took the entrance to the cave to pieces. The Lord revived the youths, and they awoke literally from ordinary sleep, not suspecting that nearly two hundred years had passed. Their bodies and clothes were completely incorrupt. Preparing to receive torments, the youths charged Saint Jamblicus once more to buy them bread in the city to fortify their strength. On approaching the city, the youth was astounded to see the holy Cross on the gates. On hearing the Name of Jesus Christ freely pronounced, he began to doubt that he had come to his own city.

When paying for the bread, the holy youth gave to the merchant a coin with the depiction of the Emperor Decius and was detained as one who had hidden a treasure of old coins. Saint Jamblicus was brought to the city governor, whom the Ephesian bishop was with at that time. Listening to the youth's perplexed answers, the bishop understood that God was revealing through him some mystery, and he himself set out for the cave together with the people. At the entrance to the cave, the bishop drew the sealed coffer out from the pile of stones and opened it. He read the names of the seven youths on the tin plaques and the circumstances of their immurement in the cave at the command of the Emperor Decius. On entering the cave and seeing the youths alive therein, everyone rejoiced and understood that the Lord, through their waking up from a long sleep, was revealing to the Church the mystery of the resurrection of the dead. Soon the Emperor arrived in Ephesus and conversed with the youths in the cave. And then the holy youths, before everyone's eyes, laid their heads on the ground and again fell asleep, this time until the general resurrection. The Emperor wanted to place each of the youths in a precious reliquary, but the holy youths, appearing to him in a dream, said that their bodies were to be left in the cave on the ground. In the twelfth century, the Russian pilgrim, Abbot Daniel, saw these holy relics of the seven youths in the cave.

The memory of the seven youths is celebrated a second time on the 22nd of October. (According to one tradition, which entered into the Russian Prologue, the youths fell asleep the second time on this day; according to a note in the Greek Menaion of 1870, they fell asleep the first time on the 4th of August, and awoke on the 22nd of October. The holy youths are also remembered in the service of the ecclesiastical new year - the 1st of September.)

Today, the Cave of Seven Sleepers is on one of the sideways going to Ephesus.

St. John Church in EphesusOther places to visit in and around Ephesus are; the Isa Bey Mosque built in 1375; the Church of St. John where he was buried after his exile in Patmos; Roman Aquaducts; and the Archaeological Museum of Ephesus where the ancient remains found in the ruins of Ephesus and environs are beautifully displayed. Also, Sirince village represents an interesting mixture of past-Greek existence with today's local Turkish people producing home made wine and olive oil.

For Tours to Ephesus and excursions around Izmir, please Click Here.

All About Turkey © Burak Sansal 1996–2014, a certified professional tour guide in Turkey. Contact Burak at buraksan@superonline.com for all kinds of regular and/or private travel services throughout the country.