EPHESUS — Ephesus

Ephesus is one of the greatest ruined cities in the world. The first city to be built here was by the Greeks in 1000 BC. The city you see today was founded in the 4th century BC by Lysinachus who was the successor of Alexander the Great. Most of the surviving structure of today’s Ephesus dates from Roman times when it became the main port on the Aegean Sea. As the harbour silted up, the importance of Ephesus declined. The ruins of Ephesus are a major tourist attraction and are an important site for Christians because of their association with the biblical figures of St Paul, St John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary.

There are several ways to get to Ephesus depending on where you start from. If you are coming from Istanbul you can catch a plane to Izmir and then take a bus to the town of Selçuk. From here you can take either another bus or a taxi to Ephesus. A more comfortable journey would be to stay in Selçuk overnight. If you stay in Selçuk you could probably arrange transportation via your accommodation place. If the weather is pleasant you can even walk to Ephesus along the tree-shaded Dr Sabri Yayla Bulvari and it will take you around 25 to 30 minutes depending on how fast you walk.

The sights found in Ephesus are:
Tomb of Luke the Evangelist
Varius Baths
The Basilica
The Odeion
City Hall
The State Agora
Monument of Memmius
Pollio Monument
Temple of Domitian
The Gate of Hercules
Curetes Street
The Fountain of Traianus
The Temple of Hadrian
The Baths of Scholasticia
Terrace Houses
The Octagon
The Latrina
The Brothel
The Library of Celsus
The Gates of Mazaeus and Mithridates
Commercial Agora
The Marble Street
The Grand Theatre
Harbour Street

Tomb of Luke the Evangelist

Tomb of Luke the Evangelist
The Apostle Luke is the author of the Gospel of Luke from the bible and he was the companion of the Apostle Paul. His symbol was the bull and in Ephesus there was a circular structure which was named the Tomb of Luke the Evangelist because of the bull reliefs carved on the doors. It is found south of the road and east of the parking lot at the upper entrance of Ephesus. The tomb dates from the 2nd century AD and is found on ruins dating from an earlier period.

Varius Baths

Varius Baths
These baths are thought to have been built as a gymnasium. They are found near the entrance and date back to the 2nd century AD. The mosaics found on the western and southern sides of the baths date back to the 5th century. The complex was built into the hillside of Mount Pion, east of the Agora. The plan isn’t a typical Roman design as it is assymetrical. There are the usual areas such as a cold section, a dressing section, a warm section, a hot section and a sweating section. The baths were heated from an underground hot air system. The complex included a bathing pool, a public lavatory as well as several smaller rooms used for business. Statues from the complex can be found in the Izmir Archaeology museum.

The Basilica

The Basilica
This typical Roman Basilica is 160 metres long with a nave and three aisles. There were 67 Ionic columns headed by capitals of the heads of bulls. It is found north of the Agora and southseast of the Odeon. It was built in the 1st century AD by C. Sextilius Pollio. The Basillica was used as a stock exchange and as a trade centre. The building was destroyed by an earthquake in the 4th century AD. Statues found here are displayed in the Ephesus Museum.

The Odeion

The Odeion
This structure was built in the 2nd century AD in the shape of a small theatre complete with a stage, seating places and an orchestra pit. It had a double function as a Bouleuterion or meeting place for the Senate as well as a concert hall (Odeion). The theatre could hold 1500 spectators and there were three doors opening from the stage to the podium. There is a wide walkway dividing the seating area into two and the stairs are divided into sections. The theatre would have originally been covered by a wooden roof. When the Odeion was used by the Senate it was open to the public and the most important city matters would have been discussed here. Statues that once belonged here can now be found in the British Museum in London.

City Hall

City Hall
The City Hall or Prytaneion is where relgious ceremonies, official receptions and banquets were held. It is found behind the Basilica. The buiding dates from the 3rd century BC. At the front of the building there would have been four columns with a courtyard behind surrounded by a portico. To the north is the centre of the building, the ceremonial hall where you would find an eternal flame. This flame symbolised the continued existence of Ephesus and was kept alight by the priest who lived here. Towards the back of the building was a large area with a wooden roof. Today you can still see the base of the altar that stood here. Two statues of Artemis were found here which are now displayed in the Ephesus Museum.

The State Agora

The State Agora
The State Agora is found on the southern part of the Basilica and it was built in the 1st century BC. It was used as a meeting place for government and many of the important issues regarding the city would have been discussed here. The agora was 160 metres long by 73 metres wide with covered walkways on three sides and a temple in the centre, dedicated to Isis. The temple was surrounded by ten columns on the long side and six on the short side. Very little of the original structure remains apart from the back wall which has a large marble bench in front of it. Statues from the original building can now be found in the Ephesus Museum.

Monument of Memmius

Monument of Memmius
This is one of the monuments decorating the Domitian Square. It was built in the 1st century AD by Memmius who was the grandson of Sulla. You can still see the figures of Sulla and his father on the blocks today. In the 4th century AD a fountain was added on the northwest facade.

Pollio Monument

Pollio Monument
This fountain is also found on Domitian Square and is south of the State Agora across the Odeion. It was built in 97AD by C. Sextilius Pollio and his family who were wealthy citizens of Ephesus. It has a high arch facing the temple of Domitian. It was once decorated with statues and some of these are now displayed in the Ephesus Museum. Water was brought to the fountains of Ephesus through aqueducts and pipes and provided refreshment to the citizens on hot days.

Temple of Domitian

Temple of Domitian
This temple is found at the southern end of Domitian Street an it is dedicated to the Emperor Domitian. The building contained two floors with warehouses and shops on the ground floor and the temple on the upper floor. The stairs to the second storey can still be seen today. The temple had thirteen columns on the long side and eight on the short side. At the northern side was an altar which can now be seen in the Archaeology Museum in Izmir.

The Gate of Hercules

The Gate of Hercules
This gate is found towards the end of Curetes Street. It takes its name from the two doorposts with carved reliefs of Hercules wrapped in the skin of the Nemean Lion. The gate was built in the 5th century AD to prevent vehicles entering as it was a pedestrian area at this time. Only two sides of the columns remain today.

Curetes Street

Curetes Street
This 210 metre long street is one of the three main streets of Ephesus. It connects the Magnesia Gate to the Koresos Gate. It is named after the Priests of the Prytaneion who were called Curetes. The capitals of the columns from the Prytaneion were reused in the entrance of this street. Curetes Street is largely paved in marble and there are stone pavements as well with a deep drainpipe running underneath. In the upper section of the street are columns on both sides as well as statues of prominent people and one of particular note is that of the headless statue of a woman doctor who did great service for her country dating from Byzantium times. The street would have also contained shops. There would have been houses on the slopes which were the homes of the wealthy of Ephesus.

The Fountain of Traianus

The Fountain of Traianus
This magnificent fountain was built to honour the Emperor Traianus in 114AD and his statue stood in the central niche on the facade. It is one of the finest monuments in Ephesus and the 20 by 10 metres pool was surrounded by columns and statues some of which you can find in the Ephesus Museum and others in the British Museum in London. The two storey columned front with its two wings facing the facade is still in evidence today.

The Temple of Hadrian

The Temple of Hadrian
This beautifully preserved structure is found on Curetes Street. It was built in honour of the Emperor Hadrian who came to visit the city in 128 AD. The facade of the temple has four Corinthian columns supporting a curved arch. In the middle of the arch is a relief of Tyche who was the goddess of victory. In front of the temple are pedestals which would have held the statues of the Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius 1 and Galerius. Inside the temple above the door Medusa is standing with acanthus leaves. On both sides are friezes showing the story of the founding of Ephesus. The friezes that you see here today are only copies but the originals can be found in the Ephesus Museum.

The Baths of Scholasticia

The Baths of Scholasticia
These baths are found on the northern side of Curetes Street and they are one of Ephesus’ largest bath houses. They were built in the 1st century AD and were restored in the 4th century AD by a wealthy Christian woman named Scholasticia. You can see her headless statue left of the eastern entrance. The baths have two entrances, the main one is on Curetes Street and the other from a side street. When you enter the first room you see the dressing room with ten cabins. Next is the cold room with its pool and then the warm room where you could relax. The last room is the hot room with its heating system. The second floor had a massage room as well as rooms where people could stay. This was also a great place to socialise and talk about the topics of the day.

Terrace Houses

Terrace Houses
These houses are found on the slopes of Mount Bülbül opposite the Temple of Hadrian and were built for the wealthy citizens of Ephesus. They were built in peristyle around the 1st century BC, adjacent to each other and were approximately the same size. The houses consisted of an open air inner courtyard in the middle of the house surrounded by columns in a peristyle. There would have been a covered gallery area with mosaic floors around the courtyards with the rooms coming off this. All of the rooms would have been lit by the central courtyard and they were heated from an underfloor system. In residence no 1 the theatre room is stunning with its decorated walls depicting scenes from Roman comedies and tragedies. The mosaics on the floors are also quite stunning and have been lovingly restored.

Traveller's Tip

Two of the terrace houses are being restored and you are allowed to visit these. Be aware that it will cost you around 15TL extra and you may have to wait in line to get inside at busy times. You need to allow around 45 minutes to see them properly but they are certainly worth visiting.
  • If you are visiting Ephesus in the summer months it can get very hot in these terrace houses because they have a covering over them. Carrying water with you is a good idea.
    The Octagon

    The Octagon
    This building is found by the side of Curetes Street near the second terrace house. It is a monumental tomb for Cleopatra’s sister, Arsinoe 1V, who was killed in 41BC. It is octagonal in shape and stands on a tetragonal shaped pedestal. The building contains a vault and a sarcophagus.

    The Latrina

    The Latrina
    These latrines or public lavatories were built at the corner of Curetes Street and the Academy Path. They were built in the 1st century AD for the use of the public who had to pay for the privelege. On three sides of the open courtyard are u-shaped marble seats with holes which were the toilet seats. A sewage pipe was located under the seats and clean water in the channels in front of the seats was used by the occupants to clean themselves. The floor was paved with mosaics around the pool found in the middle of the courtyard.

    The Brothel

    The Brothel
    This peristyle house is found at the corner of Curetes Street and the Marble Road, next door to the Latrina and it was built between 98 to 117AD. The evidence of it being a brothel is the statue found here of Priapus who was the god of lust and fertility. This statue can now be seen in the Ephesus Museum. If you entered this building from one of its entrances, on Marble Street you would have seen a pool with mosaics. To the left of the pool you entered a courtyard surrounded by rooms and halls built around a courtyard. There was an upper and lower level and the upper level was thought to have been the women’s rooms and the lower level was for guests.

    Traveller's Tip

    When you have seen this building make sure you look for the engravings in the pavement on Marble Street. There is a left foot and the figure of a woman which shows the way to the brothel on the left side of the road.
    The Library of Celsus

    The Library of Celsus
    The library of Celsus is probably the most famous as well as being the most beautiful building in Ephesus. Construction began on this building in 110 AD and it was finsihed in 135 AD. It was built in memory of Celsus Polemeanus who was a Roman senator and the General Governor of the Province of Asia. Polemeanus was a great lover of books and before his death he bequeathed money so that a libray could be built as well as the purchase of new books every year. There were between 12,000 and 15,000 books found here. Celsus was buried under the ground floor inside a marble tomb. A corridor behind the north wall leads to the vault. The library was entered through three gates which were placed symmetrical to the axis on the facade. The design of the building is quite splendid and an optical illusion was used on the facade where the columns at the sides are shorter than those in the centre which makes the building seem larger than it is. Also the lower level is narrower and has four higher niches than the upper level which has three wider niches. The windows on the upper level match the entrances on the lower level. The niches contain statues but those you see there today are copies of the originals now found in the Museum of Ephesus in Vienna other pieces can be found in the Museum of Ephesus in Selçuk. Even though the facade has two stories inside it was three stories with the reading hall just behind the front door and then two stories above it which is where the books were kept in niches. Over time the library has been destroyed by earthquakes but it was restored in the 1970s using original material.

    Traveller's Tip

    Climb down the stairs on the right hand side of the building where you will pass through a winding narrow corridor. Then you will come to the beautiful white marbled sarcophagus with its sculptures of snakes and gods and goddesses.
    The Gates of Mazaeus and Mithridates

    The Gates of Mazaeus and Mithridates
    These gates are found to the right of the Library of Celsus. They were built in 40 AD by the slaves, Mazaeus and Mithridates to honour the Emperor Augustus who set them free. There are three vaulted passageways in the gates. The front side of the vault facing the Celsus Library is made of black marble and the other side is white. You can still see the bronze inscription on one side of the gate which reads: ‘From the Emperor Caesar Augustus, the son of the god, the greatest of the priests, who was consul twelve and tribune twenty times; and the wife of August Livia; the son of Lucus, Marc Agrippa who was consul three times, Emperor, and tribune six times; and the daughter of Julio Caesar Augustus, Mazeus and Mythridates to their master and the people’. The area in front of the gate was used as an auditorium and people sat on the steps around the gate as well as the steps of the Library of Celsus.

    Commercial Agora

    Commercial Agora
    This marketplace was built in the 3rd century BC but the ruins found here date back even further to the reign of Caracalla. The Agora is in the shape of a square with each side measuring 110 metres and completely surrounded by columns. There were three monumental gates one of which was the West Gate and this was the main entrance to the Agora. The northern side of the Agora would have been left open and the other three sides would have been surrounded by a porch with rows of shops. At its centre was a sundial and water clock.

    The Marble Street

    The Marble Street
    This street runs from the Library of Celsus to the Grand Theatre and was built in the 1st century AD. It was one of the main streets of Ephesus and was the main processional street for religious festivals. As the name suggest it was completely paved in marble. On the western side of the road is the Stoa of Nero which was elevated 1.7 metres above the street. Along the road were statues of important people and at its northern end was an arched entrance gate.

    The Grand Theatre

    The Grand Theatre
    This magnificent structure is one of the highlights of Ephesus. It is found at the end of the Marble Street on the slope of Mount Panayir, opposite Harbour Street. It was built during the 3rd century BC but enlarged during the Roman Imperial period to what you see still standing today. It could hold around 25,000 people and it is the largest theatre in the area. There were around sixty six rows of seating divided by two walkwaysinto three sections. In the lower section was the Emperor’s box and some of the seats had marble backs and these were reserved for important people. The theatre was used for entertainment purposes such as concerts and plays as well as gladiator and animal fights. It was also the scene of religious, political and philosophical discussions.

    Harbour Street

    Harbour Street
    Harbour Street is a long marble street running from the Grand Theatre to the harbour. It was lined with columns along each side and decorated with statues. The street was 530 metres long and 11 metres wide and there were shops and galleries on either side with a gate at each end. The gate near the harbour still survives but because it is surrounded by swampy land you cannot get close to it. Harbour Street was established in the Early Roman period and was very important as it was the official greeting place of dignitaries and merchants from other cities. The street was once decorated with candle-like street lamps and there was a sewerage system underneath it. In the centre of the street were four huge columns and it is thought that these columns had statues of the four biblical apostles. The building found near the Grand Theatre was the Theatre Gymnasium which dates from the 2nd century AD. The building consisted of a courtyard surrounded on three sides by a stoa and on the northern side was the seating. This would have been used as a sports ground and it could have been used as a training place for the theatre actors because of its proximity to the Grand Theatre. There was a bath complex behind the seating area with many rooms and pools. At the other end of the street near the entrance to the port were the Port Baths also known as the Harbour Baths which were built in 2 AD. These baths were one of the largest buildings in Ephesus being 170 metres long and 160 metres wide.