Ephesus was one of the most famous cities of the ancient Mediterranean. It was the second biggest city of the Roman Empire and today it is one of the largest Roman archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean. Each year, thousands of visitors descend on the region to roam the ancient city. So, whether you are planning a trip or are just curious to know more, here are some of the most interesting facts about Ephesus in Turkey.
7 Interesting Facts about Ephesus in Turkey
1. Ephesus was the second biggest city of the Roman Empire
Ephesus was an ancient Greek port city located near the western shores of modern-day Turkey. It is roughly 80km south of Izmir, where the Aegean Sea meets the former estuary of the River Kaystros. Back in the day, it was one of the most important Greek cities and the most important trading hub of the Mediterranean. For centuries, the city served as a crossroads between the East and West. It was the second biggest city of the Roman Empire. Nowadays, the town of Selçuk in modern Turkey is the gateway to Ephesus.
2. Ephesus is home to one of the seven wonders
The settlement history in Ephesus can be traced from the seventh millennium BCE. However, its most famous site – the Temple of Artemis – was constructed in the sixth century B.C. The Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This temple is dedicated to an ancient, local form of the goddess Artemis. The temple was twice the size of any other Greek temple and had 127 columns which were 18.3 metres (60 ft) high and 1.2 metres (4 ft) in diameter. It took workers 120 years to finish the temple.
3. The Temple of Artemis lies in ruins
In the 4th-century B.C, a fire destroyed the temple. In fact, workers completely rebuilt the temple twice. Today, only the foundations and one column remain of what once was the greatest temple in the ancient Mediterranean. However, you can see some of its remnants in the British Museum, including a column with Croesus’s signature.
4. Ephesus is a UNSECO site
The site of Ephesus has many well-preserved Roman ruins. It is one of the largest Roman archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean. It is for this reason that UNESCO inscribed it on the World Heritage list in 2015. UNESCO says “The Ancient City of Ephesus is an outstanding example of a Roman port city, with sea channel and harbour basin.” The main sites are The Temple of Artemis, The Temple of Hadrian, The Temple of the Sebastoi and The Library of Celsus. This was built circa 125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus who served as governor of Roman Asia (105–107) in the Roman Empire.
5. Ephesus is an important site in Christianity
Ephesus appears multiple times in the New Testament. The oldest reference to Ephesus in the New Testament is in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. It reads: “If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it?” (1 Cor 15:32). The ancient city is also home to the very first Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent her last years in Ephesus with Saint John. You can visit her house and John’s tomb. Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II visited Ephesus and Mary’s house and also held sermons. Both the Apostle Paul and Saint John the Evangelist also visited Ephesus.
6. The Library of Celsus honours Tiberius
In 17 A.D., an earthquake destroyed Ephesus. Tiberius – the second Roman emperor – rebuilt and enlarged the city after the earthquake. Workers built The Library of Celsus to honour Tiberius. The library was the third-largest after Alexandra and Pergamum. It housed between 12,000-15,000 scrolls.
7. Ephesus is the birthplace of many famous Greeks
Hipponax the famous Roman poet was born in Ephesus, so too was the famous Roman Law writer Hermodorus. Another famous person born in Ephesus is Heraclitus. This is the Greek philosopher that said ‘’You cannot step into the same river twice’’.