From Santorini, we took an overnight ferry back to Athens, and then flew to Izmir, Turkey. From Izmir, we took an hour train south to Selçuk where the ancient civilization of Efes (Ephesus) is located. This area of Turkey is rich in agriculture and tourism. Selçuk is a smaller city that boasts of some great archeological sites, such as Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis, the Isabey Mosque, the Basilica of St. John, and possibly even the house of the Virgin Mary.

Basilica of St. John

This church, located on Ayasoluk Hill, was built by the emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It was built over the believed burial site of John the apostle. It is believed by some that John fled from Jerusalem to Ephesus where he lived the remainder of his life and wrote his gospels.

Isabey Mosque

Built in 1375, this mosque is one of the oldest of its kind in the region of Anatolia.

Ephesus

The foundation history of ancient Ephesus which is within the boundaries of Izmir province and Selçuk district goes back to Neolitic Ages (6000 BC). The researches and excavations in recent years revealed settlements from Bronze Age and Hitite period on tumuli (prehistoric hilltop settlements) around Ephesus and Ayasuluk Hill where the castle is located today. The city was called Apasas during the Hitite period.

Ephesus which was a port city in ancient times and had Greek settlers from around 1050 BC, moved to the periphery of the Artemis Temple in 560 BC.

The ancient city visited today was founded around 300 BC by Lysimakhos who was one of the generals of Alexander the Great. The city lived its heydays during the Hellenistic and Roman period and had a population of 200,000 as the capital and largest port city of Roman Province of Asia.

During the Byzantine period Ephesus moved once again to Ayasuluk Hill in Selçuk, where it had been first founded.

Early Ephesus (late 7th millennium – 334 BC)
The earliest traces of human settlement found so far in the region of Ephesus were discovered on Çukuriçi Höyük and reach back into the early Chalcolithic period (late 7th millennium). At the latest since the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium) Ayasoluk, the easily defensible freestanding mound with rocky slopes on three sides, was occupied. At the time the settlement lay directly on the shore, because instead of the plain which has been flooded by the Kaystros River since antiquity, there was a deep bay which extended until the foot of the mountain chain to the south, east and north. Until the early 8th century Ayasoluk remained the only know settlement in the vicinity of Ephesus. Since the Late Bronze Age the southwestern foot of the territory of Artemision was also used; there, a sanctuary existed since the beginning of the Iron Age (2nd half of the 11th century). The Late Bronze Age settlement at Ayasoluk is most probably to be identified with Apasa, the capital of the Luwian Kingdom of Arzawa (16th – 13th centuries) representing the most important power in western Anatolia, which was first a rival, then a vassal of the Hittite Empire. Profound changes in the material culture point to a change in the population structure during the course of the 11th century; settlers from the Greek mainland conquered the coast of western Asia Minor during the so-called Ionian colonization. The foundation myth refers to Androclos, the son of a legendary Attic king, who wrested Ephesus from the indigenous Carians, Lelegians and Lydians. The centre of the city remained at Ayasoluk. After the mid-8th century additional settlements were established on and around Mount Panayir; one of these, on the north-east terrace of Mount Panayir and an additional one located beneath the later Tetragonos Agora (Commercial Market) have been partially excavated. The independent city state of Ephesus was increasingly beset by the ambitious Lydian Kingdom; shortly after 560, the Lydian King conquered the city. In 546 or shortly thereafter, the Persians conquered the Lydian Kingdom and also Ephesus. Their rule lasted until Alexander the great (334 BC). Lysimachos, one of the successors of Alexander, brought about the next break in urban development; at the beginning of the 3rd century BC, he resettled the inhabitants in the valley between Mount Panayir and Mound Bulbul.

Hellenistic Ephesus (3rd -1st century BC)
In the Hellenistic period the cityscape of Ephesus underwent a fundamental transformation. During the war of the Diadochoi after the death of Alexander the Great the city was incorporated after 300 BC into the kingdom of Lysimachos (355-281). After the first new foundations of the cities (Lysimachia) at Chersonnes and Aitolia, at Ephesus, the new city of Arsinoea, named after Lysimachos’ wife Arsinoe II, was also founded. The inhabitants of Arsionoea were recruited from neighboring communities such as Teos, Lebedos and Kolophon.
Probably already in 294 BC construction  began of a fortification wall over 9 km in length, enclosing the entire city including the northern slopes of Mount Bulbul and parts of Mount Panayir. The 2.5 km2 large area within the city walls, of which only one-third was suitable for development, was divided into a Lower City at the harbor area and an Upper City situated on an elevated plateau. The Curetes Street, which follows the course of the old Processional Way, connects both areas of the city.
The Hellenistic Ephesus was a new foundation after a systematic Hippodamian model with orthogonal street grid. The mercantile and cultural centre, with the Commercial Market (Tetragonos Agora), the Theatre and the Stadium is located in the Lower City, where as the political centre was based in the Upper City with its Upper Agora (Staatsmarkt), the Prytaneum and the Bouleuterion. The residential areas developed on the slopes of the two city-mountains and especially on the convenient plateau of the Upper City to the south and east of the Upper Agora. Little is known regarding the areas actually built up in the 3rd century BC; however, after the death of Lysimachos in 281 BC, at least some of the settlers might have departed again. After the 2nd century BC simple buildings with workshops were installed in the region of Terrace House 2, while at the same time leveling off activities in the Upper City provide evidence of rebuilding efforts, or an extensive new settlement within the area.
Locally produced wares and their distribution in the Mediterranean region reveal the ever increasing significance and economic power of Ephesus in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, which was to become the Metropolis of Asia )capital city of the Province of Asia) during Roman rule.

Roman Ephesus
When the Pergamene King Attalos III died in 133 BC, he bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman people in his will. The city of Ephesus that possessed the tax exempt status as civitas libera thus became part of the Roman Province of Asia. The fact that Roman rule was not greeted with unanimous consent by the population is indicated by the euphoria with which the Pontic King Mithridates VI’s attempt to conquer the province was supported. All Italians living in the province were sentenced to death, and in 88 BC in Ephesus alone 80,000 people were violently murdered in a single night. The revolt was suppressed by General Cornelius Sulla and the city’s freedom was withdrawn, thus making it liable to pay tribute again.  In 33 BC Marc Antony and his wife, the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, spent their winter in Ephesus and organized their campaign against Octavian, who later became Emperor Augustus. Octavian’s victory at Actium not only meant the end of the Republic, but also a reorganization of the Province of Asia. Ephesus became the permanent headquarters of the Roman provincial administration and capital city metropolis Asia). The easy access to the sea made the city an economic centre of Asia Minor: the harbor served as a reloading point for all kinds of commodities. On the estates of the Artemision, agricultural products were cultivated and traded; in addition, the sanctuary functioned as a credit bank and a pilgrimage centre. The Roman character of the city was further reinforced by purposefully built construction projects which were used as political instruments.
When the Apostle Paul preached between AD 52 and 55 at Ephesus, he was confronted not only by an active pagan cult but also by a lively Jewish community. As a result of a rebellion led by the silversmith Demetrios, Paul left the city in order to resume his missionary activities in Corinth.
Ephesus reached its zenith during the 2nd century AD. Numerous monuments provide witness to this glorious era; private donations by affluent citizens served the public welfare as well as their own personal commemoration.
After 230 AD an obvious economic decline set in, for which a series of earthquakes, culminating in a catastrophic quake around 270 AD, as well as Gothic raids can be understood as prime causes. The Artemision was plundered and the temple itself was burnt down. Clear traces of this destruction are also visible in the city; rebuilding lasted several decades. Ephesus experienced a final recovery only in the 5th century AD.

Byzantine Ephesus (4th – 14th century AD)
Ephesus retained its position as the seat of the provincial governor (proconsul Asiae) and thus also as a political and economic centre even after the new organization of the Roman Empire by Diocletian (284-305). However, numerous earthquake disasters around the middle of the 4th century resulted in an economic decline from which the city only slowly recovered. With the help of the imperial donations and tax exemptions the damage was successively repaired and the former prosperity gradually returned. This was manifested in the restoration and rebuilding of numerous public and private buildings. Ii addition, following the religious edicts of Theodosius I (most importantly, the declaration of Christianity as the official state religion in 391) a series of splendid churches was erected which changed the cityscape to a great extent. At the latest since the 5th century, the Basilica of St. John, located on the Hagios Theologios Hill (Ayasoluk/ today Selcuk) 2.5 km away, increased in significance and developed into one of the most important pilgrimage centers of the byzantine period. During the course of the 7th century, the Basilica eventually took over the liturgical function of the Church of Mary and developed into the main church of the Ephesian archbishop. As the erection of the mighty fortification walls around the Byzantine remnant city of Ephesus in the 6th/7th century indicates, as wells as the city’s elevation to the newly created administrative unit, the seat of the (Thema) Thrakesion, the former Metropolis of Asia did not lose its earlier primacy completely. The stationing of a legion in the city, given the increasing efforts at expansion by the Arab world, was a necessity; in fact in ca. 654/655 Ephesus was attacked by Mua’wiya, the Governor of Syria, and in 715/716 by the Arab Admiral Maslama on their return journeys from an unsuccessful siege of Constantinople.
In the 1st half of the 9th century Ephesus is still described in the ancient sources as the largest fortified city of the military administrative unit, the (Thema) Thrakesion. IN AD 890 it lost its political and military supremacy in favor of Samos and shortly after of Smyrna/Izmir. This briefly sketched development did not, however, mean that the settlement was ultimately abandoned; in fact, the most recent archaeological evidence suggests that Ephesus remained settled well into the 13th/14th century not however as a homogenous civic entity but rather more as a scattered group of settlements.
Already in 1090 the Seljuk Prince Tengribirmiș was able to conquer Ephesus and Hagios Theologos (Ayasoluk), which however was soon re-conquered in 1096 by the general John Ducas after a battle not far from the Hagios Theologos Hill. First in 1304 the entire region was separated from the Byzantine Empire. The new rulers, the Aydinoglu Family, a Seljuk princely dynasty, were succeeded in the 1st half of the 15th century by the Ottoman Dynasty.

The Great Theatre

The Great Theatre goes back to a preceding structure of the Hellenistic period (3rd – 1st century BC). In the Roman period there was an extensive rebuilding under the Emperors Domitian and Trajan which at first a two-layer three-storied impressive facade. In addition to theatre performances, assemblies also took place there; in the later Imperial period, gladiatorial contests are also attested. Before the 7th century the Theatre was incorporated into the Byzantine city walls.

Hellenistic Fountain House

The fountain house of Ionic order located at the back wall of the Great Theatre’s stage building dates to the Hellenistic period. During the Roman period its depth was extended ca. 2 m and the new anteroom which was thereby created was separated from the street at the front by two unfluted columns. As an inscription on one of the columns states, the water collected here was brought in from the Marnas River. The water basin has not survived.

The Nymphaeum Traiani

The fountain building was donated by Tiberius Claudius Aristion and his wife between AD 102 and 114 in honor of Artemis of Ephesus and Emperor Trajan (AD 98-117). The original height of the building reconstructed as an architectural trial is 9.5 m. A two-storey facade surrounded the fountain on three sides, while the statue base of Trajan, with a globe under his feet, stood over the water outlet in the middle.

The Temple of Hadrian

P. Vedius Antonius Sabinus donated the small, temple-like monument which, according to a building inscription, honored Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138).

The colonnade in front of the cella supports a so-called Syrian gable. The reliefs over the door lintel depicting the Ephesia foundation myth belong to a late antique rebuilding. Around AD 300 statues of the emperors Diocletian, Constantius, Maximianus and later Theodosius I were erected, of which inscribed bases are preserved.

The Celsus Library

The Celsus Library, certainly the most well-known monument in Ephesus, was built between AD 100 and 110 by Gaius Iulius Aquila for his father, the senator Tiberius Iulius Celsus Polemaeanus. The library can actually be interpreted as a heroon which was built over the burial chamber of the deceased.

A flight of nine steps at the façade, flanked by statue bases, led to a vestibule from which the actual library room could be entered. The aediculated architecture of the impressive façade contrasts with the brick construction of the building’s interior, although the floors and walls were revetted with marble. The library was destroyed during an earthquake in ca. AD 270 and was not rebuilt. In the late antique period the remnants of the splendid façade served as a rear wall of a street fountain. The re-erection took place during the years 1970-1978 with the financial help of Anton Kallinger-Prskawetz.

The Bouleuterion

The Bouleuterion housed the meetings of the counsel (boule) as well as musical performances and contests. The originally roofed semi-circular auditorium is bonded to a stage wall. The building was erected around AD 100. In AD 150, Publius Vedius Antonius sponsored a new stage building which displayed a portrait gallery of the Imperial family and letters of Emperor Antonius Pius (AD 138-161).

The Artemision

The Artemision was the most important sanctuary of Ephesus. The massive Temple of Artemis counted as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The oldest finds found so far at this location are fragments of Mycenaean pottery from the 14th/13th century BC. Since the beginning of the Iron Age (end of the 11th century BC) cult practices are attested here. As the oldest recognizable architectural element, in ca. 680/650 BC a temple surrounded by columns and oriented to the west was erected in the centre of the sanctuary. This peripteros, which for conservation reasons has been covered up again, counts amongst the oldest of the Greek temples with surrounding colonnades. The temple, with still very small dimensions of 13.5 x 5.8 m, had stone walls and 4 x 8 wooden columns on stone bases. Inside, standing on six columns, a rectangular baldachin probably housed a wooden cult figure.

In about 570 BC construction began of the first massive peripteral temple with double colonnades; this was built of marble. Its width was just under 60 m, its length more than 100 m. It probably had 106 columns, many of which were decorated with reliefs. These were funded by the Lydian King Croesus (hence the name, the Croesus Temple). The walls of the temple enclosed an open courtyard, in whose interior stood a small temple-like structure for the cult figure. A roof with a figuratively decorated geison frieze existed only over the colonnaded galleries. A ca. 33 x 16 m building, oriented at a right angle to the Croesus Temple in front of its west facade, probably served as the alter; only the foundation of limestone slabs, and a very few marble blocks of the superstructure, are preserved.

According to tradition, the Archaic Temple fell victim to fire in 356 BC set by a certain Herostratus. The late classical new building begun shortly afterwards repeated all of the fundamental elements of its predecessor with the exception of the figurally decorated border of the room. It probably had 127 columns of ca. 18.4 m height and stood over a high stepped structure. On the inside, a flight of stairs led down to the former courtyard level. The altar of this temple lay at the western boundary of the excavated area and consisted of a paved courtyard with a п-shaped surround.

An architectural model was set up in 1973 from drums of various columns. It stands on an originally-preserved column basis from the late classical temple; beneath this lies a base from the Croesus Temple. The original columns were approximately 4 m taller than the reconstruction.

In late antiquity, the Temple of Artemis was converted and probably used as a church. From this phase, the rows of massive pillars made of mortared construction are preserved, which were situated in front of the inner walls of the temple courtyard.

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