- I was here on June 20, 2018.
- Time needed: 2 hours are more than enough.
- My score: starting from 3/5, since it depends on how many Greco-Roman ruins you’ve seen before.
If you have seen few, Ephesus will impress you very much, they are the best that exist. If you have seen many… Personally I have been 3 times in Rome, 2 in Athens, one in Delphi, one in Mérida (Spain) and the day before I came from Hierapolis, as cities with more relevant ruins that come to mind. In my own city there is a small Roman theater, and I do not know how many museums I’ve visited with sculptures and friezes of those civilizations. Still I do not regret having gone, but if I had not been able to go, nothing would have happened either.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
Founded much earlier (first records are from the 7th century BC) it falls several hundred years later under Greek rule, although it had to be reconquered by Alexander the Great in 334 BC. since it had passed into Persian hands. At that time it already had the Artemision, the most important Artemis temple of the empire, considered one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, and that today is just an esplanade with a rebuilt column after having been destroyed by the Goths. Being an important and strategic commercial port between the Mediterranean and Asia Minor, the city does not manage to prosper due to the continuous warlike conflicts for its dominion. It is not until the time of the Roman Empire ruled by Augustus, who takes the city from Marco Antonio, when Ephesus gets a real boost; it becomes the main port of the area and wealth flows, to the point that together with Rome and Antioch were the only three cities so rich as to allow the main avenues to be illuminated at night by oil lamps.
More than 2,000 years later, Rome remains one of the most important cities in the world and Antioch remains a city of more than 350,000 inhabitants (although it does not pass through a good time, since it is on the border with Syria). How is this extraordinary city abandoned? Two earthquakes, in the years 358 and 368 cause very serious damage to the city, so many, that a Rome in incipient decadence does not consider a priority to repair it in their entirety. When not receiving extraordinary aid to fix it, great part of its budget is centered in trying a reconstruction, abandoning the drainage works in the delta of the neighboring Caistro river, that for hundreds of years was flooding the port of the city until the point the boats every time had more difficulties to enter, so the situation worsens, the port ends up disappearing and the commerce and the wealth with it. Several centuries later, turned into the shadow of what was, and harassed by Arab incursions, the city is definitely abandoned.
It is part of UNESCO’s heritage, surprisingly only since 2015.
PROBLEMS AND ANNOYANCES
- Massification. Although the site is very vast, 95% of the tourists are concentrated in the great theater and the library.
- And especially in summer, the heat. Although the ancient inhabitants of Ephesus thought of themselves as the creme de la creme of the Empire, summer here must have been tough, not in vain the usual maximum temperatures in June and September exceed 30Cº daily, and in July and August normal is to be above 35, between Seville and Cairo. There is not shade and the sun hits like you are on a pan.
HOW TO GET THERE
- On our own, from Selçuk.
- The Dolmus to Ephesus (“EFES” is written on the windshield) leave from the northeast corner of the otogar, cost 3TL per trip, every half hour, it takes 15 minutes to reach the lower entrance (the northern).
- We can also take the dolmus to or from Kusadasi, but then they will not leave us at the gate, but on the main road, and we will have to walk 1km.
- Or we can walk, the lower entrance is 3km southwest of town, there is a tree-lined pedestrian path next to the road and we will pass through the gate of the remains of the Artemision.
SCHEDULES AND PRICES
- Open daily from 8am to 6pm (6:30 pm in summer).
- Adult admission 40 LT. Included in the museum pass of Turkey. The terraced houses are worth 20 extra LT.
The following route points to the most relevant sites, from the lower entrance (north), which before the ticket offices has countless souvenir and counterfeit shops:
- Mary’s Church. As soon as you enter you will arrive by a path on the right. In my opinion it is ruinous and not worth approaching.
- Immediately to the left there is an esplanade full of remains of what was the Gym.
- The following is perhaps what is most worthwhile, the largest theater of antiquity, which housed 25,000 people (through its capacity it is estimated that the city should have a population of 250,000 inhabitants). It is certainly huge, and it very impressive from below, but it has the disadvantage that the upper third is not open to the public. As much you can climb up to the second third, which is roughly the height of Hierapolis theater, which is better restored. Therefore, from above it does not impact as much as it could.
- Continuing, to the left there is a viewpoint to observe the ancient lower agora. Later we can enter and walk through it, but almost nobody does it.
- We continue along the walk where the holes for the oil lamps are. In the middle there is a footprint next to an engraving with the shape of a woman that indicated the presence of a brothel, although it is thought that those of the time were not as we understand them now. It is impossible not to see it as tourists crowd over it to photograph it.
- And the next thing to the right is the hyper-mega-famous facade of Celsus’ Library, named after the father of the architect who built it, as well as a tribute, a mausoleum, since his father was buried under it. The facade is large, very well reconstructed, and especially the color of the marble and the details of the engravings stand out. But if you have seen the facade of the market of Miletus in Pergamon Museum in Berlin or the Roman theater in Mérida, it is not very different, at least from the point of view of a layman in the matter.
- Next to the right are the terraced houses. Very reluctant to pay extra entrance, I did not regret doing it. I was very impressed with the luxury of the mansions of the rich people of the time, mansions completely decorated with frescoes and mosaics.
- On the left are some houses, which initially were taken by brothels, although it is currently discarded, and the Octagon.
- There are also latrines. Very funny, be there doing your things in front of a fountain, with flowers, and even with a musician who played live the harp or whatever it was, but sitting 30 cm away from the next dude without no more separation than the one provided by your Roman toga.
- Next to the left are the Roman baths, which were connected to the latrines by hot water pipes for hygiene issues.
- Then there is a completely reconstructed fountain, that of Emperor Trajan and what remains of the Temple of Emperor Hadrian. On the other side of the street there is a very good mosaic.
- The street takes an ascending slope. On the right there is an engraving of the goddess Nike and at the end of the hill two columns representing Heracles.
- The last notable building is the Odeon, a small hemicycle where politicians met, just like today. In front of it is the upper agora and a few meters further south, the upper entrance.