Asia History Travelling

Visiting Ephesus: A Taste of History in Southern Turkey

The ruins of Ephesus lie merely 20 kilometres from Kusadasi, the seaside city on Turkey’s sun-drenched south coast where I was relaxing for a few days after a busy week in Istanbul. It is a popular destination, particularly amongst the thousands of passengers on the massive cruise liners that pull into Kusadasi every morning.

The reason for Ephesus’ popularity is clear. A busy port in ancient days (although no longer by the coast), Ephesus was once an important trading centre, and is more commonly known as the city in which the Apostle Paul spent three years, and as the recipient of the letters he wrote during his exile in Rome. Ephesus is also the church reprimanded in the book of Revelation as the church that had ‘forsaken its first love’.

Over time, Ephesus has been an important city both in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It is now the largest collection of Roman ruins in the region.

Ruins at Ephesus
Ruins at Ephesus

Nobody can doubt Ephesus’ historical validity.

Nowadays, though ruined, the site is preserved enough to get a real feel for what the city was originally like. Even with thousands of visitors walking its busy main street, a strong sense of history pervades the crumbling columns and facades.

Ancient ruins at Ephesus
Ancient ruins at Ephesus

If you visit Ephesus in the high season months of June, July or August, do not expect to have the place to yourself. There will be literally thousands of other people visiting with you, although it is better to visit the ruins in the late afternoon when the cruise-liner tour groups have left.

We went in the middle of the day - the busiest time!
We went in the middle of the day – the busiest time!

It will also be hot. Very hot. There is no shade, and the walk will take 2 hours at the minimum. Longer if you are lingering at each ruin. It is really important that you take plenty of water, sunscreen and something to cover your head and shoulders when the blazing sun gets too much.

Ephesus has plenty of sights to capture your interest. From the stunning Library of Celcus…

The library is in the background
The library is in the background

…to the theatre. A huge arena that could hold 25,000 people.

This theatre must have seen some drama in its time.
This theatre must have seen some drama in its time.

Then there’s the communal toilet area where men would gather to socialise, no doubt discussing and commenting on the news of the day. I don’t know about you, but I find Facebook a more appealing way of keeping up to date!

Ancient toilets in Ephesus
Ancient toilets in Ephesus

By the time we reached the end of the ruins, we were tired and very hot. But there was one more thing that I wanted to see. For just outside Selcuk, not far from Ephesus, lie the remains of the Temple of Artemis—one of the Wonders of the Ancient World.

We had to take a taxi to get there, and the ruins are very sparse. Just one column stands, proud and alone amongst green fields: the sole remainder of a once powerful temple. A great temple threatened by the rise of Christianity: Paul’s converts turning from their worship of Artemis.

Up close to the remaining column
Up close to the remaining column

“You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.” (Acts 19:25-27) 

View of the Temple of Artemis
View of the Temple of Artemis

While Ephesus had been interesting, I was tired of the crowds and preferred the solitude I found at the Temple of Artemis, an area I walked around entirely alone.

Looking back at the remains of the temple a mosque, a synagogue, and a church stand harmoniously side-by-side and I imagined their tiny structures swamped by the majestic Temple in its prime.

Would you like to visit Ephesus? If you have been, what did you enjoy the most? Do you like to visit popular tourist destinations, or do the crowds put you off? Please leave a comment below.

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  1. says:

    I want to visit Ephesus – and Turkey! – so badly! Your experience at the Temple of Artemis reminds me of my time in Athens tracking down lesser known spots. The ruins might not have been as impressive, but there is definitely something to be said for having quiet time to reflect. Great photos!
    Heather recently posted..Budapest: From Rubble to RemarkableMy Profile

    1. Thank you very much for your comment. I loved the grandeur of Ephesus, but the solitude of the Temple of Artemis just makes you realise how delicate life is – the mighty can fall into disrepair so easily. Incredible!

  2. says:

    Hi Elaine,
    We also enjoyed a day in Ephesus. We went in May and enjoyed lesser crowds and more tolerable temperatures. A day is not really long enough to take in all that you describe and much much more. The hospital fascinated us as did the marble road from the top of the hill into the main town. The market shops along the way were also of great interest.
    Another must see in the region is Hierapolis with it’s smaller theater and also the catacombs and then the stunning calcium cliffs and hot pools of Pammukale. A wonderful place to go next time. Your Mom was proud to have stayed in the Hotel Pam.
    We stayed in Altinkum and arranged our trip through the local travel agent and paid a fraction of the price of the trip organised by the British travel agent! Well worth doing.
    Thanks for reminding me of our visit

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