Visit Ancient Ephesus on the Ionian Coast

The ancient ruins of Ephesus are located in modern day Turkey on the Ionian Coast. The city was originally constructed in the 10th century B.C.E. by the ancient Greeks. However, the Ephesus location had always been situated on the dividing line between the eastern and western civilizations. As a result, the city was overrun each time the dividing line between ancient Persia and Greece changed hands.

Additionally, the city was ideally suited with a natural harbor and that gave it an important economic advantage. Therefore, the city was an attractive location for the Romans who succeeded the Greek Empire. The Romans would subsequently take control of the city for many centuries.

However, it was the construction of the Ephesus Temple of Artemis in 550 B.C.E. which was to become the city’s most alluring aspect. The temple was one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”. As a result, it would draw the attention of Alexander the Great and he would visit the city during his conquest of Persia.

The fact that Ephesus had been visited by Alexander The Great captured my interest. Therefore, we visited Ephesus during our travels through Turkey. However, there are many reasons to visit the city besides the allure of Alexander and I will also cover them in the post below. Including the Temple of Artemis.

Hercules Gate

Hercules Gate in Ephesus
My friend is posing between the pillars at Hercules Gate located in the upper portion of the ancient city of Ephesus. The photo was severely back-lit, however I used the flash and it turned out beautifully thanks to her.

The Hercules Gate is located near the upper entrance of Ephesus on Curetes Street. In ancient times the narrow gate blocked all vehicular traffic from entering this part of the city. As a result, this area was reserved exclusively for pedestrians.

Heracles (called Hercules to the Romans) was the ancient Greek God of strength and power. He is depicted here wearing the skin of the slain Nemean lion. The Nemean lion was a creature of ancient Greek myth whom had been terrorizing the city of Nemea. This ferocious beast had impenetrable skin and could not be killed by human weapons. Therefore, Heracles was called upon to save the city. He succeeded in killing the lion by ramming his fist down it’s throat and choking it to death.

After stopping at the Hercules Gate for photos we continued on down Curetes Street towards the “Library of Celsus”. But first we would stop off at the “Terrace of Houses”. The entrance to the terrace is situated on the immediate left in the photo under the protective cover.

Walking down Curetes Street in Ancient Ephesus
After the Heracles Gate we continued down Curetes Street towards the “Library of Celsus” the facade of which you can see in the distant background. However, we decided to explore the “Terrace of Houses” first which is coming up on the left.

“Terrace of Houses” Roman Ruins at Ephesus

The “Terrace of Houses” are well preserved homes of the wealthy Romans. For a reasonable entrance fee visitors can enter the excavation area and view the ancient Roman mosaics and other structures.

The terrace ruins at Ephesus contained Roman mosaic art that was similar to mosaics that were recovered at the Pompeii ruins in Italy.

Entrance to Terrace of Houses at Ephesus
This is the entrance to the Terrace of Houses at Ephesus. Upon entry we are greeted with a grand Roman floor mosaic.
Mosaic at Terrace of Houses
I managed to sneak in for a closer picture of the floor mosaic. The Roman mosaics were a blend of myth and reality. Perhaps this is another depiction of the fabled Nemean lion before Heracles was dispatched?
Roman Residence at the Terrace of Houses in EphesusTerrace
This is an entrance to one of the Roman houses at the Terrace of Houses in Ephesus. Notice the legendary Roman arches.

The terrace was built into a hillside. As a result, I was able to step out back and get a good photo of the city lying below. On the bottom left you can see the “Library of Celsus” where we are heading next. Additionally, in the distance you can make out the Ephesus amphitheater.

Birds eye view of Ephesus
On the hillside behind the Terrace of Houses I was able to get a bird’s eye photo of the lower portion of the ancient city.

“Library of Celsus” at Ephesus

Located adjacent to the Terrace of Houses is the Library of Celsus. This is one of the most popular features of the ancient city ruins. However, it is a bit misleading because the facade of the building was exaggerated to create a grande entrance. Although once inside, the interior would have been much more humble than it seemed.

The library was built and funded by Celsus who was a powerful resident of Ephesus that served as the Roman Governor of Asia from 105-107 A.C.E. Unfortunately, Celsus died before completion of the library. However, it was posthumously completed and dedicated to him by his son. The founder is buried in a tomb underneath the remaining structure.

Library of Celsus at Ephesus
The Library of Celsus has a misleading facade which exaggerates the size of the building. Although the building was more diminutive than it initially seemed it still held over 12,000 ancient scrolls. Additionally, the building faces east in order to capture the morning light in the reading rooms.

Ephesus Amphitheater

The Ephesus amphitheater is situated at the far lower end of the city near where the ancient city’s harbor would have been located. However, the harbor finally silted up in the 7th century A.C.E.

Modern day experts estimate that the ancient population of Ephesus at this time was between 30,000 and 50,000. This is in contrast to previous estimates of 250,000. However, the amphitheater was built to hold a maximum of 25,000 spectators. If the city’s population was actually less than 50,000, doesn’t it seem that 25,000 amphitheater seats would be way too many? Not if they really loved theater I suppose. 

Initially, the amphitheater was only used for theatrical productions. However, evidence now exists that it eventually was used for gladiatorial contests. Although the staging area seems a bit small…..I suppose spectators would be well advised not to sit in front when the man eating lions were in town.

Ephesus amphitheater
The staging area for the Ephesus amphitheater seemed rather small to facilitate gladiatorial contests. Perhaps the audience played an active role? I guess it was best not to sit in front when the man eating lions were in town.
Ephesus Amphitheater
My friend was feeling energetic and hiked up to the cheap seats for a few long distance photos.
Entrnace to Ephesus Amphitheater
My friend stands at one of the entrance tunnels to the Ephesus amphitheater.

The Greek Temple of Artemis

Artemis was a Greek goddess who was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and she is the twin sister of Apollo. Unfortunately, the temple was destroyed and rebuilt three times before its final destruction in 401 A.C.E. Artemis is often depicted as the “Huntress” carrying a bow and arrows. However, she is also the goddess of wild animals, wilderness, childbirth and virginity. She was known as the Goddess Diana to the Romans.

In 356 B.C.E. the temple was destroyed in a fire by a crazy act of arson committed by an infamous fame seeking man named Herostratus. Apparently, he set the wooden beams on fire which caused the collapse of the marble roof and pillars. Unfortunately, the temple was completely destroyed.

The date of it’s destruction coincided with the birth of Alexander the Great who was born in 356 B.C.E. It is believed by the ancient Greeks that the venerable goddess was too preoccupied with the birth of Alexander to save her own temple from destruction. Alexander perceived this to be strong evidence supporting his own divine origins.

Alexander The Great Visits Ephesus

When Alexander visited Ephesus in 334 B.C.E. he offered to rebuild the temple. However, the citizens of Ephesus very tactfully declined lest they feel his wrath. However, they did eventually rebuild the “Temple of Artemis” after his death at their own expense. Construction was initiated in 323 B.C.E. and it took many years to complete. This third and final temple was much larger than the second, it consisted of 127 columns.

The temple would meet it’s final demise when it was destroyed by the invading Goths in 268 A.C.E. Once again the method of destruction was setting fire to the wooden structural beams in the roof. Unfortunately, there is only one diminutive pillar left standing today.

Temple of Artemis
Unfortunately, only this single reconstructed pillar remains of the original 127 pillars at the Temple of Artemis.

Additional Ephesus Photos:

Temple of Hadrian
Unfortunately, the Temple of Hadrian was being renovated when we visited. However, they had this famous relief available for for visitors to see.
Ephesus Temple Photo
I am unable to identify this structure at Ephesus. However, I like the photo.
Additional Ephesus Photo
Additional Ephesus Temple of Artemis Photo
Additional Ephesus Photo

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