When I first visited Ephesus in 1996, most tourists came early in the morning on big buses, leaving the site all but empty in the afternoon. It was an imposing place but somehow lonely and forlorn. On my most recent visit, this city that once had a population of around 50,000 (although some say it was 200,000), complete with markets, public baths, toilets, temples, private houses and even those of ill repute had come alive again. It’s thrilling to walk the original pavers of the marble way, surrounded by excited people whose voices mimic the sounds of ancient urban life.
The area dates back to Neolithic times and has a rich and complex history. The Greeks, Persians, Sekjuks and Romans all left their mark here, but it is the latter that left the biggest legacy. One of the best known structures is the magnificent library of Celsus. It was built in 135 AD by Gaius Julius Aquila who wanted to honour his father, at that time a general governor for the province of Asia. Today the 12,000 scrolls once housed here are gone but the beauty and grandeur of the architecture remains.
In the last ten years new and ongoing excavations have unearthed the Roman Terrace Houses, the oldest of which dates back to the 1st Century BC. Under cover and entered using a separate ticket, they provide one of the most complete insights into upper middle class Roman private life I’ve ever seen. A viewing platform allows you to study the layout of the houses and the detailed and beautiful floor mosaics that were the ultimate in interior design chic of their day.
The largest structure is the Great Theater that could hold up to 25,000 spectators. Built on the foot of Panayir mountain in the first century AD it faces Harbour Street, named for when the city was once an important commercial route to the sea before the river silted up. In 1996 I climbed all the way up to the top to see if I could hear what my husband was saying, back down on the stage. I am still amazed that I could.
You’ll be amazed too when you visit Ephesus because wherever you look, there is something breathtaking to see.[shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="14877614"]
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