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EPHESUS  ancıent cıty / turkey

Ephesus Ancient City / General info & History


Ephesus / Turkish: Efes; which a name that might possibly derived from Hittite language ''Apasa'' was an ancient Greek city on the Ionian coasts, three kilometres southwest of Selçuk town belonging to Aydın ProvinceTurkey. It was built in the 10th century BC by Attic and Ionian colonists. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city has been richer and increased its importence and power during the control of Roman Empire starting from 129 BC.

The city is famous because of the existence of the nearby Temple of Artemis which was completed around 550 BC. The ancient temple is accepted as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Some other important remainings out of many others are the Library of Celsus, and a theatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators.

Ephesos was one of the seven churches in Asia Minor that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John is thought to be written in Ephesos. The cityis known to be the site of several 5th-century Christian Councils.

The city was destroyed by the Goths in 263, and than rebuilt again, The city has lost its importance as a commercial centre as the harbour was slowly silted up by the Küçükmenderes River. Than the city was partially destroyed by an earthquake in AD 614.

The ruins of Ephesus are a favourite international and local tourist attraction, partly owing to their easy access from Adnan Menderes Airport or from the cruise ships in Kuşadası, which is a touristic town with a port on a distance of 30 km to the South.

kuşadası cruise port

when you land on the İzmir Adnan Menderes İnternational airport, the town Selçuk belonging to Kuşadası district can be reached by a 2 hours drive on a nice wide highway with plenty of natural scenes around. Selçuk is the little historical town which is hosting the ancient city Ephesus. centuries ago, as we mentioned before, the ancient city Ephesus was a city with a trade port but now it is 30 km away from the coast because of the alüvions of Menderes River. Selcuk is also another historical setlement used by Romans, Byzantions, Ottomans etc. You can find accomodation facilities in Selçuk as well as in kuşadasi. the ones in Selcuk are generally Hostels for backpackers or Boutique hotels with restored buildings which were ones old ottoman houses.


The closeby area of Ephesus was already inhabited during the Neolithic Age (about 6000 BC).

During the latest Excavations settlements from the early Bronze Age were found at Ayasuluk Hill. According to Hittite sources, the capital of the Kingdom of Arzawa which was another independent state in Western and Southern Anatolia,  was Apasa. Some scholars suppose that this name was the origin of the later Greek name ''Ephesus''. In 1954, a burial ground from the Mycenaean era (1500–1400 BC) with ceramic pots was discovered close to the ruins of the basilica of St. John. This was the period of the Mycenaean Expansion  in Asia Minor during the 14th and 13th centuries BC. 

Ephesus was founded as an Attic-Ionian colony in the 10th century BC on Ayasuluk hill , three kilometers away from the centre of ancient Ephesus. The mythical founder of the city is told to be the prince of Athens named Androklos, who left his country after his father, King Kodros is dead.  Androklos drove away most of the native Carian and Lelegian inhabitants of the city and united his people with the remainder. He was a successful warrior, and as a king he was able to join the twelve cities of Ionia together into the Ionian League. During his reign the city began to prosper. He died in a battle against the Carians when he came to the aid of Priene, another city of the Ionian League. Androklos and his dog are depicted on the Hadrian temple frieze, dating from the 2nd century. Later, Greek historians such as PausaniasStrabo and Herodotos and the poet Kallinos reassigned the city's mythological foundation to Ephos, queen of the Amazons.

The Greek goddess Artemis and the great Anatolian goddess Kybele were identified together as Artemis of Ephesus. İn fact the Hittite anatolian Goddess Kybele is the old version of Greek Goddess Artemis whose mhyth were also born in Ionıai Anatolia. The famous multi-breasted "Lady of Ephesus" statue which represents Artemis, was venerated in the Temple of Artemis, that is accepted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the largest building of the ancient world. İt is also reported by historians that the temple was built by Ephesus, son of the River God Caystrus, before the arrival of the Ionians. 


During the archaic period, about 650 BC, Cimmerians attacked the city and razed. Temple of Artemis was one of the structures that had been razed. After the Cimmerians were overcomed, the city was ruled by a series of tyrants untill a revolt by the people, Ephesus started to be ruled by a council. The city started to develop again under a new rule, Durimng these times a number of important historical figures such as the poet Callinus and the poet Hipponax lived in the city. The other important figures of Ephesos during the era were philosopher Heraclitus, the great painter Parrhasius, the grammarian Zenodotos and two physicians Soranus and Rufus.

About 560 BC, Ephesus was conquered by the Lydians under king Croesus, who treated the inhabitants with respect and leaded the main reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis. His signature, which is now in british museum,  has been found on the base of one of the columns of the temple . 

Later on, the Lydians leaded by Croesus, with the help of Ionians who refused the peace offer of Cyrus the Great, invaded Persia.  After Lydians were defeated by Persians, the Ionians offered to make peace, but Cyrus refused & insisted that they surrender and become part of the empire. Fallowing the refusal of the peace offer, Ionians were defeated by the great  commander Harpagos of Persian army in 547 BC. at that period all the cities in Ionian area were started to be ruled by  the Satraps of Achaemenid Empire. 


During the classical period, Ephesus continued to live as a city in peace, but because of hight taxes demanded by Pwersians, the Ephesians participated in the Ionian Revolt of Greeks against Persian rule. The Ionian Revolt was where the Ionians and other small cities didn't wan't to be under the Persian rule and they lead several military assaults on the Persian Rule. They joined in the Battle of Ephesus in 498 BC, which was the event which instigated the Greco-Persian wars. 

During the Peloponnesian War, Ephesus was first allied to Athens but later sided with Sparta, which was being supported by the Persians. As a result, Ionia remained under Persian rule.


When the army of Macedonians leaded by Alexander the Great defeated the Persian forces, the Greek cities of Asia Minor were liberated. The Persian tyrant Syrpax and his family were stoned to death, and Alexander was greeted warmly when he entered Ephesus in triumph. Alexander  proposed to finance the Artemis Temple reconstruction with a requestof having his name inscribed on the front. After Alexander's death in 323 BC, Ephesus started to be ruled by one of Alexander's generals, Lysimachus.

As the river Cayster (Turkish name menderes)) silted up the old harbour, an epidemic disease malaria came into presence and many of the inhabitants were dead. Than people moved from the ancient settlement  to the present site which is two kilometres away. The new settlement was officially called Arsinoea after the king's second wife, Arsinoe II of Egypt. 

Ephesus revolted after the death of Agathocles, and gave the reason to the king of Syria and Mesopotamia Seleucus I to kill Lysimachus at the Battle of Corupedium in 281 BC. After the death of Lysimachus the town started to be adressed as Ephesus again.

After the murder of king Antiochus, pharaoh Ptolemy III invaded the Seleucid Empire and the Egyptian fleet swept the coast of Asia Minor. Ephesus came under Egyptian rule between 263 and 197 BC. İt is necessary to explain that both Seleukian dynasty & the Ptoleme dynasty are the empires founded by Alexander the Great's genarals after his deaths. İn brief, they are the main actors of Helenistic era.

The Seleucian king Antiochus III, tried to regcapture the Greek cities of Asia Minor and recaptured Ephesus in 196 BC, but he then came into conflict with Rome. After a series of battles, he was defeated by Scipio Asiaticus at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC. 


Dhen Ephesus was under the rule of Romans, the inhabitants felt Roman pressure when taxes rose considerably, and the treasures of the city were systematically captured. In 88 BC General Archelaus under the command of Mithridates the Great, king of Pontus, conquered Asia & Mithridates ordered every Roman citizen in the province to be slaughtered. This opder was resulted with the slaughter of 80,000 Roman citizens in Asia, or any person who spoke with a Latin accent. Ephesus was a primary subject to that andbesides the Roman citizens,  statues and monuments in Ephesus were also destroyed. When they saw how vildly the people of Chios had been treated by Zenobius, a general of Mithridates, they refused to enlist into his army. Zenobius was invited into the city but when he comes they murdered him. Mithridates took revenge and inflicted terrible punishments. Ephesus came back under Roman rule in 86 BC again. 

Mark Antony was welcomed by Ephesus in 33 BC with Cleopatra & his fleet of 800 ships before the battle of Actium againsat OctaviusWhen Augustus became emperor in 27 BC,  he made Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia  instead of Pergamum. According to Strabo, those were the most briliant days of Ephesus.

The city and temple were destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD. However emperor Constantine the Great rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths.

trajan fountain3.jpg

During the Byzantine era, Ephesus remained the most important city of the Byzantine Empire in Asia after Constantinople in the 5th and 6th centuries. Emperor Flavius Arcadius raised the level of the street between the theatre and the harbour. The basilica of St. John was built during the reign of emperor Justinian I in the 6th century.

At the earthquake in 614 AD, The city was partially destroyed. The importance of the city as a commercial centre was lost as the harbour was slowly silted up by the river nearby, despite continiousprotective efforts by inhabitants. Today, the harbour is 5 kilometres inland. The loss of its harbour caused Ephesus to lose its access to the Aegean Sea, & the importance for trade. People started leaving the lowland of the city. The ruins of the temples were used as building blocks for new homes. Marble sculptures were brken and used to make lime for plaster.

Seljuk Turks conquered Ephesus in 1090, which was a small village those times. The Byzantines got control again in 1097 and changed the name of the town to Hagios Theologos. The region was under control of the byzantines until 1308. During the crusades, the little town didn't mean anything for the the Crusaders, the legendary city of Ephesus wasn't exist anymore.  So, the Crusaders of the Second Crusade fought the Seljuks just outside the town in December 1147.


The town captured by Menteşoğulları which is another Turkish Tribe, on 24 October 1304. Later on Turks pillaged the church of Saint John and deported most of the local population to Thyrea in Greece to be proactive against a revolt. Many of the remaining inhabitants were massacred.

Shortly afterwards, 

The town was again ruled by Seljuks for a short period. They built many important architectural structures such as the İsa Bey Mosque, caravansaries and Turkish bathhouses .

Ephesians were ruled by Ottoman Empire for the first time in 1390. The Mongolian warlord Tamerlane defeated the Ottomans in Anatolia in 1402 in the war of Ankara, and the Ottoman sultan  died in captivity. The region was divided to the Anatolian Feudals. After a period  the region was again incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1425.

Ephesus was completely abandoned by the 15th century. Nearby Ayasuluğ was renamed Selçuk in 1914.

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