Marking Time in Ephesus

There aren’t too many places in the world that boast a heritage extending back 3,500 years, but if a city just happens to occupy a strategic location in a part of the world which saw the dawn of civilisation, then it’s bound to tell a tale or two.

Ephesus, which is located near the Aegean Sea in modern day Turkey, is one of those fortunate places that have exerted some influence on the world in the realms of trade, warfare, society and philosophy.

Although human occupation in, and near, Ephesus can be dated right back to Neolithic Age, over 6,000 years ago, the place as we know it today really had its beginnings in the 10th Century BC, when it was first colonised by a legendary Athenian prince. Some ancient Greek scholars also attributed its founding to Ephos, the queen of the Amazons. Whoever was the true founder, was also a remarkable builder as during the early classical Greek period its Temple of Artemis was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World simply because it was said to be the largest building in the world, at that time.

Alexander the Great lived there for a while, and then it became part of the Roman Republic. The Romans invested a lot of money in Ephesus and, at one stage, it was the second largest city in
the Roman Empire, with the largest city being Rome itself.

There are many wonderful examples of Roman architecture still on display in Ephesus. These include The Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian, and the Roman Theatre. As well as these wonders you can also browse more mundane establishments, such as the ordinary houses and a brothel and latrine (a multi-seater made of marble as going to the toilet was a social pursuit in ancient Rome).

Ephesus also has an important Christian history too, as it is believed that St Paul preached at the same theatre where the Romans were entertained. The supposed house of the Virgin Mary is located there, and it was one of the most important of the early Christian centres of activity.

There is also much evidence of Jewish and Muslim occupation, proving that the people of Ephesus had much tolerance for differing ideas.

To really understand the history of Ephesus it is beneficial to join a guided tour, of which there are many from which to choose. The modern Turkish name is Efes, and it is located just three kilometres from the town of Selcuk, where the nearest hotels are located.

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