Ephesus Turkey: Historical Ancient City Ruins

The ancient city of Ephesus Turkey, also known as the Ruins of Ephesus, located in the western Anatolian town of Selçuk, dates back to the Neolithic Age around 6000 BC. It is also one of the 12 ancient cities on the coastline of Izmir and the Aegean cities called Ionia in Antiquity. Therefore, it is one of the important historical cities in our lands.

Ephesus history

It was founded by Androklos, the son of an Attic king. When the city center was Ayasuluk, other settlements were established on and around Panayır Mountain from the 8th century onwards. In the 560s BC, the Lydian King Croesus conquered the city.

Afterwards, Ephesus was conquered by the Persians and came under the rule of Alexander the Great in 334 BC. After Alexander’s death, it was included in the kingdom of Lysimakhos from 300 BC, and the city, named after Lysimakhos’ wife Arsinoe II, became known as Arsinoea.

Efes Harabeleri Gezi Yazisi
Efes Antik Kenti Gezi Rotasi

When King Attalos III of Pergamon died in 133 BC, he left the kingdom to the Roman people. Thus, the city of Ephesus became part of the province of Asia.

However, some of the people were dissatisfied with this situation and supported Mithridates VI to come to power and in 88 BC, 80 thousand Romans living in the province were killed overnight and Ephesus was re-included in the tax system. In 33 BC, Marcus Antony and his wife Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, were defeated by Octavianus.

Following this victory, Octavianus reorganized the province of Asia and made Ephesus the capital instead of Pergamon. The city of Ephesus, which experienced its most glorious period in the 2nd century AD, was equipped with monumental buildings made of marble during the reign of Roman Emperor Augustus.

Efes Antik Kenti Celsus Kitapligi Kutuphanesi
Ruins of Ephesus Ancient City, one of the top places to visit and see in Izmir

Ephesus, home of the Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the world, is seen as the commercial center of history and even the religious pilgrimage center of Christianity. The most important reason behind this is that St. Paul, St. John and Virgin Mary were in these places and the contributions of the saints to the Bible are from here.

Grand Theater

The ancient city of Ephesus is a big place in terms of places to visit and sections. The most important of these is the Ephesus Theater, which has the largest audience capacity in the world with its 3-storey stage building and three levels in the cavea area and a seating area of 25 thousand people. This theater was completed in the 2nd century AD.

Efes Antik Kenti Tiyatrosu
Efes Antik Kenti Amfitiyatrosu

The theater, which belongs to the Hellenistic period, was gigantic in size with a stage building 41.65 meters long and 10.77 meters wide. Gladiator fights, meetings and theater performances were held in the historical building where the mountain slope was used as the theater infrastructure.

Harbor Street

The city of Ephesus used to be a harbor city. There used to be a bay on the plain in front of the harbor street. Since ancient times, the front of the city of Ephesus was filled with alluvium carried by the waters of the Kaystros River – now known as Küçük Menderes – and the Marnas Stream. As the alluvium settled, the sea began to recede and trade in Ephesus began to decline and shrink.

Efes Antik Kenti Liman Caddesi
Places to visit in the ancient city of Ephesus

Liman Street, also known as Arcadiane, is the most important street connecting the theater and its surroundings to the harbor. In the past, there used to be a bay at the other end of the 11-meter-wide and 600-meter-long Liman Street. When theater plays were performed, it was possible for the audience to see the sea.

Port Street was the longest and widest street in the city, with columns and statues of the city’s dignitaries. Today, a large part of this street is not accessible. But it seems that in a few years, the Ancient Canal Project, called the Ephesus Ancient Harbor Revitalization Project, will be realized.

Church of Mary

St. Mary’s Church is located north of Liman Street, where there are church ruins. It is located west of the entrance. It is an important church for Christians, so it has a great meaning for the Christian religion.

Efes Antik Kenti Meryem Kilisesi
Efes Antik Kenti Meryem Kilisesi Kalintilari


The big ruin on the side of Marble Street is the Agora of the ancient city. The agora columns here could not withstand history and were destroyed. The agora, which was the commercial marketplace and gathering place of the period, was a square-shaped and very lively place next to the ancient harbor.

Efes Antik Kenti Agora Kalintilari
Efes Antik Kenti Restorasyon

Marble Street

Marble Street, between the Ancient Ephesus Theater and the Library of Celsus, is another pleasant street to walk. As you walk down the street towards the library, there is a footprint mold on the right side, which is under protection.

Efes Ask Evi Reklam Panosu
Efes Antik Kenti Celsus Kitapligi Gezi

This footprint is intended to direct people to a place called the House of Love, located opposite the Celsus Library. This sign directing those who have money and want love is the first billboard in history. If we call it a love house, it is more understandably a brothel.

The toilets of the Ancient City of Ephesus are also worth seeing. We say they are worth seeing because they are ancient. In the past, men and women used to use the restrooms side by side in a chat environment. The water flowing under these toilet holes used to take the toilets to the river or the sea. They would also clean their relevant parts with the water flowing from another gutter in front of the person doing the toilet.

Celsus Library

Located at the corner of Kuretler Street and Marble Street, the Celsus Library was built in 135 AD by Julius Aguila, Consul of Asia, for his father Celsus Polemans, who died at the age of 70.

Ephesus is an endless treasure of knowledge and culture. From the sage Heraclitus to the dream interpreter Artemidoros, from the poet Calinos to the physician Soranos, many famous people grew up reading the writings in the Celsus Library and became leaders in their fields.

Agulia died before seeing the final version of the Celsus Library. The four statues of women, now on display at the Vienna Museum but formerly on the front façade of the Celsus Library, represented Reason, Fate, Knowledge and Virtue.

As a result of a Goth attack during the period, the central part of the library caught fire and burned down completely along with the books,

Efes Celsus Kitapligi
Efes Antik Kenti Celsus Kitapligi Gezisi

The Celsus Library, one of the most beautiful works of Roman buildings, had 14 thousand manuscript books written on parchment and these books were stored in rolls on the upper floors of the three-story building.

In addition to being a library, the library was also used as a funerary monument. When Celsus died, his son built this monument around the tomb of Celsus.

Temple of Hadrian

Built in the name of Emperor Hadrian, the temple has a Corinthian order and the friezes depict the legend of the founding of Ephesus. On the reverse side of the 20 YTL bill, the building that appears with the Celsus Library was the Temple of Hadrian.

Efes Antik Kenti Hadrianus Kapisi Gezisi
Efes Antik Kenti Tarihi Tapinaklari

Slope Houses

The Slope Houses on the slope of Bülbül Mountain are the houses where the dignitaries and rich people of the city of Ephesus lived. We would not be wrong if we say that the houses are luxury houses. Each house has its own courtyard and underfloor heating.

Since the Slope Houses belong to another excavation group, entrance is paid. The entrance to Ephesus Ancient City Slope Houses is subject to an extra fee and Müzekart is not valid. Slope Houses can also be referred to as Terrace Houses, Terrace House in English.

Efes Teras Evler Gezilecek Yerler
Ephesus Ancient City Terrace Houses
Efes Teras Evler Gorulecek Yerler
Ephesus Ancient City Terrace Houses

When you enter Yamaç Evler, you can see that although years have passed, an intensive restoration process is still ongoing. Thousands of pieces are still waiting to be put together and complete this historical puzzle.

Apart from the houses, there is also a large hall and a chapel inside. Especially the wall paintings and floor mosaics on the upper floors are worth seeing. Although the extra fee per person had a negative impact, visiting this place added a different dimension to our Ephesus trip.

Kuretler Street

Kuretler Street, built according to a vertical grid plan, starts with Marble Street next to the Celsus Library. 210 meters long and 6.80 – 10 meters wide, the street was parallel to the shops where artists and restaurateurs used to sell their wares. The street, which was previously open to vehicular traffic with a sewer underneath, was closed to traffic with the construction of the Heracles Gate.

Efes Antik Kenti Cadde Fotograflari
Efes Antik Kenti Kuretler Caddesi Yolu
Ephesus Ancient City Kuretler Street

Temple of Domitianus

Looking at the reconstructions in Ephesus, the Temple of Domitianus, which is thought to be the largest building in the city, was dedicated to Emperor Domitianus, but was handed over to the Flavius family after his memory was cursed. With the triumph of Christianity, the stones were removed and what remains of the building are the head and arms of the statue of Domitianus.

A Hungarian 3D artist named Adam Nemeth transferred the ancient city of Ephesus to 3D environment with maps, plans and sketches and presented it to viewers like us. In his work, he designed how Ephesus looked like in its old state based on data. It is really exciting to see the city as it was 02 centuries ago.

Efes Antik Kenti 3D Simulasyonu
3D modeled version of the ancient city of Ephesus


Ephesus entrance fee

Ephesus entrance fee is quite expensive. You can check the prices on their website as they are constantly updated. For this reason, it is best to enter with Müzekart. You can visit between 08:00 – 18:30 during the summer season, 08:30 – 18:00 during the winter season, every day of the week, including Monday. You should spend at least 2 hours at the Ancient City of Ephesus.

Where is Ephesus?

To reach the Ancient City of Ephesus, which is the most popular sightseeing point among the places to visit in Izmir, you must first reach Selçuk district. On your way to Selçuk district, you will see the signs of the Ancient City of Ephesus along the road.

The ancient city has two entrances. If you are coming by car, there is a parking lot at both entrances where you will have to park your car and which is subject to a fee.

The distance between the ancient city of Ephesus and Istanbul is 540 km (6 h 15 min), 630 km (7 h 40 min) from Ankara, 80 km (1 h) from Izmir, 125 km (2 h 15 min) from Aydın.

170km (2h 30min) from Bodrum. During your visit to Ephesus, you can include Ephesus Museum, Church of the Virgin Mary, Seven Sleepers, Selçuk Castle, Isa Bey Mosque and St. Jean Church in your sightseeing plan.

Ephesus has been the subject of every corner of history. And every corner of Ephesus bears the traces of this history. It is quite enjoyable to visit this city that smells of history.

If your trip coincides with the summer months, the heat coming from the hill and reflected from the stones at noon may spoil your sightseeing pleasure. Be prepared for this and don’t forget a hat on your head and sunscreen on your skin. Take your sunglasses too.

You don’t have to wear hiking shoes, you can also wear slippers. It is useful to have water and food with you as the cafes in the area are expensive. You can use the restroom after the entrance on the theater side for free. The restrooms at the entrance above are before you enter and charge a fee.

Ephesus Archaeological Museum

Located close to the ancient city of Ephesus, the Ephesus Museum is a museum that takes responsibility for research and controls in Ephesus, preserves the historical artifacts found in Ephesus and brings them together with visitors.

It first functioned as a warehouse in 1929 and was developed in 1964 with the increase in historical artifacts from Ephesus.

With the artifacts found as a result of the archaeological excavations carried out every year and the donations made by the locals, the number of archaeological artifacts of the Ephesus Museum has reached nearly 50 thousand. It took its current form after the repair and arrangement works in 2014.

The Ephesus Museum exhibits not only artifacts from the ancient city of Ephesus but also finds from the surrounding historical sites. The castle on the Ayasuluk hill, the Church of St. Jean, where the tomb of St. Jean is located, and Artemision, where the ruins of the Temple of Artemis are located, are some of them.

Izmir Efes Muzesi Altin Heykel
Izmir Efes Muzesi Buluntular

Since it is a museum where finds from the ancient city of Ephesus are mainly exhibited, the categorization system is not chronological, but according to where the artifacts were found.

It is possible to see many artifacts in the garden of the museum, which is thematically categorized as Slope Houses Finds, Coins, Ephesus Through the Ages, Cult of Cybele, Artemis Temple Finds, Ephesus Artemis, Emperor Cult.

Izmir Efes Muzesi Bahcedeki Eserler
Izmir Efes Muzesi Bahcesi

One of the most interesting artifacts in the Ephesus Museum is the statues of Artemis, for which a section has been reserved. The Artemis of Ephesus, which was found in the Prytaneion in the Ancient City of Ephesus, which is now called the town hall, and excavated in 1956, is a goddess of nature.

All of the reliefs on her symbolize fertility, productivity, abundance and fertility. Since she is the goddess of nature, there are reliefs of lions, bulls, goats, griffins, sphinxes and bees. The Artemis statues you will see in the museum are divided into Great Artemis and Beautiful Artemis.

Izmir Efes Muzesi Artemis Heykeli
Izmir Efes Muzesi Artemis Ana Tanrica Heykeli

In Antiquity, Ephesus’ water needs were supplied by aqueducts and underground canals from sources outside the city, such as Kenchrios on the Kusadasi side, Marnas on the Çamlik village side and the sources in the Küçük Menderes Valley.

The shortest and oldest route to these sources is the 6 km long Derbentdere waterway, while the longest waterway is the 43 km long Değirmendere with over twenty bridges.

During the archaeological excavations, many fountains built during the Roman period were decorated with statues. The statues found in important historical fountains such as Pollio, Trajan and Laecanius Bassus can be seen in the Hall of Fountain Finds.

Izmir Efes Muzesi Cesme Heykelleri
Izmir Efes Muzesi Sunak Kabartmalari

Eros is the person who enables the love relationship between people with the bow and arrow, the gift of Zeus. One of the artifacts worth seeing in the Ephesus Museum is Eros with Dolphin in the room where Eros sculptures are located. In the bronze sculpture made in the 2nd century AD, Eros is depicted riding a dolphin.

Izmir Efes Muzesi Yunuslu Eros
Izmir Efes Muzesi Heykeller

In the coins room of the Ephesus Museum, it is possible to see the coins found as a result of excavations in the foundation of the Temple of Artemis, the oldest of which dates back to the 7th century BC.

Starting from the 6th century BC, coins minted in Ephesus began to depict deer, the sacred animal of Artemis, the mother goddess of the city. As time progressed, the bee, the symbol of the city, began to be minted along with the deer. During the Roman period, the front side of the coins featured the emperor and family portraits, while the back side featured the symbols of the city.

Izmir Efes Muzesi Sikkeler
Izmir Efes Muzesi Takilar

During the Roman period, various buildings and temples were built for emperors. In ancient cities, the right to build these monuments called neokoros was limited.

The ancient city of Ephesus had gained superiority over important cities such as Samos, Pergamon and Smyma by having the right to neokoros four times. Ephesus obtained the first neokoros during the reign of Domitianus.

The people of Ephesus, who were in danger of losing their right to neokoros following the decision to erase his name from memory after his death, preserved this right by dedicating the temple to Emperor Domitian’s deified father Vespasiamus. The second neochorosity was given in the name of Hadrian. Ephesus received its third neochorosity when Caracalla became emperor together with his brother Geta.

Caracalla, who killed Geta, gave up the temple, and the lost neochorosity was restored in the name of Emperor Elegabalus. The fourth neocorosity was awarded to the temple dedicated to Emperor Valerianus. The Hall of the Cult of Emperors towards the end of the museum contains artifacts from these temples.

Izmir Efes Muzesi Domitianus Tapinagi Sunagi
Izmir Efes Muzesi Domitianus Tapinagi Heykelleri