Near to Turkey’s western coast, about ten kilometres north of the town of Kusadasi, the ruins of Ephasus comprise one of the world’s most important archaeological sites. The scale is truly spectacular and although only a fraction has so far been fully excavated, it is the largest of the Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean region. The area was originally inhabited by humans from around 6000BC and the city itself was founded in the first century BC. Originally built by the ancient Greeks, Ephasus subsequently went through periods of occupation by many nations, including the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. Ephasus was the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world. The city was also of major Christian importance. The nearby House of the Virgin Mary is known as the last home of the mother of Christ and a basilica here houses the tomb of the apostle John.
Ephasus was a city of enormous value and at times a major centre of commerce in the region. At times during Roman occupation, it was considered second only to Rome itself in importance. The area covered by the city was substantial, possibly as much as a thousand acres, though as this included mountainous areas, only around half of this would have been built on. Ephasus lost its importance gradually, a process that was hastened by the harbour constantly becoming silted up. In fact, as a result of geological changes, the site of the original harbour is now some three miles inland. Earthquakes and raids by various invaders took their toll and the site was completely abandoned in the 15th century.
Although much remains still to be explored, Ephasus today contains some major relics. The amphitheatre is incredible in its sheer scale, originally being able to accommodate 25,000 seated. Almost nothing remains of the Temple of Artemis, apart from one solitary column, however there are substantial remains of the Temple of Hadrian, including many of its columns and part of the façade. Probably the most memorable sight here is the Library of Celsus. This remarkable front with its columns is truly enormous in its scale. There are also street vistas and the largely intact Isa Bey Mosque, which was built in the 1370s. The nearby village of Selcuk houses the Ephasus Archaeological Museum, and displays many finds from excavations of the city.