After Istanbul, Ephesus is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey and it probably has been for over two thousand years. Today it is the site of an ancient port city with well-preserved archaeological areas. Two thousand five hundred years ago this city was considered the greatest of the Greek cities and the largest trading port in all the Mediterranean. Throughout history Ephesus has survived numerous attacks, changed hands many times and been the focus of many pilgrimages. It was also the center of early Christianity and remains one of the most important archaeological sites in the Middle East.
Mediterranean cruises will often make port calls on Kusadasi were tours to the ancient city are available. From Istanbul it is about 340 miles by car and a train or bus will cost about US$40 each way and take about eight hours. There are a number of beach resorts and good hotels in the area. Ephesus is located thirty five miles northeast of the Turkish coastal city of Kusadasi and sixty miles south of Izmir, Turkey. While it was once a major ancient port on the Aegean Sea at the River Kaystros, over centuries the river deposited silt into its estuary leaving Ephesus today some thirty miles inland.
According to legends there are two stories about the founding of the city. One is about an Ionian prince named Androclos who founded Ephesus in the eleventh century B.C. That legend claims that as Androclos searched for a location for a new Greek settlement, he turned to the Oracle of Delphi for guidance. The oracle instructed him to look for a boar and a fish that would show him the right location. Later Androclos was cooking fish over a fire. He dropped the fish and it landed in a bush. The bush caught fire and a boar ran out. Androclos built his new settlement where that bush stood and named it Ephesus.
The other legend says Ephesus was founded several hundred years earlier by the Amazon tribe of female warriors, and that the city was named after the Amazon queen, Ephesia.
Temple of Artemis
Much of Ephesus’s history is unrecorded and lost in time. We do know that in the seventh century B.C., Ephesus was ruled by Lydian Kings and was a major metropolis where men and women enjoyed equal opportunity and was the birthplace of the philosopher Heraclitus. The Lydian King Croesus, who ruled from 560 B.C. to 547 B.C., funded the building of a major temple for Artemis in Ephesus. Artemis was the goddess of the hunt, chastity, childbirth, wild animals and the wilderness and was one of the most worshipped Greek deities. Archeological excavations show that three smaller Artemis temples preceded the Croesus temple. In about 356 B.C., a fanatic named Herostratus burned down the Temple of Artemis. The Ephesians soon rebuilt the temple but made it bigger. It is estimated it was four times larger than the Parthenon and is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Today you can explore the ancient site including the library building, the Roman amphitheater, the forum and market street.
Christian also believe that the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, came to Ephesus with St. John after the Crucifixion of Jesus and the two lived the rest of their lives near the city. Today there’s a shrine, the House of the Virgin Mary based on a discovery in 1812 by following the instructions by the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmericha a bedridden German nun showing stigmata wounds.
Later on the Apostle Paul’s third missionary journey starting in the summer of 53 A.D. he arrived in Ephesus. Like his stays in Syrian Antioch and Corinth, he lived in the city for probably three years. In the Bible the Letter To The Ephesians, the tenth book of the New Testament is credited as letters address by Paul to Christians in Ephesus.