Allow plenty of time and prepare to be impressed by Ephesus, the most magnificent Classical city in the Mediterranean.
Known to have existed at least as far back as 1000 B.C. , Ephesus was always a major port and a celebrated place of worship of the mother-goddess, whose identity – Cybele, Artemis – changed according to the government of the day. What remains, apart from fragments of Hellenistic fortifications, dates from days of Imperial Rome when the city was the capital of Asia Minor, and as such, the region’s centre for trade and banking. Ephesus was also admired for its great religious tolerance and freedom.
Walking through the marble-paved, colonnaded streets, one can very easily imagine, from the sheer scale of the place, a city with a quarter of a million inhabitants. Then, as now, Ephesus attracted a huge number of visitors from all over the world.
The population enjoyed advanced urban features, including mains sewer, hot and cold running water, and even, along the Arcadian Way, street lighting. Their physical needs were catered for by gymnasia, public baths, and brothels. For intellectual and spiritual pursuits there were the famous Celsus Library and magnificent temples, while for public spectacle there were two theatres and a gladiatorial stadium.
The Great Theatre, carved into the hillside of Mount Pion, had seats for 25,000 and its ingenious design ensured them all a view of the stage. Its acoustics are superb and it is still used for concerts today, particularly during the annual Izmir Festival.
After Ephesus, it is well worth a visit to the museum in Selcuk which has excellent displays of the site’s artefacts and sculptures, including the bronze Eros on a dolphin, the marble many-breasted Artemis, and Priapus balancing a tray on his best-known feature!