A few kilometers off the Aegean coast near present-day Kusadasi in Turkey, Ephesus stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of history that has unfolded across the ages.
Ephesus’ origins can be traced back to the 10th century BCE, when Ionian Greeks established a settlement on a strategic location near the Cayster River. The city quickly prospered, becoming a hub of trade and cultural exchange.
Ephesus’ fame was established by the construction of the Artemision, a magnificent temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis, one of the most revered deities in the Greek pantheon. The temple’s grandeur and opulence were outstanding, earning it a place among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The annual Ephesian Artemisia festival was an important element in the pan-Hellenic festival circuit.
Perhaps the most renowned son of Ephesus was Heraclitus, a philosopher known for his enigmatic and profound insights into the nature of reality. He lived around 500 BCE. His famous quote, “Everything flows, nothing stands still,” is still regarded as one of the fundamental principals of the universe.
With the advent of the Roman Empire, Ephesus’ fortunes reached new heights. The city became the capital of the Roman province of Asia with an estimated 250.000 inhabitants. Magnificent buildings like the Library of Celsus and the Marble Way transformed it into a symbol of Roman grandeur. A lot of the ancient buildings have survived until today; among them the public toilets, which show us a rarely seen aspect of daily life in the Roman empire.
With the appearance of the apostle Paul, who started preaching and establishing churches, conflicts between the Christian converts and followers of the old religion arose. Some old temples were destroyed, others were rebuilt as churches. But the city remained an important trading place until the harbor slowly silted and an earthquake shook the foundations (614 CE). Three sackings by the Arabs further reduced the population. In the 11th century CE only a small village was left. The old grandeur was almost forgotten, when the British started excavating in 1863. In 2015 the archeological site was recognized as UNESCO world heritage.