Ephesus

Ancient city on the coast of Turkey was a toehold for a fledgling religion called Christianity Ancient city on the coast of Turkey was a toehold.Ancient Ephesus teaches us vivid lessons about the history of Christianity. It is one of the few places in the world where you can supplement your Frommer's guidebook with verses from the New Testament.

Ephesus played an important role in the spread of early Christianity. Modern-day visitors, in fact, are following in the footsteps of the ancient apostles. Paul and John the Beloved preached there after Christ's mortal ministry.Key incidents include the arrival in A.D. 42 of John, who brought Mary, the mother of Jesus, with him.

Mary is believed to have lived in Ephesus until her death.

A simple rock home on the hillside near the ruins of Ephesus is said to have been the place where she lived. It is thought she is buried nearby.

Furthermore, Ephesus is one of the seven cities mentioned in the book of Revelation, which was written by John.

Christian tradition holds that John, known as John the Beloved, died at Ephesus. A church was built during the 4th century to mark what was believed to be the location of his grave. Ruins of the church, called the Basilica of St. John, still stand. It is a short distance from Ephesus proper, near the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, which dates from the 8th century B.C.

(Mormons, on the other hand, believe that John did not die but was allowed to remain on the Earth as a ministering servant awaiting Christ's Second Coming. 3 Nephi 28:6).

Paul came to Ephesus in A.D. 53 and stayed three years. He was imprisoned for a time, and what are thought to be the remnants of the prison are still visible west of the Agora.

The grand amphitheater of Ephesus, often referred to as the Grand Theater, is the setting for a scene depicted in Acts 19. A silversmith named Demetrius, who earned his living making silver shrines for Diana, the Roman goddess, led an uprising against Paul because he had turned people against Diana. His preachings against the mythological goddess threatened the source of income of silversmiths. An uproar during an assembly at the amphitheater ensued.

The book of Ephesians in the New Testament consists of letters Paul wrote to the residents of Ephesus.

Some scholars believe that St. Luke is buried at Ephesus in a tomb that's across the highway from the upper entrance to the Ephesus ruins. That tradition, however, is not strongly supported, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The area's roots runs deeper than early Christianity. According to a guidebook written by Huseyin Cimrin, the earliest information about Ephesus is from the 7th century B.C.

It was a crossroads for conquerors. The army of Alexander the Great tromped through town. Ephesus thrived during its Hellenistic (Greek) period. It was ruled by the Persians. Even Antony and Cleopatra set foot there.

The Goths, a Germanic tribe that conquered a lot of the Roman Empire in the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries, destroyed the city in A.D. 262. It's said that Ephesus never completely returned to its former glory.

The marble streets, elaborate fountains and complex structures you see today are primarily from the Roman era, which reached its peak during the reign of Caesar Augustus. The ruins are the crown jewel of the sites found along the Turkish coast, which is overflowing with archaeological riches.

The area also has ruins of an Ionian city settled by ancient Greeks. They predate the Roman period.

Ephesus was on the cutting edge for "modern" conveniences. It was the Silicon Valley of the ancient world.

Pedestrian walkways lined the marble streets. Sheltered promenades surrounded the market square.

An aqueduct provided water. A sewer system ran underneath the streets and emptied into the harbor.

Houses of rich Ephesians, used from the first century to the 7th century A.D., had mosaic floors and walls decorated with frescoes. Some of the homes were two stories high. One excavated home had a private bath with a washbasin and a latrine that could be used by four people at a time.

The public latrines served 50 people at a time. They sat side by side with their togas gathered around them. A water channel connected to the city's sewer system ran under the U-shaped sitting places. A small channel filled with water ran in front of the row of latrines, giving people a chance to wash up.

The city also had public baths with a frigidarium (cold room), a tepidarium (lukewarm room), a calidarium (hot room) and sudatorium (sweating room).

The ruins of Ephesus are about a 25-minute drive from the port city of Kusadasi, a resort town whose hillsides are awash with condominiums and apartment buildings overlooking the sea. Kusadasi is a popular stop for cruise ships.

Ephesus was strategically located on the western end of a major trade route to Asia. Although the Ephesus you see today is miles from the ocean, it once had an inner harbor. By the beginning of the Middle Ages, the harbor was filled with silt from the nearby Cayster River, rendering it useless as a port and signaling the city's decline.

After the 14th century, Ephesus was a ghost town.

Excavations by the British to uncover the ruins began in 1863.

Some of the main features of Ephesus have been partially reconstructed.

Here are a few of the highlights. We consulted several sources, including "Ephesus: The Metropolis of the Antique Age" by Huseyin Cimrin and the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The Grand Theater is a semicircular outdoor amphitheater of rock bleachers that climbs the hillside in three tiers. It could seat nearly 25,000 people. Gladiators fighting wild animals was one of the spectacles that took place here. This was the setting for the uproar against the apostle Paul.

The Celsus Library, perhaps the most photographed of the reconstructed ruins, was built over the sarcophagus of Tiberius Julius Celsus, the province's general governor who died in A.D.114 The library, which reportedly had 12,000 roll books and a mezzanine floor, was probably completed in A.D.125. The sarcophagus of Celsus is in a vaulted room in the middle. Outside, facing the library, is an area where people sat to hear philosophers lecture. It is referred to as the auditorium.

The Temple of Hadrian was built in the 2nd century A.D. to honor the Roman emperor Hadrian. In the center of the arch that's supported by Corinthian columns is a relief of Medusa.

The Brothel, which is across the street from the Celsus Library, dates back to the 4th century A.D. Rooms and halls surrounded an atrium. The floors of the rooms had mosaics. The establishment had a two-level bathing pool.

The Marble Road, which goes from the Celsus Library past the Grand Theater, is a remnant of the Hellenistic period. A sewer system ran beneath this road, which is lined with sidewalks.

The Odeum is a small amphitheater with seating for 1,500. It was used for meetings of the City Council and doubled as a concert hall. It is believed that it was covered with a wooden roof because there were no water channels in the orchestra level to drain rainwater.

The Basilica, which is just west of the Odeum, was the center of trade. Merchants sold their wares and bankers exchanged money there. What's left are two rows of columns. The Basilica dates to the first century A.D. during the reign of Caesar Augustus.

Next to the Basilica, a few steps down, are the remains of the State Agora, the setting for religious and state meetings. The public meeting area was surrounded by offices for state officials.

The Pollio Fountain, with an impressive arch that has been reconstructed, was built in A.D. 97 by a rich Ephesian family named Pollio. Statues from this fountain are in the Ephesus Museum.

Curetes Street was named after the priests (curetes) who dealt with religious and civic affairs. Columns found at the beginning of the street were inscribed with the names of the priests. Statues of famous Ephesians stood in front of the stores that lined both sides of the street. A sewer system ran underneath it.

The Memmius Monument adjacent to Curetes Street features the remains of a fountain and a relief of Nike, the goddess of victory. The monument, built in the name of the family Memmius, has statues of family members.

The Temple of Artemis, considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world by Pliny, a Roman naturalist and writer who lived from A.D. 23-79, is near Ephesus close to the Basilica of St. John. Today the structure, which honored the Greek mythological goddess Artemis (Diana was her Roman counterpart) and dated back to the 8th century B.C., is a shadow of its former self. Only a few pieces of marble and a single column remain. The temple bestowed an aura of importance on the city.

The Ephesus Museum in the town of Selcuk houses friezes and statues found at Ephesus.