History of Ephesus

Ephesus was an ancient Greko-Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor. It was acknowledged among the twelve cities of the Ionian Union during the Classical Greek period. Regarding the Roman period, Ephesus had a population of more than 250,000 in the 1st century BC, taking place among the largest cities in the Mediterranean world. The city was well-known with the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Antiquity. The city began to lose its importance as a commercial center as the harbor slowly silted up by the Cayster River (Küçük Menderes). Ephesus was also one of the seven churches of Asia that are mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

ephesus theaterEphesus was settled by Attic-Ionian colony in the 10th century BC on the Ayasuluk Hill, three kilometers from the center of ancient Ephesus (as proven through excavations at the Seljuk castle). Some authorities also assert that Ephesus was founded on the settlement of Apasas, a city dating back to the Bronze Age in 14th century BC according to the Hittite sources.

The mythical founder of the city was the son of the king of Athens, Androklos. According to the legend, he founded Ephesus on the place where the oracle of Delphi came true (“A fish and a wild boar will designate you the ideal place”). Androklos was a successful warrior, during his era the city began to get rich. Afterwards, it was suggested as a part of mythology by some Greek historians such as Pausanias, Strabo, the poet Kallinos, and the historian Herodotos, that the ancient city of Ephesus was founded by the the Amazons.

The Greek goddess Artemis and the Anatolian goddess Kybele were identified together as Artemis of Ephesus. The many-breasted goddess referring as “Lady of Ephesus”, identified with Artemis, was esteemed in the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. In 356 BC the temple of Artemis was burned down by a madman named Herostratus, according to a legend. There are barely remains of this gigantic structure. Today the remains of the temple of Artemis stand on exhibition in the British Museum.

The silting up of the harbour in Ephesus and the movement of the Kayster River gives the truth that the location never remained the same. As the river Cayster silted up the harbour, the resulting marshes caused malaria and many deaths among the inhabitants. The people of Ephesus were forced to move to a new settlement.

Ephesus, originally Greek, became the highligt of the Roman Republic the city went under the Roman influence. When Augustus became emperor in 27 BC, he made Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia after Pergamum. Ephesus entered another era of prosperity Ephesus has been predicted to have had a population between 400,000 and 500,000 in the year 100, as the largest city in Roman Asia and of the day. Ephesus was at its peak during the 1st and 2nd century AD.

Ephesus remained the most important city of theByzantine Empire in Asia after Constantinople in the 5th and 6th centuries. The basilica of St. John was built during the reign of emperor Justinian I in the 6th century. The town was again partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614. When the Seljuk Turks invaded Ephesus it was a small village. They undertook the control and changed the name of the town as Hagios Theologos. These new Seljuk rulers added important architectural works such as the İsa Bey Mosque, caravansaries and Turkish baths. The region was ruled for a while by the Anatolian beyliks. After a period of unrest, the district was governed by the Ottoman Empire in 1425. Ephesus was eventually completely abandoned in the 15th century and lost her former glory and nearby Ayasuluğ was renamed Selçuk in 1914.