Ephesus in Izmir, Turkey was founded in the Classical Greek period and by the 1st century BC it had grown into one of the most formidable cities in the region.
Everywhere you go in Turkey, you’re likely to come across at least one or two famous historical sites. The country is quite literally awash with ancient ruins; temples and monuments, not to mention the underground cisterns in Istanbul or the remarkable underground cities in Cappadocia. Another favorite attraction is Ephesus in Izmir.
In fact, if you visit the ruins of Ephesus in Izmir you’ll be able to say you’ve at least seen one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
A Brief History Of Ephesus in Izmir
The ancient Greek city of Ephesus is located in an area that is today known as Izmir. Interestingly, the area was already inhabited by humans as far back as the Neolithic Age. Several excavations in the area have also shown that the area was quite heavily populated throughout the Bronze Age.
The actual city of Ephesus in Izmir however, was only founded in the 10th century BC. Not much is known about the city during the years that followed, until 650 BC when the city came under attack by the Cimmerians. Although the Cimmerians conquered and then destroyed most of the city, including its famed Temple of Artemis, they were soon driven out of the area and the city fell into the hands of various tyrants.
Approximately 100 years later, Ephesus in Izmir was captured by King Croesus and the Lydians. Prosperity returned and the city grew, before once again being taken over by the Persians. Later still, in 263 BC, the city once again changed hands, and was now ruled by Egypt. In 133 BC, Ephesus finally ended up in the hands of the Roman Empire.
After many conflicts and a considerable amount of bloodshed in the area, including the slaying of at least 80,000 Romans living in Asia Minor, Ephesus finally began to prosper once more. By the year 100, Ephesus was the Roman Empire’s second largest and second most important city after Rome, and it’s believed to have had a population of around half a million people.
The City’s Most Famous Attractions
Ephesus in Izmir is today a tourist magnet attracting tens of thousands of visitors who flock to the area to see the ruins of the once splendid city temples; segments of the original roads, and of course the ruins of the city’s great theatre which could once accommodate up to 25,000 people.
While the enormous Roman theatre was originally used only for the fine arts such as stage plays, it later became a popular venue for gladiator fights, where gladiators would fight to the death on the stage. The first indisputable evidence of this only came to light recently in 2007 when a gladiator graveyard was discovered.
Ephesus Under Byzantine Rule
Having been all but destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD, Ephesus was left to decline, and if was only when it seized by the Byzantine Empire that it once again begun to flourish. Unfortunately, the city eventually got destroyed again in 614 AD, but this time it was due to an earthquake.
The Final Decline Of a Majestic City
The earthquake that struck in 614 only destroyed parts of the city, and there is little doubt that the damage could have been repaired. Nonetheless, the city’s harbor which silted up frequently, had reached a stage where access to the Aegean Sea was completely cut off. This effectively meant countless people could no longer earn a living, and as a result, they deserted the area, opting to move further inland.
Many of those who moved took building blocks from the ruins of the city and anything else they could use. The rate of decline was further hastened by later conflict, and by 1090 AD, Ephesus in Izmir was no more than a tiny village surrounded by ruins; the only reminder of a once magnificent city.