The ancient ruins of Ephesus and Aphrodisias
Ephesus was one of the most important coastal cities and commercial centres of western Anatolia and is considered one of the spectacular outdoor museums in Turkey. The traces of the earliest settlement go back to the 10th century BC, but the existing ruins offer a chance to witness nine different historical eras, including the Classical, Hellenic, Roman and Ottoman.
The most important structure is the Temple of Artemis, dating back 6th century BC and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Artemis, who was believed to be the daughter of Zeus and Leto, was also known to be the twin sister of Apollo. She was the goddess of hunting, childbirth, virginity and wild animals. Today there are only the ruins of this marvellous construction of the Hellenistic Age, made of marble and sculptured columns. During the visit, you’ll also admire the Great Theatre, built during the reign of Claudius (AD 41-54) and completed in the reign of Trajan (AD 98-117). It is awe-inspiring, both for its great size and for the excellent state of preservation of the orchestra and the stage buildings, with a capacity of 24.000 spectators.
In a small square lying below street level is the imposing two-story facade of the Library of Celsus, one of the most beautiful structures of Ephesus. Built between 110 AD – 135 AD, with Corinthian style columns on the ground floor and three entrances to the building, the library’s capacity was more than 12,000 scrolls. It was the third richest library in ancient times after the Alexandra and Pergamum. The Library of Celsus takes its name from Julius Celsus Polemaenus, the Roman governor of Asia Minor in the 2nd century AD buried in a grave under the library. Other interesting spots are the upper Agora with a Temple of Isis, the lower Agora, a spacious square 116 meters each way, from which a collonaded street leads west, the Temples of Hadrian and Domitian, the gymnasium of Vedious and the ancient Roman houses decorated with amazingly well preserved Roman mosaics and frescoes.
If you have time, just an 8 km drive from Ephesus, located on the top of BulBul mountain, is located a significant religious site: the House of Virgin Mary. This small building is the place where Mary may have spent her last days. The house was officially declared a shrine of the Roman Catholic Church in 1896, and since then, it has become a popular place of pilgrimage. It is also visited by Muslims who recognize Mary as the mother of one of their prophets.
Only 160 km drive from Ephesus, is located another interesting attraction and World Heritage site: Aphrodisias. It was a small Greek city in the province of Caria and was discovered by a famous Turkish photographer in 1958. Aphrodisias was once a wealthy and prosperous city, and you can see this within the excavations of the large homes that people resided in here.
The City is spread out, and there are many sites worth visiting from the Tetrapylon, monumental gate of the city, to the Roman baths, from small theatre to the Odeion and Bishop’s palace, but above all the amazing stadium. It is said to be the largest ancient stadium in the world and the best preserved, dating back to 2800 B.C with a capacity of 30.000 spectators.
Getting there: the best way is by car. The two sites are on the way from Pamukkale to Izmir. Aphrodisias is 70 km from Pamukkale, then 160 km to Ephesus and the other 70 km to Izmir.
Entrance fee: Ephesus ticket is 40 TL ( terrace houses 25 TL ), Aphrodisias ticket is 15 TL.