Ancient Ephesus lies near the coast and half way down Western Turkey. Around 300 BCE Greeks started building here and the Roman’s brought it to a crescendo around 200 CE. It was the second biggest city in the Roman Empire. Archeologists figure that the population was around 250,000. Interestingly, they calculate ancient city sizes based on the size of the amphitheater. Ten times the capacity of the amphitheater equals the size of the town.
Ephesus has always been a popular destination. Probable past visitors include Julius Cesar, Anthony and Cleopatra. Saints John and Paul both lived here and wrote significant parts of the New Testament while in residence.
Populations of the past pale in comparison to the throngs of archeological groupies that mob Ephesus these days. I had no idea old rocks could draw such a crowd. Ephesus is Turkey’s second most popular tourist attraction, bested only by the historic area of Istanbul. We got here early to get the good morning light for photos and to avoid the crowds. Even so it wasn’t long before the tour buses arrived and it was a solid mosh pit from the agora to the odeon.
The crowd was so intense we could hardly move at times but we pushed on. It was definitely worth battling the throng for the attractions. We enjoyed the magnificent library, some painstakingly restored rich folks’ residences and of course the ever-popular men’s public toilets. (Sorry ancient ladies, no toilets for you.. I guess it’s the bushes.) Later we sought out some quiet back streets, listened to our Rick Steves audio guide and then split looking for quieter venues.
In ancient times Ephesus declined, its harbor silted up, earthquakes and invading armies knocked it down and eventually everybody moved out. Anatolian dust and dirt blew in and covered it.
Archeologists have done remarkable things here; maybe not quite moving mountains but certainly moving hills. And mind you, when archeologists move dirt it is not with bulldozers but with trowels and whisk brooms…very carefully so as not to destroy any evidence of the past.
Come to see Ephesus. I’ve seen it on TV and take it from me, it is much better in person. Archeologists keep uncovering more so it just keeps on getting bigger every year. But let me tip you off on a new dig. I stopped in at a little hole in the ground on the outskirts of Selcuk. There is a new group digging at the Temple of Artemis!