We visited Ephesus on our recent trip to Turkey and it was definitely one of the highlights of our holiday. It is an extraordinary place to visit. Ephesus was one of the most important cities in the ancient world and the site has been extremely well preserved and restored.
As my 11-year-old says, “I am quite sure there is not an equal for Ephesus in the whole world. It is a brilliant place, where you can play hide-and-seek among the ruins and walk where the Romans once trod. You can cool down under the trees and walk up the grand entrance to the amphitheatre.”
According to legend, Ephesus was founded by the female warriors known as the Amazons and it was a major city for both the Ancient Greeks and the Romans and became one of the wealthiest cities in the Mediterranean. It was incorporated into the Roman Empire as the province of Asia and is home of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, now in ruins after being destroyed in a raid by the Goths.
From the 1st Century AD, Ephesus was visited by Christian disciples spreading Christianity. Paul wrote the letter I Corinthians from the city and the gospel of John may also have been written here. Legend claims that Jesus’s mother, Mary, spent the last years of her life living in Ephesus with St John and the House of the Virgin Mary here is now a place of Catholic pilgrimage.
Most of the buildings that have been restored were constructed during the reign of Emperor Augustus. There is a whole city to walk around, complete with avenues, temples, a concert hall and a library. You can see the communal toilets and the brothel, the Temple of Hadrian and the Hercules Gate.
You see the massive amphitheatre on the hill as soon as you walk into the site. It can seat 24,000 people and is believed to be the largest outdoor theatre in the ancient world. In Ancient Roman times it was used for wild animal fights in the mornings and gladiator contests in the afternoons.
We walked down the Arcadian Way, the colonnaded main street which would have been paved with marble and lined with shops, and make our way to the Library of Celsus. This stunning building was originally built in the 2nd Century AD and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls. The sculptures on the exterior are beautiful and there is a real feeling of calm inside – despite the large crowds.
TIPS FOR FAMILIES
Go early in the morning or late in the afternoon: Ephesus gets very hot and crowded during the Summer months so it’s best to get there early (around 9am) or later (around 4.30pm).
Take your children’s passports: The ticket office lets children in free of charge but they won’t let them in free unless you’ve got their passports to prove their age. It’s ridiculous, I know. It hadn’t occurred to us to take along our passports and I tried putting the 9-year-old in front of the booth to prove he was just a child but it was no use – we still had to buy tickets for the children.
Take plenty of water: You will need plenty to drink and it’s expensive to buy it at the site.