The Ancient Wonder of Ephesus

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

It’s easy for Pete and I to become jaded at seeing ancient archaeological sights given that we have been traveling for so long.

They all fundamentally carry a pretty repetitive story: People lived here long ago! Look! They left stuff behind! After awhile, centuries blur and artifacts become indistinguishable.

But then there are some sights that are so staggering that they serve to ignite the spark. They transport you back thousands of years and leave you longing for more information and understanding of how and why.

ephesus is such a place.

With no prior knowledge before arriving to this wonder of the ancient world, its grandeur simply stunned us. Our conversations were quickly reduced to one word exclamations along the lines of: wow and amazing.

But most of the time, we were left completely speechless.

Established by the son of a Greek king in 10 BC, the city of Ephesus changed hands many time during history, sustained damage from earthquakes and fire, and played an important role in early Christianity.

One of the most impressive structures, the Celsus Library once held more than 12,000 scrolls.

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The Street of Curetes was one of three important streets in Ephesus and led to the Celsus Library. On either side were shops, fountains, homes, monuments and statues.

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The Temple of Hadrian is one of the best preserved in Ephesus, built before 138 A.D.

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Some artifacts appear randomly scattered in open fields, although many still have well preserved, intricate details.

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Arcadian Street was a half kilometer long and led up from the port. Marble slabs and colonnades decorated the street, shops and galleries lined either side.

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Arcadian Street led from the port to a massive theater with a capacity of 25,000 people. It housed speeches, plays, gladiator fights, and more. One of the most famous speeches was given by Saint Paul who had spent two years there, converting pagans to Christianity. During his final speech, Paul declared that β€œgods made by human hands are not gods at all,” essentially causing an uproar among silversmiths who manufactured shrines and idols of the pagan goddess Diana. He left soon after (some reports say his exit was by force).

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And the best part? Keeping guard of the grand Theater, and many parts of Ephesus, are a band of kitties, often looking quite statuesque themselves…

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80 Comments

  1. I watched a stranger get down on one knee and propose here…When the girl started crying, everyone in the amphitheatre applauded! That just added to the experience, really πŸ™‚

    1. I just returned from a trip that included a stop in Ephasus. Our beautiful tour guide told us that her tour guide boyfriend proposed to her at the amphitheater while both were conducting tours. She looked up to see his tour group holding a banner asking her to marry him. I wonder if that is the engagement you saw!

  2. Ephesus is one of our fave while we were in Turkey! One of the most well preserved sites I’ve ever seen. You can really get a sense of how the city once was and worked. Did you get to see the terrace houses? Stunning. Gerard got a kick out of the outdoor shared toilets. Haha. Beautiful photos!

    1. Thanks Kieu! We didn’t make it into the terrace houses, unfortunately (we were taking SO LONG exploring everything else that we had to cut it out – haha!)

  3. Wonderful photos (as usual!).
    I went to Ephesus 25 years ago and was enchanted by its beauty. Overall, I liked much more the archaeological sites in Turkey rather than in Greece. But that was me πŸ™‚

  4. I love it when people recognize the worth of preserving THINGS. Even though the people have come and gone, they are still very much present.

    Kinda makes you wonder what we’re leaving behind as ‘ruins’ for future generations to look at.

  5. Love the kitty! There are so many stray cats in Europe, it’s one of my favorite things to photograph.

    Ephesus really seems like an outstanding place – I usually hesitate before visiting a historic place because I kind of grew tired of them, but I don’t think I could overlook Ephesus if I ever go to Turkey.

      1. Ha ha, that place has been on our ‘really need to get there right now’ list since we first came to Turkey and we’ve still never been. The photos look amazing. One for the hiking boots with ruins in the hills and fantastic views. Suspect we may be admiring your photos of your time there on here before we make it. πŸ˜‰
        Julia

  6. What an incredible place! If you’ve seen some of the photos I’m putting up on Facebook right now of my trip to Greece, you’ll know that I kind of have a thing for columns, so these pics are right up my alley πŸ™‚

  7. Great photos! I’m in the process of picking date for my first trip to Turkey so I’m really enjoying your posts. πŸ™‚

    What time of day were you at Ephesus to avoid the crowds? And were you recently there, i.e. during the off-season? In most photos I see the place is swamped.

    1. We were just there a few weeks ago! And we got there fairly early, almost right after it opened although we visited the nearby House of the Virgin Mary first. The crowds weren’t that bad at all and visiting at this time of year also ensured it wasn’t too hot as well.

  8. I love Roman and Greek history. Ephesus is on my travel list. But I did not expect for it to have such a beautiful cat. LOL. Love the ending of the photo reportage.

  9. Awesome pics. I can never wrap my head around the amt. of labor it must have taken & with primitive tools. Just wow!

  10. Wow. I have a brief trip to Turkey next month but unfortunately just won’t have time to track down this fantastic place. Wonderful photos, as usual!

    1. Thanks Hayley. Turkey really has so much to offer. We feel 3 months isn’t enough time, so we will have to come back… Have a good trip next month πŸ™‚

  11. These are unreal! I have to admit, with every post you do my desire to go to Turkey goes up. Any idea how Ephesus or other sights in Turkey fair for crowds and busy seasons?

    1. Margyle, from what we know it can get very busy and hot in the busy seasons (summer of course). Our pictures look like there were a lot of people there, but from what we were told, it was not very busy. Cheers!

  12. Awesome pictures! Its funny I have the same ones (yours are much better though) LOL.

    When we were there a few years back, the tour guide mentioned that Bono was there and through a charity concert to excavate more at the amphatheatre however, they brought their whole sound system and they actually deterioated it a bit. Who would have thought!

    1. Hey Laurena, thanks for the comment! I can’t believe that they would allow a concert like that. No shit it deteriorated a bit. We find it amazing how you can pretty much walk anywhere, including up and on the rocks.

  13. I know you feel about relics, I cannot stand looking at pottery. I know it’s old but it’s also boring!

    But I have always wanted to go to Turkey so I could see the ruins, just not the pottery.

    1. I never had a clue how many ancient wonders of the World were here in this country. Something like 9. I hear you on the pottery…

  14. I remember ambling through Ephesus a long time ago on a very hot day with a too hot and slightly bored 4-year-old. Should go back on my own to appreciate it properly. If only the Temple of Artemis were still there…

    Bergama is beautiful, but not really in the same league, I think. I also really liked Aphrodisias.

  15. I agree…Ephesus does break through the unfortunate long-term traveler ‘wall’ of having seen so much already. I loved walking down that main street to the library. Quite the sight. I hope you sat on the ‘old’ toilets as well. Always the fun tourist snap. πŸ™‚ Turkey has more ancient sites than other expected places…it’s amazing!

    1. We unfortunately missed these toilets πŸ™‚ We were off wondering where people weren’t (and got scolded at a few times by security). We are definitely aiming to find more of these ancient wonders. Thanks Lisa!

  16. Ah, I can so relate to the sentiment of things wearing off, and the need to keep the wonder alive. There are only so many temples the brain can cope with. Or, geological explanations that start with “once upon a time, everything you see here was under water”. This looks awesome though, plus.. free kitties! You can never go wrong with cats πŸ˜‰

    1. yes, how many times we have heard or read that. Never can go wrong with cute cats, except maybe the fact Dalene wants to take them all home.

  17. “People lived here long ago! Look! They left stuff behind!” – this totally had me nodding and laughing in agreement! It’s amazing how quickly we become unimpressed by historic ruins when we’re traveling for an extended period, isn’t it?

    Great photos by the way. I too visited Ephesus and was thoroughly blown away.

    1. I think sometimes it’s better to go in not knowing anything…then a place like that is almost guaranteed to knock your socks off! πŸ™‚

  18. Oh god, this brings me back to my Classics classes in university. JOYGASM. One of my top “must see” items from the ancient world. The Greeks were unreal. (Still are.)

    1. I would rank it up there as some of the most impressive ruins we’ve seen. And just down the road, the ruins at Bergama, were pretty spectacular as well.

  19. We just visit Ephesus last week !! Unbelievable experience πŸ™‚ We felt like we are still in ancient age because Turks are really demonstrating there perfect ! We booked our tour via holidayinkusadasi.org and they made our day unforgottable !!

    Monika

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