Rediscovered almost 600 years after it had been abandoned, Ephesus is one of the great UNESCO treasures of the world. It’s a site which contains the remnants of an entire city, not just a ruin here or there.
Ephesus was the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Its antiquity goes long before that, but if we start with the ancient Greeks, then let’s say around 600 BCE.
Geography was the key to the city’s prosperity. Its location connected the great trade land routes between Europe and Asia with a safe Mediterranean harbour. Ephesus continued to prosper after it became Roman in around 130 BCE. At its peak its population is thought to have been around 250,000 – a major city with major civic buildings. Its great stadium/theatre could seat 25,000 people, and the city was replete with piped aqueducts and running water and sewerage. It became home to one of the great libraries of the era – the Library of Celsus.
Why such a fabulously wealthy city should have been abandoned and vanish has long been a mystery. Its existence was never a myth. There was always far too much evidence, it’s even significant in the Christian modern testament.
In the 1890’s archeologists rediscovered the ruins of the ancient city. To date, only about 10% of the site has been unearthed. It’s a painstakingly slow process full of challenges – tempered by the need to protect what’s already been found before unearthing even more.
But now we know the answer to the mystery of why Ephesus was abandoned.
It was to do with the city losing its port – not to calamities such as invasions or earthquakes – but to something as simple as slow sedimentation. Soil erosion, most probably caused by land clearing, led to so much sediment flowing into the nearby Cayster River that the seabed gradually silted up. At first, the Ephesians were able to dredge canals to keep the port viable, but eventually that became impossible. Ephesus survived for 2,000 years while it had a port, but today the sea is 10 kms from the ancient city.
Ephesus is considered one of the “must-see” sites in Turkiye. If you have the opportunity to visit, I highly agree.
Here’s a (non-sponsored) link to a travel company site I found that has heaps of well presented info about Ephesus.
What makes Ephesus so special is a site well worth exploring (and free with no obligation to book anything).