City Of Ephesus (Journey To Roman Times)

The ancient city of Ephesus, located in what is now Turkey, was a bustling hub of activity, filled with stunning buildings, busy markets, and grand temples.

In this journey to Roman times, we’ll explore the fascinating history of Ephesus, marvel at its impressive architecture, and get a glimpse of what life was like for the people who lived there.

From the famous Library of Celsus to the Great Theatre, Ephesus offers an amazing peek into the past and shows us the incredible achievements of Roman civilization.

Let’s have a look at the city in detail.

LocationModern-day Turkey, near the city of Selçuk
FoundingApproximately 10th century BCE by Ionian Greeks
Peak Period1st to 2nd centuries CE during Roman rule
Population at PeakEstimated around 250,000
Significant StructuresLibrary of Celsus, Great Theatre, Temple of Artemis, Terrace Houses, Temple of Hadrian
Major ReligionsPaganism (Greek and Roman gods), Early Christianity
Economic ActivitiesTrade, commerce, agriculture, arts and crafts
Notable EventsHome to early Christian communities, visited by Apostle Paul
Famous ForOne of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (Temple of Artemis)
Excavation Start DateLate 19th century
Tourist AttractionYes, major archaeological site
ManagementTurkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism
Notable FiguresTiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus (honored by the Library of Celsus), Apostle Paul
Unique FeaturesAdvanced Roman engineering (public baths, latrines, water systems), rich historical artifacts
Nearby Modern CitySelçuk
AccessibilityEasily accessible for tourists, well-preserved ruins
UNESCO StatusPart of the Ephesus Archaeological Site, a UNESCO World Heritage site
General information table on Ephesus

Historical Overview

Ephesus has a long and storied past that predates Roman rule.

It was founded by Ionian Greeks in the 10th century BCE, becoming a major center of trade and culture in the ancient world.

The city’s strategic location along the Aegean coast and its proximity to major trade routes made it a prosperous and influential city-state.

The Hellenistic period saw Ephesus flourish under the rule of various kings, including Lysimachus, one of Alexander the Great’s generals.

It was during this era that the city underwent significant urban development, including the construction of the famous Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Ephesus truly reached its zenith during the Roman period, starting in the 1st century BCE.

Under Roman rule, Ephesus became the capital of the province of Asia and one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire, with a population estimated to be around 250,000.

This period saw the construction of many of the city’s most iconic structures, which continue to captivate visitors to this day.

Architectural Marvels

Library of Celsus

One of the most iconic landmarks of Ephesus, the Library of Celsus, was built in the early 2nd century CE in honor of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, a Roman senator and governor of Asia.

Library of Celsus
Street view of the Library of Celsus via Google Earth

The library, designed to hold over 12,000 scrolls, was a testament to the importance placed on knowledge and learning in Roman society.

Its intricate façade, adorned with statues representing Wisdom, Virtue, Intelligence, and Knowledge, remains a stunning example of Roman architectural prowess.

The Great Theatre

The Great Theatre of Ephesus is another architectural marvel that showcases the grandeur of Roman engineering.

Capable of seating around 25,000 spectators, the theatre was used for a variety of events, including gladiatorial contests, theatrical performances, and political assemblies.

Its excellent acoustics and imposing structure make it a focal point of the ancient city.

The Great Theatre
The Great Theatre via Google Earth

Temple of Artemis

Although only a few remnants of the Temple of Artemis remain today, its historical significance cannot be overstated.

This colossal temple, dedicated to the goddess Artemis, was one of the largest and most splendid of its time.

It attracted pilgrims from all over the ancient world and played a central role in the religious and cultural life of Ephesus.

Daily Life in Ephesus

Commerce and Trade

Ephesus was a bustling commercial center, with its location on key trade routes facilitating the exchange of goods from all over the Roman Empire and beyond.

The city was famous for its markets, where merchants sold everything from spices and silk to wine and olive oil.

The Harbor Street, lined with colonnades and shops, led to the city’s bustling port, underscoring its importance as a trade hub.

Public Baths and Latrines

The public baths of Ephesus, such as the Baths of Scholastica, were not only places for bathing but also social and cultural centers where people gathered to relax and converse.

The public latrines, with their sophisticated drainage systems and communal seating, reflect the advanced engineering skills of the Romans and their emphasis on public hygiene.

Houses of the Wealthy

The Terrace Houses of Ephesus provide a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the city’s elite.

These multi-story homes, adorned with frescoes and mosaics, featured sophisticated heating systems and luxurious furnishings.

The well-preserved remains of these houses offer valuable insights into the domestic life and architectural sophistication of affluent Romans.

Archaeological Discoveries

The archaeological site of Ephesus has been the focus of extensive excavations since the late 19th century.

These excavations have uncovered a wealth of artifacts and structures, providing valuable insights into the city’s history and culture.

Efforts to preserve and restore these ancient wonders continue, ensuring that future generations can marvel at the splendor of Ephesus.

Among the significant finds are intricate mosaics, statues, and everyday items that offer a glimpse into the lives of Ephesus’s inhabitants.

Notable discoveries include the Terrace Houses, with their well-preserved frescoes and mosaics, and the Temple of Hadrian, which features exquisite reliefs depicting the city’s mythological history.

Visiting Ephesus Today

Today, Ephesus is a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world who come to explore its ancient ruins and experience the grandeur of Roman civilization firsthand.

The site is managed by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which has made significant efforts to maintain and preserve this historical treasure.

For those planning to visit Ephesus, it’s advisable to allocate a full day to explore the site thoroughly.

Comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, and plenty of water are essential, as the site is expansive and can be quite hot during the summer months.

Hiring a knowledgeable guide can greatly enhance the experience, providing context and insights that bring the ancient city to life.

Some pictures I took from my first visit to Ephesus
byu/mcmalloy inancientrome


  • The ancient city of Ephesus is a remarkable window into the past, offering a vivid portrait of life in Roman times.
  • Its well-preserved ruins, stunning architecture, and rich history make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the ancient world.
  • As we wander through its ancient streets, we are reminded of the ingenuity, creativity, and enduring legacy of the Roman Empire.
  • Ephesus stands not just as a relic of a bygone era, but as a living testament to human achievement and the timeless allure of history.

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