Ephesus (Ancient Greek , Turkish Efes) was an ancient Roman and Greek city on the west coast of Anatolia, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek period.
The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BCE), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Temple was destroyed in 401 CE by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom. Emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths. The town was again partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614. The city's importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Cayster River (Küçük Menderes).
Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written here. It is also the site of a large gladiators' graveyard.
Today's archaeological site lies 3 kilometers southwest of the town of Selçuk, in the Selçuk district of İzmir Province, Turkey. The ruins of Ephesus are a favorite international and local tourist attraction, partly owing to their easy access from Adnan Menderes Airport and via the port of Kuşadası.
The area surrounding Ephesus was already inhabited during the Neolithic Age (about 6000 BCE), as was revealed by the excavations at the nearby hoyuk (artificial mounds known as tells) of Arvalya and Cukurici. 
Excavations in recent years have unearthed settlements from the early Bronze Age at the Ayasuluk Hill. In 1954 a burial ground from the Mycenaean era (1500-1400 BCE) with ceramic pots was discovered close to the ruins of the basilica of St. John. This was the period of the Mycenaean Expansion when the Achaioi (as they were called by Homer) settled in Ahhiyawa during the 14th and 13th centuries BCE. Scholars believe that Ephesus was founded on the settlement of Apasa (or Abasa), a Bronze Age-city noted in 14th-century BCE Hittite sources as in the land of Ahhiyawa. 
Site of the Temple of Artemis in the town of Selçuk, near Ephesus.
The city of Ephesus itself was founded as an Attic-Ionian colony in the 10th century BCE on the Ayasuluk Hill, three kilometers from the center of antique Ephesus (as attested by excavations at the Seljuk castle during the 1990s). The mythical founder of the city was a prince of Athens named Androklos, who had to leave his country after the death of his father, King Kadros. According to legend, he founded Ephesus on the place where the oracle of Delphi became reality ("A fish and a boar will show you the way"). Androklos drove away most of the native Carian and Lelegian inhabitants of the city and united his people with the remainder. He was a successful warrior and, as king, he was able to join the twelve cities of Ionia together into the Ionian League. During his reign the city began to prosper. He died in a battle against the Carians when he came to the aid of Priene, another city of the Ionian League. Androklos and his dog are depicted on the Hadrian temple frieze, dating from the second century. Later, Greek historians such as Pausanias, Strabo and the poet Kallinos, and the historian Herodotos however reassigned the city's mythological foundation to Ephos, queen of the Amazons.
The Greek goddess Artemis and the great Anatolian goddess Kybele were identified together as Artemis of Ephesus. The many-breasted "Lady of Ephesus", identified with Artemis, was venerated in the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the largest building of the ancient world according to Pausanias (4.31.8). Pausanius mentions that the temple was built by Ephesus, son of the river god Caystrus. before the arrival of the Ionians. Of this structure, scarcely a trace remains.
About 650 BCE, Ephesus was attacked by the Cimmerians, who razed the city, including the temple of Artemis. A few small Cimmerian artifacts can be seen at the archaeological museum of Ephesus.
When the Cimmerians had been driven away, the city was ruled by a series of tyrants. After a revolt by the people, Ephesus was ruled by a council called the Kuretes. The city prospered again, producing a number of important historical figures, such as the iambic poets Callinus  and the satirist Hipponax, the philosopher Heraclitus, the great painter Parrhasius and later the grammarian Zenodotos, the physicians Soranus and Rufus.
About 560 BCE Ephesus was conquered by the Lydians under the mighty king Croesus. He treated the inhabitants with respect, despite ruling harshly, and even became the main contributor to the reconstruction of the temple of Artemis. His signature has been found on the base of one of the columns of the temple (now on display in the British Museum). Croesus made the populations of the different settlements around Ephesus regroup (synoikismos) in the vicinity of the Temple of Artemis, enlarging the city.
Later in the same century, the Lydians under Croesus invaded Persia. The Ionians refused a peace offer from Cyrus the Great, siding with the Lydians instead. After the Persians defeated Croesus the Ionians offered to make peace but Cyrus insisted that they surrender and become part of the empire. They were defeated by the Persian army commander Harpagos in 547 BCE. The Persians then incorporated the Greek cities of Asia Minor into the Achaemenid Empire. Those cities were then ruled by satraps.
Ephesus continued to prosper. But when taxes continued to be raised under Cambyses II and Darius, the Ephesians participated in the Ionian Revolt against Persian rule in the Battle of Ephesus (498 BCE), an event which instigated the Greco-Persian wars. In 479 BCE, the Ionians, together with Athens and Sparta, were able to oust the Persians from Anatolia. In 478 BCE, the Ionian cities entered with Athens and Sparta into the Delian League against the Persians. Ephesus did not contribute ships but gave financial support by offering the treasure of Apollo to the goddess Athena, protectress of Athens.
During the Peloponnesian War, Ephesus was first allied to Athens but sided in a later phase, called the Decelean War, or the Ionian War, with Sparta, which also had received the support of the Persians. As a result, rule over the kingdoms of Anatolia was ceded again to Persia.
These wars did not much affect daily life in Ephesus. The Ephesians were surprisingly modern in their social relations. They allowed strangers to integrate. Education was much valued. Through the cult of Artemis, the city also became a bastion of women's rights. Ephesus even had its female artists. In later times, Pliny the Elder mentioned having seen at Ephesus a representation of the goddess Diana by Timarata, the daughter of a painter.
In 356 BCE the temple of Artemis was burned down, according to legend, by a lunatic called Herostratus. By coincidence, this was the night that Alexander the Great was born. The inhabitants of Ephesus at once set about restoring the temple and even planned a larger and grander one than the original.
Historical map of Ephesus, from Meyers Konversationslexikon, 1888
When Alexander the Great defeated the Persian forces at the Battle of Granicus in 334 BCE, the Greek cities of Asia Minor were liberated. The pro-Persian tyrant Syrpax and his family were stoned to death, and Alexander was greeted warmly when he entered Ephesus in triumph. When Alexander saw that the temple of Artemis was not yet finished, he proposed to finance it and have his name inscribed on the front. But the inhabitants of Ephesus demurred, claiming that it was not fitting for one god to build a temple to another. After Alexander's death in 323 BCE, Ephesus in 290 BCE came under the rule of one of Alexander's generals, Lysimachus.
As the river Cayster silted up the harbor, the resulting marshes caused malaria and many deaths among the inhabitants. The people of Ephesus were forced to move to a new settlement two kilometers further on, when the king flooded the old city by blocking the sewers. This settlement was called after the king's second wife, Arsinoe II of Egypt. After Lysimachus had destroyed the nearby cities of Lebedos and Colophon in 292 BCE, he relocated their inhabitants to the new city. The architectural layout of the city would remain unchanged for the next 500 years.
Ephesus revolted after the treacherous death of Agathocles, giving the Syrian king Seleucus I Nicator an opportunity for removing and killing Lysimachus, his last rival, at the Battle of Corupedium in 281 BCE. After the death of Lysimachos the town took again the name of Ephesus.
Thus Ephese became part of the Seleucid Empire. After the murder of king Antiochus II Theos and his Egyptian wife, pharaoh Ptolemy III invaded the Seleucid Empire and the Egyptian fleet swept the coast of Asia Minor. Ephesus came under Egyptian rule between 263-197 BCE.
When the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great tried to regain the Greek cities of Asia Minor, he came in conflict with Rome. After a series of battles, he was defeated by Scipio Asiaticus at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BCE. As a result, Ephesus came under the rule of the Attalid king of Pergamon Eumenes II (197-133 BCE). When his grandson Attalus III died without male children of his own, he left his kingdom to the Roman Republic.
Theater. Temple of Hadrian.
Ephesus became subject of the Roman Republic. The city felt at once the Roman influence. Taxes rose considerably and the treasures of the city were systematically plundered. In 88 BCE Ephesus welcomed Archelaus, a general of Mithridates the Great, king of Pontus, when he conquered Western Anatolia. This led to the Asiatic Vespers, the slaughter of 80,000 Roman citizens in Asia Minor, or any person who spoke with a Latin accent. Many had lived in Ephesus. But when they saw how badly the people of Chios had been treated by Zenobius, a general of Mithridates, they refused entry to his army. Zenobius was invited into the city to visit Philopoemen (the father of Monima, the favorite wife of Mithridates) and the overseer of Ephesus. As the people expected nothing good of him, they threw him into prison and murdered him. Mithridates took revenge and inflicted terrible punishments. However, the Greek cities were given freedom and several substantial rights. Ephesus became, for a short time, self-governing. When Mithridates was defeated in the First Mithridatic War by the Roman consul Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Ephesus came back under Roman rule in 86 BCE. Sulla imposed a huge indemnity, along with five years of back taxes, which left Asian cities heavily in debt for a long time to come. 
When Augustus became emperor in 27 BCE, he made Ephesus instead of Pergamum the capital of proconsular Asia, which covered western Asia Minor. Ephesus entered an era of prosperity. It became the seat of the governor, growing into a metropolis and a major center of commerce. It was second in importance and size only to Rome. Ephesus has been estimated to be in the range of 400,000 to 500,000 inhabitants in the year 100, making it the largest city in Roman Asia and of the day. Ephesus was at its peak during the first and second century CE.
The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (Diana), who had her chief shrine there, the Library of Celsus, and its theatre, which was capable of holding 25,000 spectators. This open-air theater was used initially for drama, but during later Roman times gladiatorial combats were also held on its stage, with the first archaeological evidence of a gladiator graveyard found in May 2007. The population of Ephesus also had several major bath complexes, built at various points while the city was under Roman rule. The city had one of the most advanced aqueduct systems in the ancient world, with multiple aqueducts of various sizes to supply different areas of the city, including 4 major aqueducts.
The city and temple were destroyed by the Goths in 263. This marked the decline of the city's splendor.
Ephesus remained the most important city of the Byzantine Empire in Asia after Constantinople in the 5th and 6th centuries. The emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected a new public bath. In 406 John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople, ordered the destruction of the Temple of Artemis. Emperor Flavius Arcadius raised the level of the street between the theatre and the harbour. The basilica of St. John was built during the reign of emperor Justinian I in the sixth century.
The town was again partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614.
The importance of the city as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the river (today, Küçük Menderes) despite repeated dredging during the city's history. (Today, the harbor is 5 kilometers inland). The loss of its harbor caused Ephesus to lose its access to the Aegean Sea, which was important for trade. People started leaving the lowland of the city for the surrounding hills. The ruins of the temples were used as building blocks for new homes. Marble sculptures were ground to powder to make lime for plaster.
Sackings by the Arabs first in the year 654-655 by caliph Muawiyah I, and later in 700 and 716 hastened the decline further.
When the Seljuk Turks conquered it in 1071-1100, it was a small village. The Byzantines resumed control in 1100 and changed the name of the town into Hagios Theologos. They kept control of the region until 1308. Crusaders, passing through, were surprised that there was only a small village, called Ayasalouk, where they had expected a bustling city with a large seaport. Even the temple of Artemis was completely forgotten by the local population.
The town was conquered in 1304 by Sasa Bey, an army commander of the Menteşoğulları principality. Shortly afterwards, it was ceded to the Aydınoğulları principality that stationed a powerful navy in the harbour of Ayasuluğ (the present-day Selçuk, next to Ephesus). Ayasoluk became an important harbour, from where the navy organised raids to the surrounding regions.
The town knew again a short period of flourishing during the 14th century under these new Seljuk rulers. They added important architectural works such as the İsa Bey Mosque, caravansaries and Turkish bathhouses (hamam).
They were incorporated as vassals into the Ottoman Empire for the first time in 1390. The Central Asian warlord Tamerlane defeated the Ottomans in Anatolia in 1402 and the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I died in captivity. The region was restored to the Anatolian Turkish Beyliks. After a period of unrest, the region was again incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1425.
Ephesus was eventually completely abandoned in the 15th century and lost her former glory. Nearby Ayasuluğ was renamed Selçuk in 1914.
House of the Virgin Mary.
Ephesus was an important center for Early Christianity from the AD 50s. From AD 52-54, Paul lived here, working with the congregation and apparently organizing missionary activity into the hinterlands. He became embroiled in a dispute with artisans, whose livelihood depended on selling the statuettes of Artemis in the Temple of Artemis (Acts 19:23–41). He wrote between 53 and 57 AD the letter 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (possibly from the "Paul tower" close to the harbour, where he was imprisoned for a short time). Later Paul wrote to the Christian community at Ephesus, while he was in prison in Rome (around 62 AD)
Anatolia was associated with John, one of the chief apostles, and the Gospel of John might have been written in Ephesus, c 90-100. Ephesus was one of the seven cities addressed in Revelation (2:1–7), indicating that the church at Ephesus was still strong.
Two decades later, the church at Ephesus there was still important enough to be addressed by a letter written by Bishop Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians in the early 2nd century AD, that begins with, "Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of God the Father, and predestinated before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory" (Letter to the Ephesians). The church at Ephesus had given their support for Ignatius, who was taken to Rome for execution.
The house of the Virgin Mary, about from Selçuk, is believed to have been the last home of Mary, mother of Jesus. It is a popular place of pilgrimage which has been visited by three recent popes.
The Church of Mary close to the harbor of Ephesus was the setting for the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, which resulted in the condemnation of Nestorius. A Second Council of Ephesus was held in 449, but its controversial acts were never approved by the Catholics. It came to be called the Robber Council of Ephesus or Robber Synod of Latrocinium by its opponents.
Roman Library of Celsus. Gate of Augustus. Tomb of John the Apostle at the Basilica of St. John.
Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated. The ruins that are visible give some idea of the city's original splendour, and the names associated with the ruins are evocative of its former life. The theater dominates the view down Harbour Street, which leads to the long-silted-up harbor.
The Library of Celsus, whose façade has been carefully reconstructed from all original pieces, was built ca. CE 125 by Gaius Julius Aquila in memory of his father and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls. Designed with an exaggerated entrance — so as to enhance its perceived size, speculate many historians — the building faces east so that the reading rooms could make best use of the morning light.
A part of the site, Basilica of St. John, was built in the 6th century CE, under emperor Justinian I over the supposed site of the apostle's tomb. It is now surrounded by Selçuk.
The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is represented only by one inconspicuous column, revealed during an archaeological excavation by the British Museum in the 1870s. Some fragments of the frieze (which are insufficient to suggest the form of the original) and other small finds were removed – some to London and some to the Archaeological Museum, Istanbul. Other edifices excavated include:
There were two agoras, one for commercial and one for state business.
Ephesus is believed to be the city of the Seven Sleepers. The story of the Seven Sleepers, who are considered saints by Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims, tells that they were persecuted because of their belief in God and that they slept in a cave near Ephesus for centuries.
Image of Ephesus on the reverse of the 20 new lira banknote (2005-2008)
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