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Ancient Metropolis Of Ephesus
From the back row of the Grand Theater, imagine a scene as it unfurled 2,000 years ago — a noisy, overflowing crowd of 25,000 Ephesians roaring for a favored Roman gladiator battling for his life against a starving lion; the high curved walls of the orchestra and the back stage confining the combatants and protecting the audience; bustling Arcadiana Way, lined with roofed colonnades and commercial establishments, leading west to the busy harbor in the distance.
The tremendous size of the ancient city and its range of sites will have your heads spinning. This ancient metropolis of 150,000 was one of the most important eastern frontier cities of ancient Greece, then later, of the Roman Empire. Perhaps because Ephesus was an Asian province settlement, the Roman occupation preserved much of the original Greek building and influence. It was here that the Roman general, Marc Antony walked hand-in-hand with the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, down the famous Marble Road. Here, too, the first Christians fled from Jerusalem to start spreading their beliefs, including Apostle John and Paul, author of the Epistles to the Ephesians. It’s no wonder that today’s visitor feels privileged to experience Ephesus’ classic history and grandeur.
An Evolving City
Ephesus’ position on the coast at the western end of a great Asian trade road created the ideal conditions for it to evolve into an important port city. Founded in the 11th century B.C. by Ionian Greeks, Ephesus was conquered in turn by the Cimmerians (7th century B.C.), the Lydians (6th century B.C.), the Persians, and again the Greeks (5th century B.C.). It was under Alexander the Great that Ephesus reached its heyday as a Greek port city and extended to include a long section of the Cayster River Valley. The Romans took control of the city in 189 B.C., and by the time of Roman Emperor Augustus in 27 B.C., Ephesus became the most important Roman city in Asia Minor.
Although controlled by the Romans, Ephesus maintained a high degree of independence. St. Paul established a Christian congregation in Ephesus in the 1st century A.D. Then in 262 A.D. the Goths destroyed much of Ephesus, forcing the Romans to rebuild it. In the Byzantine era, when Constantinople overtook Rome’s control of the Roman Empire, the Cayster River silted up Ephesus’ harbor, bringing an end to its importance as a trading port. The declining city was abandoned in the 14th century.
An Amazing Collection of Sites
Archaeological excavations of Ephesus were started in 1863 and continue to this day. The main thoroughfares uniting the city neighborhoods have been excavated, providing a clear, two-mile route through the major sites of Greek and Roman ruins. Two long streets, Curetes and Adriana, run east west through the valley, connected by Marble Road running north south. With the incredible array of sites spanning several centuries, a visit here requires a full day and the services of a good guide.
Ancient Cultures Frozen in Time
Athens may have its Acropolis; Rome, its Coliseum; Pompeii, its temples and homes. In Ephesus lies the preservation of both the Greek and Roman worlds at the crossroads to Asia. Ephesus is the most significant archaeological area that spans both civilizations, illustrating a period of importance that lasted more than 1,000 years. It highlights very graphically the Greek influence upon the conquering Romans. Thankfully, Ephesus’ history became frozen in time and is now available for all of us as today’s marveled visitors.
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Ephesus has been submitted on tentative list of Unesco World Heritage list in 1994
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