top of page
  • hbanziger

F + 10 : Sunrise with Coffee - Ephesus

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

The Sun rose at 6.45 am today - Sunrise with Coffee

There is no better way than starting a day with coffee. That is exactly what we did today. At the back of the boat we watched the captain lifting anchor and steering the Casa dell' Arte into the narrow Strait of Samos. Here, Greece and Turkey are just one kilometer apart. For a while we were shadowed by the Turkish Coast Guard which enquired what we were up to. But compared to the thorough checks we experienced in Israel, this was nothing. Just a radio call.

"Hello Gület Casa - what's your Destination?"

Leaving for Ephesus at 9 am we beat the Cruse Ship Crowd who was still at breakfast

We were off to visit ancient Ephesus, with 250’000 people the 4th largest town in the Roman Empire. Only Rome, Alexandria and Antioch were bigger. Founded around the same time as Miletus, Ephesus’ peak time came much later. Its apogee was in the 2nd and 3rd century AD as administrative and commercial centre for Roman Asia.

The famous Library of Ephesus was built in 117 AD. It had more than 12'000 Papyrus Scrolls

The Roman Emperors loved Ephesus and invested considerable amounts of money. But it was also a commercial hub. Plenty of wealthy merchants lived and traded here. You only need to walk through the recently excavated private houses on the western hill to see how much money was around. The decorative details in these houses are stunning.

The small Temple of Hadrian on Ephesus' Main Street

In the first place though, Ephesus was a religious site and the center of the Artemis cult – the Goddess of Hunt, Animals, Vegetation, Child birth and Nature – in a nutshell: Mother Earth . With its 8 x 19 columns the Artemis temple in Ephesus was large. It was listed as one of the seven wonders of the world (if you do not know the other six, you find them at the bottom of this page). Built and funded by the ultra-rich King Croesus from Lydia around 550 BC, it easily rivalled the Apollo sanctuary in Didyma, which we visited yesterday.

A Model of the Artemis Temple in the Ephesus Museum - gives you an idea of size & beauty

Sadly, only foundation stones and a lonely column are left. The temple was set alight in 356 BC. When Alexander the Great liberated Ephesus from the Persians 22 years later, he offered to rebuild the temple. But the Ephesians diplomatically declined, saying that “one God should not rebuild the temple of another”. Alexandre must have been seriously flattered. The Ephesians knew how to keep their independence.

Artemis was probably the most venerated deity in the ancient world. She was so popular that in 431 AD the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus had to officially bestow the title “Mother of God” to Mary to suppress the Artemis cult. Once done, the Artemis Temple could be closed and torn down. Henceforth, it was a quarry for the locals.

This Artemis Statue with her many Fertility Symbols

was berried intact to protect it from Christian Attacks

Ephesus biggest problem was – as for Miletus - the silting of its harbour. Being the darling of many Roman Emperors helped. Hadrian financed a new harbour and a canal to the sea. It is still visible today. It gave Ephesus a lifeline for another 300 years. By the 6th century AD though, it lost the access to the sea. Declined followed quickly, accelerated by Arab raiders who tried to conquer Constantinople. The Seljuk Turks came in the 11th century. By then Ephesus had shrunk to a small village. But in its St John Basilica, a marble slab was recently found with the the detailed Ephesian Customs Law on the back. Ephesus was indeed a busy and important commercial hub.

The ever present Danger of Sedimentation by the Kaystros River. The Roman Port in Red

Have told the story of early Christianity in Ephesus already in another blog thus I can skip it here. Whether Mother Mary lived her final years here will never be confirmed. But that St Paul and St John the Writer lived and preached in Ephesus are established facts.

Apostle Paul preaching in Ephesus - the Merchants did not like him and tried to evict him

Our tour ended with a surprise. Serhan had arranged lunch outside Ephesus where his friend Alpen lovingly restored the former home of J.T. Woods, the British engineer who built Turkey’s first railway. When his workers brought him marble statues from Ephesus, he quit his job and began excavating. It was a job which continues to this day. Tourism sped up the pace of excavations in the 1970s Today, Ephesus is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site with strict regulations on how excavations have to be done and what can be restored. A cable car up the hill west of Ephesus was recently declined. The ancient town now attracts 10’000 visitors a day – the Acropolis in Athens 16’000. Ephesus is a really big tourist magnet. The many cruise ships in Kusadasi Harbour testify to it. It is a mandatory stop

Our Tour ended with a fabulous Lunch at J.T. Wood's

house. He was the first Person to excavate Ephesus

Lunch at Alpen’s house was fabulous. Fruits and vegetables were fresh from his land as was the wine and the olive oil. It felt like eating in paradise. Alpen expanded the J.T. Wood property and uses it as headquarter for his business. He also keeps his large collection of Turkish carpets here. After lunch, we were treated to a lecture on how carpets are knotted – not with a single knot as in Persia but a Turkish double knot. Perfect way to end our tour today.

A Turkish Silk Carpet has 100 knots per square centimeter

The seven ancient wonders of the world are: the Pyramids of Giza, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Mausoleum in Halicarnassus (Bodrum), the Light House in Alexandria, the Statue of Zeus in Olympia and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.

57 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page