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Exploring an Ancient City

The Eagean

Desinations , Selçuk / Aydın

The Eagean


Foundation of the ancient city of Ephesus within the borders of Selçuk District goes back to 6000 BCE. The biggest temple dedicated to Artemis, the Artemision, of 6th century BCE was built at the skirts of Ayasuluk hill infront of the earliest harbour of the city. It is based on the ancient mother goddess tradition of Anatolia. The later  temple is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Since Ephesus has changed places many times throughout its history, its ruins are spread over a wide area.

Ephesus and its environs are included in the World Heritage List in four components:  Çukuriçi Höyük (Mound), Ayasuluk Hill (Selçuk Castle, St. John’s Basilica, İsa Bey Bath, İsa Bey Mosque, Artemision), Ephesus Ancient City and the House of Virgin Mary. Ancient Ephesus has been inhabited continuously for about 9000 years from the prehistoric period to the Hellenistic, Roman, Eastern Roman,  Turkish Principalities and Ottoman periods, and has been a very important port city and cultural and commercial center in all stages of its history.

St. John’s Basilica

The basilica built on the tomb of St. John, who wrote the Gospel of John and is one of the apostles of Jesus, is located on Ayasuluk Hill within the ancient city of Ephesus.

It is believed that St. John the Evangelist spent his last years in the region around Ephesus and was buried on the southern slope of Ayasuluk Hill. Three hundred years after St. John’s death, a small chapel was built over the tomb in the 4th century. The church of St. John was transformed into a miraculous basilica in the region of Emperor Justinian (527 -565 AD).

John or the Apostle John was the author of the Fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation. Following the spread of Christianity, the people of Ephesus moved back to Ayasuluk after the 7th century, St. Jean’s basilica replaced the old episcopal church in Ephesus.

The monumental basilica was shaped like a cross and covered with six domes. Its construction of stone and brick is an extremely rare find in the architecture of its time. Raised by two steps and covered with marble, the tomb of St. John was located under the central dome, which was once supported by the four columns at the corners. The columns in the inner courtyard show the monograms of Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora. Built in the 5th century AD, the baptistery is located to the north of the nave, with its keyhole shape.

The House of Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary House is located on the Bülbül Mountain, 9 km from Selçuk. It is known that John brought Virgin Mary to Ephesus 4 or 6 years after the death of Jesus. In 1891, based on the dream of the German nun A. Katherina Emerich, the Lazarist priests discovered that the house where the Virgin Mary spent her last days was at the end of this research. This event is a new invention in the world of Christianity and sheds light on the world of religion. This structure was planned over and then restored. The house is considered sacred by Muslims, the Pope VI. After the visit of Paul in 1967, the rituals are held every year on August 15, and these rituals attract a lot of attention.

Çeşme Peninsula

Surrounded by sandy beaches and turquoise waters, Çeşme peninsula attracts beach lovers, surfers and yachting enthusiasts every summer. The route between Çeşme and Kuşadası is the area where yacht tourism is very busy. The small bays which extend side by side in the south of the sub-district of Alaçatıand Seferihisar-Teos Marina are paradise for yacht and surf lovers.

Seferihisar – Sığacık

One of the first “cittaslow” cities of Türkiye Seferihisar is a perfect blend of nature and city life. Within walking distance to a very well preserved ancient graeco-roman city Teos and a still alive medieaval port-castle Sığacık, Seferihisar offers diverse activities in a historical setting.


Allianoi was founded 18 kilometers northeast of Bergama after the Hellenistic Age (2nd century BCE). Allianoi, which made great progress in the century, is known as the homeland of the “God of Health Asclepius”. Asclepius was the god of medicine and medical science, who promised healing to the sick in ancient world. Apollon entrusted his son Asklepios to Chiron, who was half horse and half man. Khiron taught him to read, write, and the formulas of drugs used for treating illnesses. Asclepius’ reputation soon spread.

Asclepius was also raising the dead. Zeus had Asclepius killed because he was angry with this. The ancient people built healthcare centers with the same name to keep the name of Asclepius alive. Allianoi is one of them. The healing center Allianoi, with 45 C degrees of sulphurous water coming out of the ground, is one of the four largest health centers in the world with this feature.


The district of Foça is situated on the site of the ancient city of Phocaea and is said to have been founded by the very same people who founded the French city of MarseillesAttalia in Corsica and Ampurias in Catalonia. Around 600 BCE the inhabitants of Foça decorated their buildings, temples and ships with wooden statues of cockerels, and according to a legend, one such statue is still hidden somewhere in the town.


This picturesque village is about an hour’s drive from İzmir. In recent years, Alacati has become one of Türkiye’s most popular summer destinations thanks to its pristine beaches and authentic Aegean charm. With its signature stone houses and cobblestone streets, Alaçatı is a great day-trip destination where you can spend a few blissful hours sightseeing, shopping and trying the local flavors. The village hosts many culinary events, most notably the Alaçatı Herb Festival in April which promotes the region’s very extensive herb culture.

Alacatı is also a major center for windsurfing and kitesurfing due to its windy conditions. Windmills dot the hills above Alaçatı, a delightful and typical Aegean town, with some converted into cafes. There is a good beach a couple of kilometers to the south and many lovely bays along the coast southeast of town are accessible only by boats, ensuring peaceful and relaxing anchorage in this popular sailing region.


The ancient city of Pergamon, an hour from İzmir, was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014. It’s a settlement that was rebuilt constantly and persisted in the stage of history due to its strategic location, though it was exposed to many occupations and destructions in the past. Having been conquered by Alexander the Great after Persian rule, Pergamon’s golden era was during the 2nd century BCE when it became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon. Pergamon was a centre of health, culture and arts for many years, with the Anatolia’s largest library and spectacular sculptures hewn by accomplished artists.

A trip to Pergamon, described as “the most famous and magnificent city of Asia Minor” by Plinius Secundus, the 1st century BCE author and philosopher, will allow you to discover the traces of this famous city of antiquity. Asklepieion, at the base of Pergamene Acropolis,  was a healing complex built in the 4th century BCE in honor of Asclepius, the God of Healing. With its advanced architectural layout and the treatment methods employed, it earned the title of the most important healing center in western Anatolia.


If you are in İzmir, a visit to Ephesus in Selçuk is a must. Located 75 km from İzmir, Ephesus is one of the best-preserved ancient cities in Türkiye.  First finds of Ephesus date back to 8th millennium, however the city founded on the slopes of Ayasuluk Hill was founded around 10th century and flourished as a trading center.

This vibrant city, which once rivaled Rome as the largest city in the world, was home to over 250 thousand people. The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was located in today’s Selçuk. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ephesus and its environs within the town of Selçuk attracts visitors from all over the world. You can explore the city on foot; the site has clearly marked paths and signs.

When visiting Ephesus, be sure to also visit this charming village tucked away in the hills. Eight kilometers from the town center of Selçuk towards the hill, Şirince is an hour’s drive from İzmir. When in Şirince, spend some time exploring the cobblestone streets lined with charming stone houses with red tile roofs. Many of these houses have been converted into boutique hotels, restaurants and shops. The restaurants offer authentic Aegean food and locally produced wines. Full of vines, peach and apple orchards, Sirince is famous for its fruity wines; you can visit the boutique wineries and see the wine-making process first-hand.


The Çeşme district is a very popular summer resort, especially among residents of nearby İzmir, and includes historic sites such as a 16th-century castle and an old caravanserai. The white sandy beaches stretch lazily along a road lined with exquisitely built houses, several large hotels and a number of restaurants serving excellent seafood and Turkish specialities.

In Çeşme it is possible to get a full spa treatment as well as a beach holiday, as the area offers a wide range of hotel accommodation, with some of the hotels having their own spas and making use of the area’s natural mineral waters. Ilıca, with its white sandy beach of the same name, is the most famous of these hot springs, containing high levels of sodium chloride, magnesium sulphate and calcium bicarbonate. The Ilıca hot springs also offer underwater massage, electrotherapy and other types of therapy… as well as hot mineral pools and baths.

Ildırı / Ancient Erythrai

The ancient city of Erythrai was an important Ionian city on the east coast of the Aegean Sea, northeast of Çeşme. Çeşme, formerly known as Cyssus, was the port city for Erythrai.

The area now known as Ildırı is 22 kilometers from the center of Çeşme.

It is believed that this city, which dates back to the Bronze Age, got its name from the red color of its soil. This town, where trade is prominent, was also famous for the grinding stones it once produced and exported. Excavations in this area were started by Dist. Prof. Ekrem Akurgal in 1964.

The theater, discovered during these excavations and dated to the 3rd century BCE, is carved into the hillside. The aqueducts to the south are dated to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) period.

During the excavations, the Temple of Athena was unearthed, dated to the 7th century BCE and mentioned by Pausanias. The temple was damaged in 540 BCE. It is known that it was renewed around 530 BCE.

Remains of villas and settlement walls from Hellenistic and Roman times are still visible.

In order to raise awareness of the archeological site among locals and to stimulate agrotourism, the Ildırı Cultural and Art Festival has recently been held at the end of August in Ancient City of Erythrai. The festival attracts people of all ages with music, theater, seminars and workshops. Products and handicrafts made by locals in their homes without any technical tools are exhibited and sold during this festival.


Located at the southeast of İzmir, on a fertile valley lying among the mountains Bozdağ in the north and Aydın in the south is irrigated with Küçük Menderes river. Ödemiş is one of the districts to experience many different types of tourism from religious tourism to high plataues and ecotourism. The district is home to artifacts from Hittite, Phrygian, Lydian, Persian, Roman and Byzantine eras. Ödemiş is one of the traditional and warm districts of the Aegean with its local handicraft, famous meatballs, and colorful bazaars.


Birgi draws attention with its rich culture and natural beauties. Located 9 km from the center, Birgi is known as the cultural and faith tourism capital of the district. Historic town of Birgi takes place in UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. There are still remains of the many civilisations that Birgi hosted, such as many tombs, madrasa, mosques, fountains, baths, libraries, masjid and residences which reflect the architectural and cultural features of the Period of the Anatolian Beyliks (Principalities) and the Ottoman Empire, as well as houses dated to the 18th century and the following centuries

Birgi presents one of the precious examples of traditional housing texture dated to the 18th century.

Ulu Cami, the Great Mosque of Birgi, which dominates the traditional urban layout, was completed in 1312 on the order of Mehmed Bey, the founder of Aydınoğlu Sultanate. It has a basilical plan with five aisles extending perpendicular to the mihrab wall, and the bay before the mihrab is covered with a dome.

Built by a leather merchant in the eighteenth century, Çakırağa Mansion is one of the prominent buildings reflecting the architectural and ornamental style particular to the Aegean region in that period.


Pitane is located on the northern shore of Çandarlı Bay, south of Dikili district. Although it is not known exactly when the ancient city of Pitane was founded, it is estimated that the city’s history dates back to the Hellenistic period. Today there is no excavation area or ruins where you can see the traces of the ancient city. What makes the area worth seeing is Çandarlı Castle.

Ephesus is one of the largest and most impressive ancient cities in the world and is one of Türkiye’s most significant ancient cities. It’s cultural and historical significance was highlighted in its addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2015. The remains of the city lie just 80 km inland from the popular seaside city of İzmir and close to the charming towns of Selcuk and Sirince.


A Brief History:

Ephesus has been a city since neolithic times, but it came to full prominence under the Roman Empire, as the capital of Asia Minor. As the second most important city of the Roman Empire, Ephesus grew and prospered. Its populace was largely educated and wealthy, while its buildings were richly decorated and celebrated the interests and the good fortune of its inhabitants. Today, visitors come to see the city’s impressive historical imprint for themselves.

The city came to prominence under the ancient Greeks, who built the famed Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Though only one column remains of the temple today, it was said to be very grand and impressive indeed.

After ebbs and flows in the city’s fortunes, Ephesus became a city under Roman rule in 133 BC and the Capital of Asia Minor in 27 BC. This is seen as a historical turning point for the city, which truly flourished and became second in importance only to Rome within the vast Roman Empire.


Ephesus is also an important site for Christian history in the region. It was here that St. Paul wrote “First letter to the Corinthians” and St John is said to have written his Gospel. Ephesus is believed to be the final resting place of Mary and one of the most visited sites is St Mary’s Basilica.

Ephesus, one of the biggest and most important Roman cities, is still under excavation and study. Visitors to the site will be truly impressed by the grandeur of the ancient city.


Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus is one of the most beautiful structures of Ephesus and the facade of the library has been carefully reconstructed from original pieces and looms large over the city. Originally built in 125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an Ancient Greek who served as governor of Roman Asia 105–107 AD in the Roman Empire. Celsus paid for the construction of the library with his own personal wealth and is buried in a sarcophagus beneath it.


The Amphitheatre

The impressive open air amphitheatre with a capacity of 25.000 is believed to be the largest in the ancient world. Initially used for dramatic performances, there are evidences that it was later used for gladiatorial fights.


The Odeon

The Odeon which was constructed around 150 AD by Publius Vedius Antoninus and his wife is a small roofed theatre and one of the finest architectural wonders of ancient Athens. The Odeon hosted plays and concerts and had seating for an estimated 1.500. The structure features Corinthian-style pillars made of red granite and you can still see the steps leading up to the stage.


Temple of Hadrian

The Temple of Hadrian dates back to the 2nd Century, underwent repairs in the 4th Century and was ultimately recreated from surviving architectural fragments into what we see today. The originals are housed in the Ephesus Archaeological Museum.


The Temple of the Sebastoi

Also called the Temple of Domitian, this temple was dedicated to the Flavian dynasty and was one of the largest in the city. The Temple was first dedicated to Domitian, after the Emperor, but later re-dedicated the Temple to Vespasian, Domitian’s father. Today, the stairs are still visible, hinting at the grandeur of the structure.



Ephesus had one of the most advanced aqueduct systems in the ancient world. At least 6 aqueducts of various sizes supplied different areas of the city, including water mills, a saw mill and of course, a number of bath complexes.



As a wealthy city, Ephesus had a number of agoras, some for daily wares and others for grander matters of state. Throughout the site you will find many agoras, carefully restored and reconstructed.


Basilica of St. John

This Basilica was built in the 6th Century AD by Emperor Justinian I. Now, close to the town of Selcuk, this ancient church is said to have been built over St John’s tomb.

These are a mere smattering of the sights to be found amongst the many treasures of Ephesus. Discover your favourite sight today!

House of the Virgin Mary

Ephesus is particularly important for faith tourism as it contains the House of the Virgin Mary. It is believed that the Virgin Mary was taken to this stone house by St John, where she lived until her death at the age of 101. The Church of the Virgin Mary, close to the original harbour of Ephesus, was the setting for the Third Ecumenical Council in 431. Two other religious sites worth visiting are the Basilica of St John, built in the sixth century, and İsa Bey Mosque, which is a sample of Seljuk architecture. Ephesus is not just a touristic site. It is home to the International İzmir Festival utilizing its grand amphitheatre, Celsus Library and the House of the Virgin Mary.

As one of the most important centres of the ancient era that is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015, Ephesus had been inhabited approximately for 9000 years throughout the Hellenistic Era, Roman Period, Byzantine Era, the Period of Principalities and the Ottoman Era. It was a very important port city and centre of culture and commerce. The whole site comprises Çukuriçi Mound, Ayasuluk Hill (Selçuk Fortress, the Basilica of St. John, İsa Bey Bath, İsa Bey Mosque, Temple of Artemis), the House of the Virgin Mary, and of course the ancient city of Ephesus.

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