Ephesus Told by the Others

Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has visited Ephesus more than a dozen times, says the city “is almost like a snapshot in time. You get the sense of what walking down the street of a Roman city was like without having to use your own imagination.”

Smithsonian Magazine

With the port city of Kusadasi behind us, our van drives toward the once Imperial Roman capital of Asia, Ephesus. It’s a long drive from the seaport to Ephesus and we stop in Kusadasi for lunch before continuing on to our afternoon hike in the ancient city. We catch a glimpse of the excavation at the base of a hillside and then plunge right into the rubble-strewn ruins with the resurrected columns along the road to the library (one of the most recognized landmarks in all of Turkey). While the Odeon (concert hall) is a gigantic find of the archeologists, it is the lowly public toilets that have been meticulously restored that catch our attention. A bit farther down the long street, we enter a covered restoration project where prominent homes of rich Romans round out our tour before we enter the library facade and then head back to our cruise ship. It’s been a long day and sleep comes quickly.

Tom HANNIGAN May 17, 2013

The place sets the fabulosity meter ringing. It is awe-inspiring, mainly because of the unbelievable construction involved in building this city over two thousand years ago, but also because of its setting. It is situated at the head of a valley and runs down the valley for about a mile flanked on each side by hillsides covered in olive trees. The heart of the city, with all the government buildings and housing for the elite, is situated at the head of the valley on the hill slopes, while the housing for the common people runs down the valley to the sea. The scale of the city is incredible and it has been estimated that 250,000 men lived there. Notice the word “men”. That figure does not include slaves or women, who were second and third-rate citizens (in that order!) and does not appear in any population estimates. So the population could easily have been over half a million. That was a lot of people two thousand years ago. The infrastructure for a city of that size was amazing. The streets all run downhill to the sea and there was a system to release water at the top of the streets, which would run down through the city cleaning everything in its path. There were also drains from the toilets and baths. The drainpipes were made of twice-baked clay, and the manufacturing process was so good that there are still piles of drain pipes in perfect condition stored at the edge of the City, looking like an overstocked section of Home Depot.

Hank Davis July 23, 2013

Today there are two entrances to the Site – one at the head of the Valley and one at the bottom of the valley. Our guide like many others drives us to the top of the valley and we walk down through the magnificent ruins to the bottom where our driver waits for us. Our guide is in a rush. He is full of information which is fascinating, but we want to linger and explore the different areas. But every time we stop, he urges us on. We have managed to get there before all the tour buses arrive from the five cruise ships docked at Kusadasi. But the large groups of tourists can now be seen behind us led by their assorted flag-waving guides. If we keep ahead of them, we can enjoy all the highlights in relative peace, undisturbed by the waves of tourists pouring down behind us. We feel a little like the inhabitants of old trying to keep ahead of the effluent being washed down the streets. The city is built of bricks all faced with white marble. The streets are all paved with white marble. The temperature is almost 100 degrees, but all the white marble makes it feel much hotter. The many bathhouses that are scattered through the city must have been most welcome. But once again it was all about the men (I am trying so hard not to raise a fist and shout “Yes!”). For the men used the baths first. When they were finished, the slaves could use them. And finally, after everyone else had used the water, the women were allowed in. It is hard to believe that being a slave in those days was better than being a woman.

Judy Perting April 22, 2012

An elderly Chevy taxi took us up Mt. Solmissus, a few miles above the ruins of Ephesus, to visit what local legend says was the last home of the Virgin Mary. Near Mary’s House, a row of pipes supplies what we understood is holy water, similar to that in Lourdes, France. Our taxi driver had been a driver for a general in the Turkish army and was wounded in the leg during a war in the 1950s. The wound would not heal, in spite of what the doctors and hospitals did. He managed to visit Mary’s House, did something with this water, and his leg healed.

Los Angeles Times

I had a private tour guide lead me around the ruins of Ephesus (or Efes in Turkish, which name incidentally was adopted by a modern local beer). The guide was very knowledgeable in both history and archaeology. I felt this was the best way to see all of the ruins, to focus on the aspects of the city that I found most interesting, and to see the ruins at my own pace. I’m glad that I made that choice instead of following one guide in a herd of 50 or more tourists from a bus. I was very impressed with the Library of Celsus, which seems to me to be the best-restored building of any of the sites I have been to, including Pompei. My guide pointed out that the underground tunnel, which is marked by the figures of a woman, a heart, and a price, and leads from the Library of Celsus up the hill to an area next to the baths. The tunnel is believed to have been connected to a bar or brothel — so much for those men going to the library to “read!”

Alex Gorkski September 29 2019

If you’re visiting Greece and its islands in the Aegean Sea, the ruins in Ephesus, Turkey, make a worthwhile side-trip. From the port of Kusadasi, it’s about a half-hour to what was once a Roman city of a quarter-million people but left in ruins by pestilence and earthquake. (Tours are available, and the best way to go.) Along the side, intricate mosaic-tiled floors remain in what was once were homes. In Domitian Square, a ground-level relief portrays a flight of the victory goddess Nike, her draped garment swooshing into the shape used in the modern sportswear brand. The public lavatories provide an eye-opening glimpse into the social life of the era. Lines of marble-seated toilets form a right angle at the sides of what was once a pool; it was here that the ancients gathered and swapped gossip while they also attended to their personal business. Watching your step, you will see what’s believed to be the world’s first advertisement, and certainly an early form of graffiti. Carved into the stone walkway are the likeness of a woman’s head, a left foot, and a bird; it is said to be an ad for the local brothel. A tunnel from the remains of the venerable, two-storied Library of Celsius was connected to the same house of pleasure.

NBC News 2020

The major reason for visiting Kusadasi: eyeballing the vast ruins of Ephesus, the ancient Greek city. Kusadasi became a major port — claiming 250,000 residents during the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. — in the Roman Empire. About 27-square-miles of awesome, excavated ruins lure visitors past houses, shops, a tavern, a bordello, columns, and even toilets, whose rows of cutouts in long marble slabs above mosaic floors provided businessmen places to socialize. Kusadasi is a resort town for locals, and repeat visitors will find much interest beyond Ephesus. The port, Scala Nuova, is right in town. Archaeology addicts find other excavated sites close by as well. Christian and Muslim pilgrims flock to the stone house where many believe the Virgin Mary stayed. You can also visit the Basilica of St. John, where the saint is buried. Tip: At Ephesus, which has little shade, summer temperatures of 95-to-100-degrees Fahrenheit are typical, so be sure to wear hats, bring shade umbrellas, and tote plenty of water. Be cautious about inexpensive tour guides advertised on the Internet. Be sure they’re recommended, as some have proven unreliable.

USA Today July 14, 2013