Ephesus is one of the best preserved ancient cities in the world. With a history dating back to 1000 BC, Ephesus was a cultural and commercial center for centuries. You can find information about the history of Ephesus in this article. In addition, Ephesus entrance fee and opening hours are also noted.
Huge crowds visit the ancient city of Ephesus throughout the year. Especially those who come to Kusadasi in spring and summer with Cruise ships first visit Ephesus. If you are going to visit Ephesus on your own, it would be better to plan ahead to avoid wasting time. You can buy tickets online to avoid getting stuck in the crowd.
You can buy Ephesus fast track tickets online by clicking this link. These skip-the-line entrance tickets to Ephesus Ruins are slightly more expensive than standard tickets, but they save you time. Tickets are sold under the guarantee of GetYourGuide, an international travel site. You can cancel the tour up to 24 hours and get a full refund.
Table of Contents
The History of Ephesus Ancient City
The history of the Ephesus Ancient City goes back to 1000 BC. Ephesus and Istanbul show similarity in the way they were founded according to the legends. The story of both cities began with the mysterious prophecies of an oracle in Delphi, Greece.
According to the legend, Androcles, the son of the King Codrus, decided to leave Athens upon his father’s death. In ancient Greece, an advice of the oracle of Temple of Apollo would be sought before making such important decisions. So, Androcles told the oracle that he wanted to make a new start, but didn’t know where to go.
The oracle advised Androcles to go to the East. He told him to cross the Aegean Sea and land there. The oracle said, “The fish will give you a signal and the pig will guide you.” Naturally, Androcles and his company didn’t know what to make of what the oracle said. They had to cross the Aegean Sea to understand what the oracle meant.
Androcles crossed the Aegean Sea and his ship anchored at the bay where Kucuk Menderes River meets the sea. The scouts exploring the area got hungry. They did fishing and started cooking the fish they caught. At that moment, one of the fish jumped to the floor. Then the pig waiting among the bushes till that moment whisked the fish away and ran.
Androcles got on his horse and went after the pig. The pig ran up to a hill and Androcles hit the pig with his arrow. So, the prophecy of the oracle came true. The fish gave the signal and the pig guided them. The spot where Androcles founded his new city was where he killed the pig.
In the lines below, you can find the history of Ephesus under 12 headings. Since it is not easy to visualize the times dating back to BC, I decorated the titles with relevant images. I hope I will be able to convey the exciting story of Ephesus to you properly.
1. The Ionian League
The new city of Ephesus was founded on a commanding hill to protect it from the attacks via the sea and the land. Therefore, the city developed quickly and grew rich as it was not vulnerable to invasion.
Gradually, Ephesus became an important part of the Ionian League that was composed of 12 city-states. Ephesus showed tremendous improvement in philosophy and became the center of the intellectual world.
2. The Cult of Artemis
The strongest figure of the Mother Goddess cult in Anatolia was Cybele, the goddess of fertility. Cybele evolved into the Greek goddess Artemis due to the impact of Ionian city-states.
The cult of Artemis began to rise in Western Anatolia. In Ephesus, a temple was erected to honor Artemis, the Greek goddess of the Moon and the Hunting. After 800 BC, Ephesus became a religious center and an important location on the pilgrimage route.
3. The King of Lydia, Croesus
In 800 BC, the King of Lydia, Croesus set his eyes on the prosperous and rich Ephesus. He wanted to conquer the city and took advantage of its resources. The expansionist policy of Croesus disturbed the Ephesians.
However, Ephesians had such deep trust in the Goddess Artemis that they didn’t even build walls to protect the city. They thought Artemis would protect the city from the temple that was 1,200 meters far from the city center.
Due to the almost non-existing defense of the city, the King of Lydia seized the city easily. Some of the Ephesians were exiled from the city and they were forced to live somewhere nearby the temple. The Lydian rule began in the Ephesus.
King Croesus showed the respect that the Temple of Artemis deserved, so much so that, he allocated a budget to make this temple more beautiful from his legendary wealth.
4. The Persian Invasion
The Persian invasion started in Anatolia from 550 BC.They seized all the Ionian cities on the Aegean coast and they vandalized some of these cities. However, thanks to the diplomatic success of the Ephesians, the city of Ephesus was saved from being ruined.
The fact that Ephesus was a rich portal city was another factor that helped it escape from destruction. Ephesians persuaded the Persian King not to invade the city by promising to pay high taxes in return.
5. The Destruction of the Temple
An Ephesian lunatic named Herostratus set the Temple of Artemis to the fire to put his stamp on history and it caused an irreparable damage to the temple. This incident had a devastating effect on the devout Ephesians.
The destruction of the temple also jeopardized the privileged place of Ephesus in Western Anatolia. Because for centuries the city had been identified with this temple. They used all their means and rebuilt the temple.
6. Alexander the Great
The same year that the new temple was supposed to be built, Alexander the Great arrived at Anatolia with his great army. He was chasing the King of the Persians and it was the beginning of his military campaign that would go as far as India.
Alexander fell in love with Ephesus immediately and he was amazed by the beauty of the temple. He ordered the restoration of the temple and he said he would cover the expenses himself on condition that the temple was dedicated to him.
However, the Ephesians rejected this offer with a smart move. The Ephesians claimed that even if the Temple of Artemis was later dedicated to Alexander, its old name would not be forgotten and would overshadow the king’s name.
The restored Temple of Artemis put its mark on the world thanks to its beauty during the Hellenistic era, so much so that it even entered the list of Seven Wonders of the World.
7. The Diadochi Period
Alexander the Great founded a magnificent world empire. However he died at a young age unexpectedly. The Kingdom of Macedon that Alexander the Great shaped was shared among his generals after his death. This post-Alexander period is called the Diadochi period in history. The region where Ephesus was located fell under the rule of the general named Lysimachus.
Lysimachus was a quite skilled ruler. He realized that the port was filled with alluvium and decided to move the city to another location. Otherwise, Ephesus would be in danger of losing its feature as a trade port city. However, the Ephesians were obstinate and insisted on staying where they were.
Therefore, Lysimachus blocked the sewers of the city to force them to move. Ephesians had to cope with illnesses, dirt and heavy smell due to the blocked sewers and they decided to move although involuntarily. Lysimachus also built the city walls that Ephesus never had and the city turned into a well-protected one.
8. Roman Empire Period
The city of Ephesus fell under the rule of Roman Empire like the rest of Anatolia. When Rome took Ephesus, it was living the Pax Romana period after Augustus. The wealth and prosperity of this period would make Ephesus the rising star of the East.
Today, many ancient structures in the Ancient City of Ephesus are from the Roman Empire period. Ephesus is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Eastern Mediterranean that carries the Roman heritage to the present day.
9. The Library of Celsus
In the 2nd century AD, Ephesus became the capital of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. The city was ruled by Celsus Polemaeanus, an important Roman bureaucrat of the time.
Celsus’ son Tiberius Julius Aquila wanted to build a large library in honor of his father. Thus, the Libary of Celsus was created, the façade of which has survived to the present day.
10. Ephesus and Early Christianity
Following Jesus Christ‘s death, his disciples traveled all around the Anatolia and the rest of the world to spread Christianity. And it’s believed that Saint John and Jesus’ mother Virgin Mary, came to Ephesus and lived there. For this reason, there is a link between Ephesus and early Christianity.
This connection was strengthened in the 19th century when archaeologists followed the visions of the nun Anne Catherine Emmerich and found the House of Virgin Mary in Ephesus. For this reason, Ephesus is located on the Christian pilgrimage route today.
11. The Port of Ephesus
Filling of Ephesus harbor with alluvium had created a problem for the city throughout history. Many rulers, including the emperor Hadrian, cleared and saved the harbor. However, despite all efforts, the port was filled again over time. Thus, the port of Ephesus was lost and the city moved away from the sea.
The city, which lost its feature of being a central port, remained an important cultural and life center during the Byzantine and early Ottoman periods. However, Ephesus lost its importance after the 16th century.
I used a picture of Pamucak Beach (also known as Ephesus Beach) to visualize this title. Visitors to the area can crown their cultural tour by cooling off at this beach afterwards.
12. Ephesus in Modern Times
In modern times, Ephesus has been the scene of many important archaeological excavations. For example, the Temple of Artemis was discovered during excavations by the English archologist John Turtle Wood in the 19th century.
Today, excavations are still carried out by the Austrian Archaeological Institute. Many artifacts unearthed from these excavations are exhibited in the Ephesus Museum in the town of Selcuk.
Ephesus Entrance Fee 2024
The entrance fee to the ancient city of Ephesus is 700 Turkish Liras as of 2024. Museum Pass Turkey is valid for entrance to Ephesus Ruins. The information on the ticket price was last updated on November 20, 2023.
Remember that visiting the Ephesus Museum will complement your visit to the archaeological site. The museum is close to the ancient city and the entrance fee is 220 Turkish Liras as of November 2023.
Guided Tour Tickets for Ephesus Ruins
There may be long queues at the entrance of Ephesus in tourist season. For this reason, buying guided tour tickets for Ephesus ruins will save you time. You can buy a skip-the-line ticket by clicking this link and join a guided small group tour to Ephesus.
Although these tickets are more expensive than standart Ephesus entrance fee, they allow you to visit the archaeological site with a guide. Tickets are sold under the guarantee of GetYourGuide, an international travel site. You can cancel the tour up to 24 hours and get a full refund.
Ephesus Opening Hours 2024
Ephesus opening hours are between 08:00 in the morning and 18:30 in the evening. Ticket sales end at the box office at 17:30. Ephesus ruins are open to visitors every day of the week. Information on visiting hours was last updated on November 20, 2023.
Visiting times of the Ephesus may change due to some events and renovations. So before you go, you can visit the official website of Ephesus Archaeological Site to see the latest situation. Thus, you will confirm the current Ephesus entrance fee for the second time.
Although Ephesus is a place that draws attention with its Greco-Roman heritage, the places to see in the vicinity are not limited to the archaeological site. There are many things that can be seen in the town known as Selcuk today, both from the Roman and Christian periods.
If you are interested in things to do around Ephesus, you can also read my article called Ephesus Travel Blog, which is a very detailed article on this subject. Also, if you’re wondering about accommodation options around Ephesus, you can take a look at my article on Where to Stay in Ephesus.
Written by Serhat Engul