Upper Ephesus

sights / Historic

Upper Ephesus information

Ephesus (Efes) , Turkey
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First you'll encounter the Varius Baths – as in other ancient cities, situated at the main entrances so that visitors could wash before entering. Greco-Roman baths also had a social function as a meeting and massage destination.

Next comes the Upper Agora , a large square used for legislation and local political talk. The structure was originally flanked by grand columns and filled with polished marble. In the middle was a small Temple of Isis – a testament to the strong cultural and trade connections between Ephesus and Alexandria in Egypt. The agora's columns would later be reused for a Christian basilica, which was a typically Byzantine three-nave structure with a wooden roof. From here, there are several archways in the distance, once food-storage houses.

Ephesus had one of the ancient world's most advanced aqueduct systems, and there are signs of this in terracotta piping for water, along the way to the Odeon , a 5000-seat theatre. Primarily used for municipal meetings, this once-lavish building boasts marble seats and carved ornamentation.

Further on, two of six original Doric columns mark the entrance to the ruined Prytaneum (town hall) and city treasury. Here and elsewhere, guides may discuss the differences between the Ionian Greeks' heavily ornamented, spiralling columns, and the smooth, unadorned ones of the Romans – both coexist randomly across the site, due to ancient retrofitting and modern relocations. A similar difference is notable in arches: the genius of the single-material, harmoniously balanced Ionian Greek ones, and the pragmatic use of mortar cement by the Romans.

The Prytaneum also hosted the Temple of Hestia Boulaea , where the city's eternal flame was tended to by vestal virgins, and was fronted by a giant Artemis statue. The fertility goddess was carved with huge breasts and welcoming arms extending from her body, though her hands (probably crafted from gold) are long gone. Many of the statues of deities, emperors and other luminaries here originally had precious gemstones for eyes – another indicator of Ephesian wealth.

A side street called the Sacred Street led to Ephesus' Asclepion (hospital). Protected by the god Asclepius and his daughter Hygieia, doctors used the Asclepian snake symbol, often etched into the stone. The snake's symbolic meaning was its ability to shed its skin and renew itself, while the ancients also knew that snake venom had curative powers, and Ephesus was famous for its medical school.

Nearby is the ruined Temple of Domitian . Domitian (r AD 81–96) was the tyrant who banished St John to Patmos (where he wrote the Book of Revelations), and executed his own nephew for showing interest in Christianity. Although the unpopular ruler demanded a temple be made in his honour, it was promptly demolished when he died.

Finally, the Pollio Fountain and Memius Monument hint at the lavish nature of ancient Ephesus' fountains, which filled the city with the relaxing sound of rushing water, again indicating its wealth.