Turkey, Ephesus, Library of Celsus

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Top choice in Ephesus

Of Turkey's hundreds of ancient cities and classical ruins, Ephesus is the grandest and best preserved. A Unesco-listed World Heritage Site, it's the best place in the Mediterranean to get a feel for what life was like in ancient times. Ancient Ephesus was a great trading city and a centre for the cult of Cybele, the Anatolian fertility goddess.

Under the influence of the Ionians, Cybele became Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon, and a fabulous temple was built in her honour. When the Romans took over, Artemis became Diana and Ephesus became the Roman provincial capital, the fourth largest city in the empire after Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.

In 356 BC, the Temple of Cybele/Artemis was destroyed in a fire set by a lunatic called Herostratus, who claimed to have done it to get his 15 minutes of fame, proving that modern society has no monopoly on a perverted sense of celebrity. The Ephesians set to work building a grand new temple which, when finished, was recognised as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

To avoid the heat of the day, come early in the morning or in the late afternoon, when it's also less crowded. If you can, avoid public holidays altogether. Bring water with you as drinks at the site are expensive. In summer, you'll need a hat as there is little shade on site.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Ephesus attractions

1. Great Theatre

0.04 MILES

Originally built under Hellenistic King Lysimachus, the Great Theatre was reconstructed by the Romans between AD 41 and 117 and it is thought St Paul…

2. Theatre Gymnasium

0.08 MILES

You can pick out the foundations of this once-colossal structure, which was used for physical training and dates from around AD 125. A lot of excavation…

3. Marble Street


This street, paved with marble slabs slightly raised to aid drainage, formed part of the Sacred Way linking the city centre with the Temple of Artemis…

4. Lower Agora

0.11 MILES

This 110-sq-m one-time market had a massive colonnade. The shops in the colonnades traded in food and textiles; the agora's proximity to the harbour…

5. Harbour Street

0.14 MILES

The 530m-long Harbour St was built by Byzantine Emperor Arcadius (r 395-408) to link the Great Theatre and the Middle Harbour Gate in a late attempt to…

6. Lower Gate

0.15 MILES

This is the second, less frequented entrance to the ruins at Ephesus.

7. Library of Celsus

0.16 MILES

This magnificent library dating from the early 2nd century AD, the best-known monument in Ephesus, has been extensively restored. Originally built as part…

8. Temple of Serapis

0.17 MILES

This massive structure, reached by a flight of marble steps in the southwest corner of the Lower Agora, may have contained a temple to the Greco-Egyptian…