Saturday, January 12, 2013


Best For Classical Ruins

Executive summary by darmansjah

AT the end of a hot Aegean day, the sun sets on the marble remains of a once-great city. At its peak two millennia ago, Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and the empire’s largest metropolis after Rome. Toga-clad hordes one streamed along these thoroughfares, but today the roads are abandoned, with wildflowers popping up between the flagstones and sprawling headless statues.

Among these remnants are some of the most remarkable Roman structures in the world. There are remains of temples, marketplaces, bath houses and even public bathrooms (with each toilet set companionably side-by-side for ease of chatting). And there’s the towering, columned façade of the library of Celcus – once home to 12,000 papyrus scrolls – and the vast Great Theatre.

Can Arman, an expert in classics from the Ephesus Museum in nearby Selcuk, walks along the top of the Great Theatre’s terraced seats, where 25,000 Ephesians would gather to witness gladiatorial battles and ceremonial sacrifices. He points out that this amphitheatre reveals more than just the city’s enthusiasm for spectacle. ‘A classical city’s  population was typically about 10 times the capacity of its theatre,’ he says, ‘so from this we can work out that the population was at least 250,000. Counting slaves and people living outside the city walls, that’s up to a million.’

In the sixth century, the city suffered a terminal blow when its harbor became to silted up by the Casyter River and Ephesus lost access to its economic lifeblood, the Aegean. Today, the ancient port town is several miles inland.

Despite its radical changes over time, to walk these ancient streets is to get a genuine glimpse of what it was to live here in Roman times. One of  the streets is even home to what is believed to be the world’s oldest advertisement – an etched paving stone providing coded directions to the nearest brothel.

Further Information:

Ephesus is open daily from 8am (US$13 admission, plus US$13 for the Terraced Houses). The Ephesus Museum is in Selcuk (US$3;

Where To Eat
Facing the Roman Aqueduct, Sisci Yasarin is a Selcuk institution, selling the finest kofte (meatballs) around (mains from US$6; Ataturk Caddesi).

Where To Stay

Having spent 11 years writing guides to Turkey’s small hotels, Sevan Nisanyan put his knowledge into practice at this hilltop complex. Overlooking the cascade of fairy-tale Ottoman houses in the town of Sirince, the stone buildings feature marble bathrooms, brightly colored iznik tiles, raised sleeping salons and writing bureaus (from US$70;


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