Ephesus (Efes in Turish) is the biggest and best-preserved ancient city in the country and is one of the world’s spectacular historical sites. The city was established with a harbour on the mouth of the Cayster River, and in the 2nd century BC it became the most important port and commercial trading centre in Anatolia (Anadolu in Turkish), from Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic period to capital of Roman Asia under Augustus. The city went into final decline during the Byzantine era with the silting up of the harbour. The city is also important as the early seat of Christianity, visited by St Paul, whose letters to the Ephesians are recorded in the New Testament.
The site needs little imagination to see what a functioning Roman city would have looked like, but guides are available and can offer a rich insight into the history and architecture of the ruins. Among the amphitheatres, mosaics and murals, baths, columns, fountains and brothels, the chariot-worn streets lead to some of the highlights, including the enormous Library of Celsus, the impressive Temple of Hadrian, a row of public latrines and the Grand Theatre where Paul preached to the Ephesians. The city was originally dedicated to the goddess Artemis and her once-magnificent temple was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.