Ephesus History in 22 Easy Steps

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Ephesus History: Beginnings of Ephesus

1. Although the area around Ephesus has been settled since Neolithic times (about 6000 BC), the city itself was founded in the 10th Century BC.

The legend says its founder was Androclos, the prince of Athens who was a leader of an immigrant colony fleeing from the Doric colonization of Greece.

Apparently, the oracle of Delphi said that “a fish and a boar” would show Androclos the right spot for the foundation of the town.

And so it was: one night a fish fell out of a pan and scared a boar in the bush. Androclos followed the boar and decided to build a city on the spot he killed the boar.

Androclos was a successful warrior and united 12 cities of Ionia into an Ionian League.

Ephesus history: Archaic period

2. 7th Century – Ephesus is attacked by Cimmerians who tried to capture it but were unsuccessful. After their attacks, the city was ruled by a succession of tyrants.

3. About 560 BC – Ephesus was conquered by the Lydians. Croesus, king of the Lydians, was a harsh ruler, but treated the inhabitants with respect. He even initiated the reconstruction of the temple of Arthemis in Ephesus destroyed by Cimmerians.

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4. Around 550 BC the reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was completed, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

5. In the 5th Century BC the city was used as a base against the attacks of the Persians.

During the archaic period of Ephesus, the location of the city moved around the area… its location never remained the same.

Ephesus history: Classical period

6. In 498 BC – The Ephesians participated in the Ionian revolt against Persian rule in the Battle of Ephesus, which set off the Greco-Persian wars.

7. During the Peloponnesian Wars, 431-404 BC, Ephesus allied with Sparta and participated in a revolt against Athens in 412 BC.

8. At the beginning of the 4th Century the city was under the rule of Persia, which didn’t change the daily life of Ephesus much.

9. In 356 BCThe Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was burned down by a lunatic, after which it was restored into an even larger and grander temple than the original.

Ephesus History: Hellenistic Period

10. In 334 BCAlexander the Great defeated the Persians and the Greek cities of Asia Minor were liberated. He was cheered by the Ephesians as he entered the city triumphantly. Alexander the Great even wanted to finance the temple of Artemis at Ephesus being finished, but the Ephesians thought it wasn’t befitting for one god to build a temple to another.

11. After Alexander the Great’s death, the city is under the rule of one of Alexander’s generals, Lysimachus. He moved the location of the city again. Namely, after the river Cayster silted up the harbour of Ephesus, the resulting marshes caused malaria and many people died.

12. The city came under Egyptian rule between 263-197 BC.

Ephesus History: Roman Period

13. Ephesus came under the rule of Rome upon the death of Pergamese King Attolos in 133 BC. The Ephesians revolted against the Romans together with other western Anatolian cities but Sulla subdued the revolt and taxed the city severely.

14. The city enters an era of prosperity when Augustus became emperor in 27 BC and made it the capital of proconsular Asia. From there on, it grew into a metropolis and a commerce center. Ephesus was at its peak during the first and second century AD.

In this time, building activities were booming, especially at the times of Tiberius and Hadrian.

This was also the time that Christianity spread rapidly through the city.

15. The Goths destroyed and burned the city and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in 262 AD.

Ephesus History: Byzantine Era (395 – 1070)

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16. Ephesus remained the most important city of the Byzantine Empire in Asia after Constantinople, but never saw its glory days again. It was rebuilt by Emperor Constantine I.

17. In 406, the Archbishop of Constantinople ordered the destruction of the Temple of Artemis.

18. The city lost its commercial importance with its harbor being silted up by the river and losing its access to the Aegean Sea. Consequently, people started leaving the city for the hills nearby.

19. The Arab sacking in the 7th Ct only worsened the city’s decline.

20. In the 11th Ct when the Seljuk Turks captured the area, Ephesus was just a small village, while the ruins were used for building new houses.

21. The city had another little glorious period in the 14th Ct, but by the time the Crusaders passed through they were surprised to find just a small village at the spot of a once bustling seaport.

22. Today, only one tenth of this glorious city has been unearthed for the Ephesus Turkey tours visitors to see, but is still one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. An absolute must see when you cruise to Kusadasi Turkey!

If you are looking for a private tour to Ephesus check our suggestion for Daily Ephesus Tours.

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