Things to Do in Selçuk
Ephesus (Efes) is one of the greatest ancient sites in the Mediterranean. During its heyday in the first century BC, it was the second-largest city in the world, with only Rome commanding more power. Many reconstructed structures and ruins, including the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, can be seen here.
A holy shrine to the supposed death place of St. Mary, the House of the Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana Evi) in Ephesus is a standing testament to the home of the beloved mother of Jesus (Meryem Ana or Meryemana in Turkish). Many believe that the house was indeed the place where she spent her final days, and today you can visit the restored stone house, which now serves as a chapel.
Serving as sacred territory for Christians and Muslims alike, the Virgin Mary's House has called hundreds of thousands of visitors and pilgrims since its discovery in the 19th-century. Remnants of the chapel date as far back as the 6th-century, and serves as the place where its caretakers, the Lazarist Fathers, conduct mass every day. Despite the altar placed within, the house still contains a bedroom and kitchen, decorated with pictures of Mary and candles.
Many believe that the spring that runs beneath St. Mary's House is blessed and possesses the power to heal, and once you enter the house, you can see left behind crutches and other apparatus’ that were apparently left behind amid miracles.
The Temple of Artemis, or Artemision, was a Greek temple in present-day Turkey dedicated to the goddess Artemis. It was one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world. It was built not far from Ephesus just outside the present-day town of Selcuk. The temple was completely rebuilt several times throughout history after being destroyed on multiple occasions by both nature and human factors. Little remains of the temple in its original location today since archeologists brought much of the ruins to the British Museum.
The Temple of Artemis is only a couple of miles from Ephesus, making it an easy attraction to visit. Visitors can still see one tall column and a handful of marble pieces from the foundations of the structure, and the historical location is fascinating. From the site, you can also see the ruins of St. John's Basilica, located on a hill in Selcuk.
The ruins of the ancient city of Ephasus are located in Selcuk, Turkey. The city was a major port city in its time, but the port has since silted over and the shoreline is quite a distance away. One of the important sections of the ruins are the Ephesus Terrace Houses, which are on a hill across from the Hadrian Temple. There are six units on three terraces, the oldest dating back to the 1st century BC. It was used as a residence until the 7th century AD.
Two of the houses are now open as a museum, and they give visitors a glimpse at what family life might have been like during the Roman Period. The houses contained mosaics on the floors and frescoes on the walls, which are now protected. They had central interior courtyards, and although most of the houses were two stories tall, the second levels have collapsed over time.
Isa Bey Mosque (İsa Bey Camii) was built in 1375 near the ancient city of Ephesus in what is today Selçuk, Turkey. Parts of the mosque were built using stones and columns from the ruins of Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis. It was designed asymmetrically instead of a more traditional symmetric layout and includes a large courtyard. The mosque uses a Selcuk style of architecture rather than the Ottoman style that was used more often in later years.
Visitors can admire the facade on the western side which is covered in marble and carved with geometric designs and calligraphy inscriptions. You can all see the brick minaret that has survived over the centuries on the north side of the mosque and two domes in the center. The mosque sits below the citadel near the Basilica of St. John. From the mosque, you can look up at the impressive ruins of the citadel and the basilica. The view from the hill where the basilica sits gives an impressive perspective of the mosque as well.
A visit to St. John’s Basilica allows a glimpse into the history of this ancient site, built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. It is believed that the church sits on the burial grounds of John the Apostle and was designed in the shape of a cross. At its completion, it was covered by six domes, with many of the walls presumably once covered in frescoes.
As nearby Ephesus began to lose significance, the Basilica of St. John was converted into a mosque, hit by an earthquake and completely destroyed by a Mongol army in 1402. All that remains today are various bricks and stones alongside the marble columns that once held up the structure, but recent restoration gives visitors the context to visualize and understand its former status and significance.
Many combine their visit with a walk to the nearby Ayasuluk Fortress atop Ayasuluk Hill, where St. John is said to have written his gospel. A climb up offers great views of the surrounding area.
The Library of Celsus is the most famous part of the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. It was built between 110 and 135 AD by Gaius Julius Aquila in honor of his father, Celsus Polemaeanus. Unfortunately his father died before the Celsus Library was completed, and his tomb was placed in a special room beneath the ground level of the building. A statue of Athena was placed at the entrance to the tomb because Athena was the goddess of wisdom.
The Library of Celsus was two stories high and had three entrances in the front. The entrances were designed with exaggerated height in order to give the building the overall appearance of being bigger than it was. The building faces east which allowed plenty of morning light to shine into the reading rooms. The Celsus Library was once the third largest library in the ancient world, after Alexandra and Pergamum, and could hold more than 12,000 scrolls.
The ruins of the ancient Roman city of Ephasus are located in Selcuk, Turkey. The city was the second most important city in the Roman empire during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. One of the popular sections of the ruins is the Public Latrine, next to the Hadrian Temple and the Bordello. The public latrines were the city's public toilets, and they were built in the 1st century AD as part of the Scholastica Baths. These baths were built to provide the city with the modern conveniences of public works, including 36 marble toilets.
Visitors can still see, but not use, the toilets that are lined up along the walls. There was an uncovered pool with columns surrounding it which supported a wooden ceiling. Underneath the latrines was a drainage system. There was also a trough with relatively clean water near where your feet would be. People who wanted to use the toilets had to pay an entrance fee.
The Temple of Hadrian at Ephesus is one of the highlights of the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. It was built around 118 AD and is actually more of a monument to Hadrian, Artemis, and the people of Ephesus. Hadrian's temple is small, but there is a beautiful arch on the outside, a porch, and a small main hall. The porch is supported by pillars and Corinthian columns. A statue of Hadrian once stood on a podium in the temple, but it has been lost. On the front of the porch are bases with the names of Galerius, Maximianus, Diocletianus, and Constantius Chlorus inscribed on them, indicating that the bases might have once held statues of these emperors.
Panel reliefs on the inside depict Medusa warding off the bad spirits, the mythological foundation of Ephesus, and various religious scenes. The reliefs seen today are plaster replicas, while the originals are protected in the Ephesus Museum.
Şirince, a small village of just 600 inhabitants, has a long history that is intrinsically linked to Ephesus; indeed, rumor has it that it was founded by freed Greek slaves who named it “ugly” in Turkish to deter others from following them after the fall of Ephesus. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the name was changed to Şirince, which means ‘pleasant.’ Nowadays the mountainous village is mainly known for its many preserved whitewashed stucco homes, bucolic and lush setting, as well as its fruit-based wineries and olive groves. The Church of St John the Baptist, although neglected by Turkish authorities, still houses fantastic Byzantine frescoes. Most tourists tend to visit for one day as part of excursions to nearby Selçuk, but there’s a handful of guesthouses and cafés for overnight guests as well. Visitors should be aware that Sirince gets very crowded on the weekend.
More Things to Do in Selçuk
One of the greatest ancient Roman cities was Ephesus, and its ruins are located in Selcuk, Turkey. It is one of the most popular sites to visit in Turkey. Near the ancient Agora, visitors can see the remains of the Temple of Domitian and Domitian Square. The Temple of Domitian, formally known as the Temple of the Sebastoi, was built in honor of Emperor Domitian's family, and it is the first structure here known to be dedicated to an emperor. Though not much remains of the temple today, archaeologists have learned much about its structure.
Visitors can see the remaining foundation of the temple and imagine what it might have once looked like. It was approximately 165 feet by 330 feet and sat on vaulted foundations. The northern end was two stories tall and was accessed by stairs, which can still be seen today. There were also several columns on each side of the temple. Reliefs from some of the columns can still be seen here as well.
The Fountain of Trajan is a building in the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey that was built in the 2nd century AD. It is a two story building that was constructed in memory of the Roman Emperor Trajan. There was once a giant statue of Trajan and a pool with water flowing from beneath him. The statue was created with Trajan's left foot on the ground and his right foot on a ball that represented the world. Trajan ruled during the height of the Roman Empire, and showing him standing on this ball was meant to represent him as the ruler of the world. The left foot of the statue can still be seen today.
The ornate facade of the building includes Corinthian columns and Composite columns, which were a combination of Corinthian and Ionic columns. The pool was approximately 66 feet by 33 feet and surrounded by columns and statues of Dionysus, Satyr, Aphrodite and the family of the Emperor. These statues are preserved in the Ephesus Museum.
Opened in June 2000, the Aqua Fantasy Aquapark near Selcuk is Turkey’s top water park, accommodating up to 5,000 guests every day. The park may be best known for its Super Combo four-in-one ride, considered by many to be one of Europe’s best designed water slides. Other popular rides include the Screamer, which provides the feeling of a vertical freefall while sliding and the Xtreme slide, where guests reach speeds up to 80 kilometers per hour. Other activities include water volleyball on an artificial beach, a wave pool with 10 different kinds of waves, an adult pool with a swim up bar and Jacuzzi, and the relaxing Blue Lagoon and Lazy Adventure River. And of course, there is a kids’ pool for the little ones.
The Baths of Varius was a bathhouse built in the 2nd century AD in Ephesus in present-day Turkey. The north and east walls of the original building were carved from natural outcroppings of rock. Several renovations over a few centuries gave the building a unique look, including the addition of a hallway that was 130 feet long and covered in mosaics from the 5th century. The baths covered a large area and had several different rooms, including separate rooms for cold, warm, and hot water. There were also private rooms for a few wealthy citizens of Ephesus. It is believed one section functioned as a gymnasium.
The Romans place a high value on personal cleanliness, so the Baths of Varius would have been an important building in ancient Ephesus. Most but not all sections of the baths have been excavated, and no restoration work has been done yet. Some sections are in decent shape, but it might take some creativity to imagine what other sections once looked like.
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