Izmir

Izmir is a city on Turkey’s Aegean coast. Home of Ephesus, House of Mary, Pergamon and more. It was known as Smyrna in antiquity, it was founded by the Greeks, taken over by the Romans and rebuilt by Alexander the Great before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.

Population of city is about 4.3 million which makes Izmir as the 3rd biggest city of Turkey after Istanbul and Ankara

PLACES TO SEE IN IZMIR

KONAK SQUARE

Konak Square is like the hearth of the city and it is the busiest part of Izmir. ,Most of this busy square is occupied by the Governorate of İzmir Province, the City Hall of İzmir Metropolitan Municipality, the Central Bus Station, and the Yalı Mosque. İzmir Clock Tower, an old landmark built in 1901 is at the center of the square. The square is also near Kemeraltı, İzmir’s major market (bazaar) district.

Konak Square
Konak Square , Izmir

AGORA (SMYRNA)

The agora was the center of life in ancient Smyrna. It dates back to the Hellenistic period. An eartquake destroyed it in 178. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius rebuilt shortly . You can walk to Agora, through from Kemeraltı – the bazaar section of the city – in 15 minutes.

The most impressive was the basement of Agora. Several Underground arches were built next to each other to support the above ground structures.

Back in the Roman time, it was the market where goods were sold. Also, slavery was common back in the Roman era, so it was used as a slave market at the same time.

Izmir Agora
The cryptoporticus of Agora

KEMERALTI BAZAAR

The district covers a vast area extending from the level of the Agora of Smyrna to the seashore along the Konak Square. Even back in the Roman Time, Agora was the market place of Smyrna. So, we can say that it has been a market area since from the Roman era.

Today, there are thousands of shops that sells mainly clothing, shoes and bags. But almost everything is sold in kemeralti. It is so colorful and such a place where you will feel the hustle and bustle of Izmir. Also, the neighbourhood became to home to serphardic jews who fleet to Ottoman Empire after Alhambra Decree

Kemeralti

SITES TO SEE AROUND IZMIR

Anatolia is the cradle of civilizations. Izmir and its enviroment has been settled down for thousands of years. The most famous sites in the boundary of Izmir province are Ephesus and Pergamon.

PERGAMON

Pergamon was a rich and powerful ancient city. It is located 26 kilometres from the modern coastline of the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus and northwest of the modern city of Bergama, Turkey.

During the Hellenistic period, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon in 281–133 BC, then it was transformed it into one of the major cultural centres of the Greek world. Many remains of its impressive monuments can still be seen and especially the outstanding masterpiece of the Pergamon Altar. Pergamon was the northernmost of the seven churches of Asia cited in the New Testament Book of Revelation.

Acropolis (upper city) is the main site where the main structures of the city located. But on the other hand, Asklepion (Healing Center) is located on the flats of Pergamon and is about 3 km away from Acropolis. Also about 1 km at the south of Acropolis, there is a temple dedicated to Egyptian Goddess Isis or Serapis, called Red Basilica.

Acropolis is placed at the peak of an hill that is around 300 meters high. If you have car or minivan, you can drive up to Acropolis. Or you can catch the cable car going up to the ruins.

Here are some of the ruins that can be seen at the acropolis.

PERGAMON ALTAR

The most famous structure from the city is the monumental altar, which was probably dedicated to Zeus and Athena. The foundations are still located in the Upper city, but the remains of the Pergamon frieze, which originally decorated it, are displayed in the Pergamon museum in Berlin, where the parts of the frieze taken to Germany have been installed in a partial reconstruction.

Pergamon Altar
Left, the foundation of Pergamon Altar at Acropolis
Right – The Great Altar of Pergamon, on display in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany
THEATRE

The well-preserved Theatre of Pergamon dates from the Hellenistic period – 3rd Century BC – and had space for around 10,000 people, in 78 rows of seats. At a height of 36 metres, it is the steepest of all ancient theatres.

Theatre of Pergamon
Theatre of Pergamon
LIBRARY

The Library of Pergamon was the second largest in the ancient world after the Library of Alexandria, containing at least 200,000 scrolls. The location of the library building is not certain. Since the 19th century excavations, it has generally been identified with an annex of the northern stoa of the sanctuary of Athena in the Upper Citadel/Acropolis

TEMPLE OF TRAJAN

On the highest point of the citadel is the Temple for Trajan. The temple sits on a 2.9-metre-high podium on top of a vaulted terrace. It is a crypto-porticus. The temple itself is 18 metres wide with 6 columns on the short sides and 9 columns on the long sides.

Basement of Trajan Temple
Basement of Trajan Temple
Trajan Temple Pergamon
Trajan Temple

ASKLEPION (SANCUATRY OF ASKLEPIUS) – HEALING CENTER

It is located about 3 km at the south of acropolis of Pergamon.  The Asclepium was approached along an 800 meter colonnaded sacred way. In this place people with health problems could bathe in the water of the sacred spring, and in the patients’ dreams Asclepius (God of Healing) would appear in a vision to tell them how to cure their illness. Galen, the most famous doctor in the ancient Roman Empire and personal physician of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, worked in the Asclepium for many years. Notable extant structures in the Asclepion include a the Roman theater, Propylon (main Entrance), a circular treatment center (sometimes known as the Temple of Telesphorus), a healing spring, an underground passageway and a library

Asklepion
View of Asklepion

the famous orator Aelius Aristides of the ancient times mentioned about the treatment methods in the Asklepion health center . Aristides was treated at Asklepion and explained the treatment methods in detail in his book Hieroi Logoi. They tried to threat with various methods such as putting them to sleep, listening to the sound of water, mud treatments, healing water treatment, cupping, diet therapies, therapy and music therapy in the sleep rooms. Pergamon, one of the most important health cities in the ancient world, is the hometown of Galen of Pergamon. He was the father of Pharmacy. Galen here took care of gladiators and Roman kings and made important discoveries in the field of Pharmacology.

tunnel asklepion
Tunnel to Sleeping Rooms and Water Spring , Asklepion – Pergamon

EPHESUS

Ephesus  was an ancient  city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. Driving from Izmir to Selcuk takes about 1 hour. The history of the city goes back to 3rd millenium BC and the oldest name for it was Apasa. This name was in the archieves of Hitites. Greeks started colonizing in the 7th Century BC. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.

Majority of the ruins that can be seen today are dated back to 2nd Century AD

Also, Ephesus had an important role in the history of Christianity. It was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation.The Gospel of John may have been written here. The city was the site of several 5th-century Christian Councils. House of Virgin Mary is at the boundary of ancient Ephesus at the summit of Bulbul Mountain.

The seven churches are named for their locations. The Book of Revelation provides descriptions of each Church.

  • Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7): known for having labored hard and not fainted, and separating themselves from the wicked; admonished for having forsaken its first love (2:4)
  • Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11): admired for its tribulation and poverty; forecast to suffer persecution (2:10)
  • Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17): located where ‘Satan’s seat’ is; needs to repent of allowing false teachers (2:16)
  • Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29): known for its charity, whose “latter works are greater than the former”; tolerates the teachings of a false prophetess (2:20)
  • Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6): admonished for – in contrast to its good reputation – being dead; cautioned to fortify itself and return to God through repentance (3:2-3)
  • Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13): known as steadfast in faith, keeping God’s word and enduring patiently (3:10)
  • Laodicea, near Denizli (see Laodicean Church) (Revelation 3:14-22): called lukewarm and insipid (3:16)
seven churches

Ephesus became reach and wealthy because of its harbour. One of the seven wonders of the world, Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was attracting the people to the city from all over the ancient world. Within centuries, harbour of Ephesus silted up and starting from the 3rd century AD majority of the population accepted christianity as their religion. As a result of this Ephesus lost its horbour and Artemis Temple was totally abondend.

When the Turks controlled the area in the 13th century, the city was already ruined down.

Today, Ephesus has 2 entrances for visitors, upper gate and lower gate. Starting the visit from upper gate and ending at the lower gate is more comfortable as it is hilldown.

Here are the some structures that can be seen in Ephesus.

BATH OF VARIUS

The ruins right across the main gate (upper gate) belong to the bath of Varius, dating to the Roman period. The construction dates to the 2nd century A.D It is built of cut blocks of marble and has three sections, frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (warm room) and caldarium (hot room). The excavations have not been completed yet.

Varius Bath
ODEON

The mini theather shaped building , behind the basilica stoa is a Bouleterion. So, it was like the parliament building of the city where the important Ephesian aristocrats would meet to discuss matters of the city such as tax collection, building maintenance, construction and more. As an odeon, mainly musical performances took place here, too.

bouleuterion ephesus
bouleuterion ephesus
PRYTANEION

Prytaneion was like a council hall for religious ceremonies , official receptions and banquets. The sacred flame symbolizing the heart of Ephesus was kept constantly alight in the Prytaneion. The priestress (curetes) were responsible for the eternal fire. The construction of the building dates to the 3rd century B.C, during the reign of Lysimachos. But the ruins of the complex dates to the Augustan age. Also, the ruins between the Prytaneion and Odeon is the temple of Augustus.

Prytaneion
Prytaneion, Ephesus

During the excavations, 2 statues of Ephesus Artemis were found and now they are on display at Ephesus Museum in Selcuk.

Artemis Statue
Statue of Goddess Artemis, Ephesus

TEMPLE OF DOMITIAN

It is located at the Domitian Square. It was built on a high and wide terrace on vaulted foundations. The northern size of the terrace seems to be two-stories high, reached by stairs. The stairs are still visible today.

The temple, built in pro-style plan, had eight columns on the short side and thirteen columns on the long side, and four additional columns in front of the cella. At the northern side there was an u-shaped altar, which is now in Izmir museum.

Domitian Temple
Temple of Domitian , Ephesus
GATE OF HERCULES

Hercules Gate is located at the beginning of the Curetes Street where was the main street of Ephesus. It was called the Hercules gate because of the relief of Hercules on the pillars.

Hercules Gate
CURETES STREET

Curetes street is the main street of Ephesus. It starts from Gate of Hercules and ends at the Celcius Library. Shops were on the both side of street. Stoa (shelter, portico) is located in front shops just above the pavement. Along side the street, there are not only shops, also Trajan Fountain, Houses on the Terraces, Scolastica Baths and more are located on it.

curetes street
Curetes Street
CELSUS LIBRARY

Celsus Library is one of the most beautiful structures in Ephesus. Construction year of Celcius Library was 117 A.D. Celsus Library is on the tomb of Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, the governor of the province of Asia; and his son Galius Julius Aquila wa the comissioner.

The scrolls of the manuscripts were kept in cupboards in niches on the walls. There were double walls behind the bookcases to prevent them from humidity. The capacity of the library was more than 12,000 scrolls. It was the third richest library in ancient times after the libraries of Alexandra and Pergamon.

Statues at the front facade of the Celcus Library symbolize wisdom (Sophia), knowledge (Episteme), intelligence (Ennoia) and valor (Arete). These are the virtues of Celsus. Austrian Archaeological Institute was responsible for the restorations. The originals of the statues are in Ephesus Museum in Vienna since 1910.

celsus lbrary
GREAT THEATHER OF EPHESUS

The Ephesus Great Theatre is on the slope of Panayir Hill, opposite the Harbor Street, and you can see when entering from the south entrance to Ephesus.

It is the largest in Anatolia and has the capacity of 25,000 seats. The stage building has three-stories and 18 meters high. The facade facing the audience was ornamented with relieves, columns with niches, windows and statues. There are five doors opening to the orchestra area, the middle one of which is wider than the rest. This enhanced the appearance of the stage, giving it a bigger, monumental look.

The Ephesus theatre was used not only for concerts and plays, but also for religious, political and philosophical discussions and for gladiator and animal fights too.

Great Theatre of Ephesus

GATE OF MITHRIDATES and MAZEUS

Two slaves gifted the monument to the emperor Caesar Augustus to celebrate their freedom.

Gate of Mithridates connects the Square of Celcus Library to the commercial Agora.

Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates , Ephesus
Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates

Mazeus and Mithridates were set free and were sent to Ephesus City as officers in charge of maintaining the prosperties belonging to the Roman Empire by Emperor Augustus. After Mazeus and Mithridates become wealthy officers, they constructed this monumental gate to honor their former owners. The longest Latin inscription of Ephesus is on that monumental gate. It is bilingual; Latin and Greek.

HOUSE OF VIRGIN MARY

House of Virgin Mary is in the boundary of Selcuk Town, Izmir. From Izmir Airport it is about 1,15 minutes away and only 20 minutes away (or 9 Km) from Ephesus.

Just before start climbing the Bulbul mountain where the house of Virgin Mary is, a colossal statue of Virgin Mary can be seen on the side way. Also, you can over look the ruins of the Ephesus from the location of statue.

Statue of Virgin Mary
Statue of Virgin Mary on the way to her house

House of Virgin Mary is on the top of the “Bulbul” mountain 9 km ahead of Ephesus. The house of Virgin Mary is in between the trees and has an peaceful atmophere. It is the place where Mary may have spent her last days. Indeed, she may have come in the area together with Saint John, who spent several years in the area to spread Christianity. Mary preferred this remote place rather than living in crowded place. Just next to her house, also there is a water spring.

house of virgin mary

The house of Virgin Mary is a typical Roman architectural example, entirely made of stones. Today, only the central part and a room on the right of the altar are open to visitors. From there one can understand that this building looks more like a church than a house. Another interesting place is the “Water of Mary”, a source to be found at the exit of the church area and where a rather salt water, with curative properties, can be drunk by all.

Holly Spring
Holly Spring, by the House of Virgin Mary

Paul VI was the first pope to visit this place in the 1960’s after visiting Izmir. Later, in the 1980’s, during his visit, Pope John-Paul II declared the Shrine of Virgin Mary has a pilgrimage place for Christians. It is also visited by Muslims who recognize Mary as the mother of one of their prophets. Every year, on August 15th a ceremony is organized to commemorate Mary’s Assumption.

Virgin Mary
Statue of Mary , by her house

TURKEY TRAVEL GUIDE RECOMMENDS

Please review one of the Istanbul Tours of Impetus Travel

Back to Home Page

error: Content is protected !!