The ruins of Ephesus, once the most important Greco-Roman city of the eastern Mediterranean, is one of the best preserved ancient sites in the world. Today, modern travelers can trace the splendor and collapse of ancient civilizations in Ephesus's spectacular landscape of ruined temples, theaters, and colonnaded streets. There are two entrances to the site, which is on a hill: one at the top of the site (Üst Kapı, or Upper Gate) and one at the bottom (Alt Kapı, or Lower Gate—this is where the public dolmuş stop is). The main avenue is about a mile long but there are a number of intriguing detours, so a minimum visit of two hours can easily stretch to four, not including an hour in the museum in town. Buy water and a light snack in Selçuk town, before you head for Ephesus. In summer, when shade is at a premium, a hat is a very good idea.
chariot and horse races were held on a track 712 feet long, and where gladiators and wild beasts met in combat before 70,000 spectators. As soon as you enter the site from the Lower Gate, you'll see an overpriced café, a booth where you can rent an audio guide (the 20 TL price includes a map; highly recommended for those without a guide), and restrooms. Turn right along the small path just before the restrooms, and then left toward the ruined basilica of the Church of St. Mary, where the Third Ecumenical Council declared that Mary would henceforth be known as the Mother of God. The crumbling monumental walls you see behind it are the Roman harbor baths, once popular with sailors docking at the (now silted-up) Port of Ephesus. The ruined baths are worth a ramble through the field if you are wearing sturdy pants and footwear. Head back to the main road via the Theater Gymnasium. On your left as you reenter the main road, you can't miss the spectacular theater, backed by the western slope of Mt. Pion, which once seated an estimated 25,000 to 40,000 spectators. Construction on this huge semicircular structure, with row upon row of curved white benches, was begun by Alexander's general, Lysimachus, and completed by emperors Claudius and Trajan in the 2nd century AD. There is a fine view from the top of the steps. Higher still, near the top of Mt. Pion, are vestiges of the city's Byzantine walls. Leading away from the theater toward the ancient port, now marshy land, is the Arcadian Way (or Arkadiane, and also known as the Harbor Street). This 1,710-foot-long street was once lined with shops and covered archways. Only a long line of slender marble columns remains.
In front of the theater is Marble Avenue. Follow it to the beautiful, two-story Library of Celsus. The library is near Marble Avenue's intersection with the Curetes Street, a still-impressive thoroughfare named for the college of priests once located there. At this corner is a large house believed to have been a brothel. Look for the floor mosaics of four women representing the four seasons. To the right along the street are the terrace houses, the multistoried houses of the nobility, with terraces and courtyards—there is a separate entrance fee (10 TL), but the elaborate housing complexes of the Ephesian bourgeoisie are very interesting and definitely worth a look for history buffs. A block from the brothel is the facade of the Temple of Hadrian, with four Corinthian columns and a serpent-headed hydra above the door to keep out evil spirits; beyond is a partially restored fountain dedicated to the emperor Trajan. The street then forks and opens into a central square that once held the Prytaneion, or town hall; the Nymphaeum, a small temple decked with fountains; and the Temple of Domitian, on the south side of the square, which was once a vast sanctuary with a colossal statue of the emperor for whom it was named. All are now a jumble of collapsed walls and columns.
Returning to the Street of Curetes, turn right to reach the odeon, an intimate semicircle with just a few rows of seats, where spectators would listen to poetry readings and music. Columns mark the northern edge of the state agora (market). Beyond, the Magnesian Gate (also known as the Manisa Gate), at the end of the street, was the starting point for a caravan trail and a colonnaded road to the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (2½ km/1½ miles outside the main site area, and an easy 10-minute walk or 3-minute taxi ride from Selçuk center).