Touring Ancient Ephesus

Part 3 of series:
Ancient Ephesus and the New Testament

Touring Ancient Ephesus

Ancient Ephesus lies in a valley between two hills. This valley slopes toward the sea. Therefore, tours of the city tend to start at the eastern end and work toward the west, which means tourists can walk downhill rather than up. This is helpful in the summer especially, when the temperatures can be quite steamy. When we were in Ephesus in 2007, the thermometer was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and there is almost no shade available among the ruins. It was cooler in 2011, with temperatures in the low 90s. In the photo to the right, you can see Ephesus nestled between the hills. To the left, you can see the seats of the theatre. The white buildings are the place where many ancient houses are currently being excavated. The tour begins in the middle of the saddle.

Near the eastern entrance to ancient Ephesus you’ll find plenty of vendors, some of them literally sticking their wares into your face, only a couple of inches from your nose. You can buy clothing, hats (recommended for the tour if it’s hot and sunny), soft drinks, and various souvenirs. Don’t bother with the supposedly authentic old coins. They’re neither authentic nor old. In this location you’ll see one of my favorite signs in the world: Genuine Fake Watches. You’ve got to commend the vendors for their honesty. But this sign raises a question: What would fake fake watches be?

The beginning of the tour of Ephesus is relatively unimpressive. For the most part, you see dozens of stones, obviously part of ancient buildings. But you won’t see any restored ruins, except in the distance. Almost all of what makes Ephesus so special lies out of view, down the slope of the valley.

Near the beginning of the tour there was a stack of what looked like pieces of terra cotta pipe. Indeed, these sections of pipe were once part of the elaborate fresh water system for Ephesus. The Romans, who were masters of moving water around, had built aqueducts that brought water to the city. Then large pipes, pieces of which you can see in the photo to the right, moved the water around to key locations of the city (the baths, fountains, men’s toilet, etc.).

Tomorrow the tour continues.


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