The ancient ruins are enveloped on both sides by slopping mountains that once housed up to 250,000 people, making it one of the largest cities of the Roman Empire. These slopping hillsides provided a natural defense from outside intruders, which made Ephesus an ideal location. Some of these people farmed the slopes using terraces. Others adapted by making homes on the hillside. Archaeologists have just begun to unearth some of these homes and learn more about the lives of everyday people in Ephesus. Today, only 30 percent of the city has been excavated, which leaves the remaining 70 percent unearthed and buried under years of silt, earth and erosion. It was eerie to imagine an entire city, right under my feet. It was even more fascinating to imagine that another Neolithic city is buried under that. This Neolithic city dates back to as early as 6000 B.C.!
Walking around Ephesus you could begin to trace the footsteps of the people who lived there. For example, you can see the homes of wealthy nobles who lived down town in brick homes and mosaic tiled floors that date back up to 1700 years! On an ancient Greek pediment you can also see the infamous Amazonian women, who were feared warriors of their time. Queen “Ephos” of the Amazonian women is where the city gets its name.
Ephesus also played a role in the Peloponnesian war. As you studied in sixth grade, the Delian League was formed with the goal to keep the Persians out of the Greek Empire. However, over time, this league became the foundation in which city-states formed new alliances with Athens and Sparta. At first, the Ephesians provided financial support and made an alliance with Athens, but later they withdrew their support and sided with the Spartans.
During the classical Greek Period, Ephesus became associated with the Temple of Artemis. The Temple of Artemis, at its peak, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the ancient Greek world. It’s speculated that through the cult of Artemis, women’s rights flourished, too. For example, we know that some women became painters, and some historians and archaeologists believe the women received an education unlike other parts of the world at the time. Unfortunately, very few remnants of this history remain. The temple was destroyed several times due to earthquakes and invasions, and while it was reconstructed several times very little is left today. =After 401 AD the temple was completely destroyed and parts of the temple were used to further the construction of other buildings and projects. Today of the 128 pillars that once held up the temple, only one remains.