Ephesus is a historic city located in western Turkey, with a fascinating past that spans thousands of years. Legend has it that the city was founded by the Ionian Prince Androclos, who received guidance from the oracles in Delphi in his search to create a new Greek city. Alternatively, some believe that the city was named after the legendary Amazon-warrior women’s queen, Ephesia.

Throughout its history, Ephesus played a crucial role in the spread of Christianity, becoming a significant base for the religion’s early days. Under Roman rule, the monotheistic religion spread from here. Today, the modest stone-built House of Virgin Mary, located just outside of Ephesus, is recognized as one of the holiest sites in both Christianity and Islam. According to Catholic beliefs, Mary was brought to this stone house by St. John and remained there until she ascended to heaven. The house was designated as an official Catholic pilgrimage site in the 1800s, and has been visited by several popes, including Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.

Ephesus was also known for its religious diversity, with 15 gods and goddesses said to have been worshipped here at one time, in addition to Zeus, Artemis, and Apollo. The Temple of Artemis, one of the ancient world’s seven wonders, was located in Ephesus and was a famous tourist attraction that became the lifeline of the city’s struggling economy. Unfortunately, the Goths destroyed the temple and the city in the third century, which led to its irreversible decline.

Emperor Theodosius expelled all traces of Artemis from the city and erected Christian churches on the ruins of the temple. The natural harbor of Ephesus collected more and more silt over time, making it worthless and forcing people to migrate. The city was left barely standing after a huge earthquake, invasions, and endless power struggles. Despite a brief time of prosperity under Seljuk rule, Ephesus was abandoned and in dire straits when the Ottomans took over in the 15th century.

In the 1860s, English railway engineer John Turtle Wood started the first excavations of the city, which took 30 years to complete. Later, Austrian and German archaeologists took over and continued to unearth many ancient artifacts. Today, despite many of these artifacts being dispersed around the world, the city’s strong marble building blocks and all of the columns remain in sunny Izmir.

With its rich history, impressive ruins, and religious significance, it’s no wonder that Ephesus continues to attract a large number of tourists each year.