Although the Eastern Archdeaconry Synod meeting officially ended with the Eucharist and Ordination Service on the morning of Sunday 11th October, most synod members stayed on for a Sunday afternoon outing and guided tour to the Greco-Roman remains of the city of Ephesus some 50 miles/80 km south of Izmir. Although we had originally booked to go on the coach with everyone else, as we didn’t wish to return to Izmir late on Sunday evening, we instead followed the coach in our car.

I had previously visited Ephesus nearly 35 years ago in April 1975 and wondered how different it would be from how I remembered it. The most obvious contrast was the weather. My first visit took place on a cool day, under dark cloudy skies and with a light drizzle falling. As a result, the only photographic record I have is a series of bought slides. On the afternoon of Sunday 11th October 2009, we had clear blue skies, very bright sunshine and temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Celsius.

The other contrast was the number of visitors. Back in 1975, the party I travelled with were virtually the only people visiting the site. As I mentioned in an earlier post, tourism in Turkey was then in its infancy. This time, our coach party was one of many, with a variety of groups being taken around the site, thus making it difficult to take pictures that didn’t contain images of hoards of other tourists!

Rather than trying to describe all that is contained within this amazing site, I hope these accompanying photographs will do the talking for me.

One part of the site that was completely new to me was a series of six terraced houses, built into the hillside on one side of the main street. Apparently, their existence was known in 1975 but no archaeological digging had yet commenced. Having since been unearthed, they have now been covered with protective roofing to preserve the frescos and mosaics contained within them. I hope this picture gives some indication of how the wealthy of Ephesus lived in the last century BC and the first few centuries AD.

Ephesus has many New Testament associations. Acts 19 describes how St. Paul preached, taught and discussed with the people of the city during a period of over two years, bringing many to Christian faith. His time in the city came to an end following a riot initiated by the city’s silversmiths and other skilled workers. This took place in the city’s amphitheatre which is one of many outstanding structures that still remain. Our synod party sat on the terraced seats of the amphitheatre whilst Rev’d Jady Koch, the curate of Christ Church, Vienna, read the biblical passage describing those self-same events.

At the height of its importance as a city, the population of Ephesus may well have exceeded 200,000 people. Its size and economic success was very much based on it being a major port. However, slowly over the early centuries AD, the port silted up. The road on this picture used to lead to the port itself. Now the sea lies 4-5 km away! The city also suffered from a major earthquake in 262 AD and was further damaged by a series of lesser earthquakes during the following years. Therefore, although Ephesus hosted the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 431, its importance declined so that, over the next few centuries, it was slowly abandoned. Fortunately, despite the ravages of time, much of its former glory can still be seen today.

Originally written for Ricky Yates – A blog and more