The Aegean region of Turkey is not as famous as the Mediterranean for its collection of ancient ruins. The south-west coast attracts visitors because of the Lycian way and UNESCO World Heritage sites, but the Aegean coast still has a right to boast. As the destination for the Seven Churches of Revelation, its collection of ancient ruins include great favorites such as Ephesus and Pergamon, which has only recently been added to the UNESCO list. Here is a quick rundown on the favorites and reading links to more suggestions.
Ancient Ruins of Aegean Turkey
Priene, Miletus and Temple of Apollo at Didim
Allow yourself a full day to tour the stunning archeological sites of Priene, Miletus and Didyma, which are only short distances from one another. Priene traces its history back to 2000 BC and includes restored buildings such as the Theater of Priene, Temenos of Egyptian Gods, Temple of Athena, Agora of Priene and Temenos of Zeus Olympios.
22 kilometers from Priene, you’ll reach Miletus and find the Theater of Miletus, Seljuk Caravanserai, Temple of Serapis, Faustina II’s baths, Martyrion and the Bishop’s Church. Near Miletus is Didyma, which was regarded as the place of conception of Zeus and Leto’s twins, Apollo and Artemis. Here you shall find the Temple of Apollo, one of the most important fixtures in the ancient history of Turkey.
Read more about the Temple of Apollo in Didim
The ancient city of Ephesus is one of the favorite destinations of tourists visiting Turkey because of its breathtaking ruins and great historical and religious significance. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis, can be found nearby and it was also visited by major biblical characters such as Paul, John and the Virgin Mary whose final home is believed to have been in the nearby hills of Selcuk.
Ephesus is a testament to the glory of the Roman era, because it contains some of the most extensive collection of Roman ruins in the region including the Tomb of St. John, Gate of Augustus, Hadrian Temple and Pyrtaneion.
The main Marble Street is not just a road you walk on from the Great Theater to the Library of Celsus; Marble Street, in itself, is a major destination. It is filled with interesting archeological artifacts including an advertisement for the Brothel.!
You’ll also see engraved letters of emperors and busts of important people in history. Marble Street traces its origins to the 1st century although it was open only to pedestrians until the 5th century when it was paved with marble blocks so it could be used by both pedestrians and carriages.
Possibly the most breathtaking piece of architecture you’ll find in Ephesus is the Great Theater. It was erected on the slope of Mt. Pion, towering over the city at 100 feet with a capacity of a massive 25,000 people. It’ll be interesting to note the architectural method employed in building the Great Theater, considering that it was built in the 1st century and is still so amazingly restored about 2000 years after.
The Apostle Paul used the Great Theater to preach the Gospel to the Ephesians and condemn pagan worship. It was also the venue for political, religious and philosophical discussions, gladiator fights, plays and concerts.
The Temple of Athena – Assos
The Temple of Athena, built in 530 BC, overlooks a dramatic landscape and is enclosed within the old city walls. It is an architectural wonder featuring two divisions, a long side with thirteen columns and a short side with six columns. Nearby is an ancient cemetery and a 14th century mosque, the Ottoman Murad Hudavendigar.
The relatively unknown capital of ancient Lydia, called Sardis is located 60 miles east of the Izmir peninsula, and it is easily reached within an hour making it an ideal day time trip from any surrounding areas. Find out more about the ruins here
The ancient city of Pergamon belongs to the top 100 historical sites of Turkey and it has recently been added to the UNESCO World heritage list. Its most remarkable monuments and buildings date as far back as 197-159 BC and include the Hellenistic Theater, the Trajaneum (Sanctuary of Trajan), and Atheneum (the Library). Read more here.
A photo post of most notable ancient structures in Turkey
See our tours of Turkey that include visits to ancient ruins in the north, south, east and west of the country.