It is in the south of Izmir on the south Aegean, Selcuk has been transformed since the 1990s into a major tourist destination, mainly as a base to visit the famous ruins of Ephesus a few kilometres away. The ancient classical city is one of the best preserved in the eastern Mediterranean and is a great example of Roman architecture.
Selcuk has many historical remains of early Christianity, including a house which many believe to have been visited by the Virgin Mary, and Ayasoluk Hill where St John write his Gospel. There are many small hotels and guest-houses, restaurants and shops which makes the town a good base to explore the area. The town gets busy during the famous annual camel wrestling festival, held in Ephesus around February.
According to ancient inscriptions, Ephesus is thought to have been inhabited since around 3000 BC, roughly the same time as Smyrna, and evidence of Ion, Roman, Byzantine, Seljukian and Ottoman civilisations are still seen today. The ancient city was a good centre for trading, mainly because of its location close to coast, and religion. It was known for the cult of Cybele, the Anatolian fertility goddess, then later for Artemis, the virgin goddess for which a temple was built in her honour.
The temple was destroyed in 356 BC, and when Alexander the Great passed through in 334 BC he offered to pay for the cost of a new construction provided it was dedicated to him. The Ephesus people declined, and rebuilt it with great success.
When the Romans made Ephesus their provincial capital, it became a busy town with great commercial, trading and political importance, and a population that grew to around 250,000. A significant Christian community grew, and the city was visited by St John the Evangelist in the 1st century, then by St Paul, who was there between 51-53 AD and wrote some of his epistles. It was also the venue of two Ecumenical Councils.
But the success of Roman Ephesus began to dwindle, mainly because of problems connected to the harbour, which was the main source of trade. The Cayster River was pushing silt up the harbour and despite attempts to dredge it and rebuild the harbour, the sea was pushed back to Pamucak, 4km away, and therefore Ephesus lost its source of wealth. By the 6th century, the city was unliveable and was shifted near to St John’s Basilica, and by 1090 it was taken over by the Turks.
Similar to a typical Mediterranean climate, the region has hot and dry summers, reaching around 30 degrees. The winters are cool and wet, and the nights can get cool and drop below 10 degrees.
Where to Visit
Selçuk Ephesus Archeology Museum
With a fine collection of statues, mosaics and artefacts, the museum in the centre of Selcuk helps shed a little more light on the Ephesus ruins. Many found before World War I were taken to the Vienna Museum, but wherever possible, most were returned after World War II.
The museum shows around 50,000 exhibits, in chronological order, from the Miken, Archaic, Roman, Byzantine and Turk periods, and is split into Archaeological and Ethnographic sections. The most interesting items include the Myken vases found at Ayasuluk Hill, pieces from temple of Artemis, a tomb from the Belevi Mausoleum, two statues of Artemis, an embossed image of Theodosius from Hadrian Temple, and many more statues and portraits from early Christianity. The ethnographic section is set up in an arasta (row of shops) with examples of Turkish and Ottoman daily life.
Çamlık Open-Air Rail Museum
The village of Camlik, around 10km from Selcuk, is the location of this museum, which exhibits over 20 steam locomotives in a 160-acre site that was the sidings of a train works. Ataturk had his headquarters here and kept his special white train at this station during Aegean manoeuvres, controlling them by being in close proximity to the coast. Most of the engines, some dating back to pre World War I, are German made (it was the Germans who built most of the Turkish railways) but there are also those made in Britain, America, France and Sweden.
Saadet Hatun Public Bath Museum
The origin of the Turkish Hamam comes from the Roman public baths, as the bathing culture has a significant part in Roman culture, preserving its importance until the middle of the Byzantine period. It later was forgotten in Mediterranean countries and Europe, but reappeared more actively in Turkey.
There are seven known hamams in the Selcuk region, one of which is the Saadet Hatun Hamam, according to its inscriptions. The exact identity is unknown, but she is thought to be a noble woman from the Aydinogullari governmental lineage. The hamam dates back to the 16th century and contains most of the traditional features, including the three sections of cold, tepid and hot water. The baths were in a state of disrepair until 1970 when they were restored in 1972 by the Ephesus Museum.
This huge site, one of the best preserved ancient cities in the Mediterranean, will take most of the day to see every part in detail. It is easily approached by road from Selçuk, or by public transport from Kuşadası.
Vedius Gymnasium and Stadium
Soon after the entrance to the site are the ruins of Vedius Gymnasium, which was built by a wealthy local businessman in the late 2nd century, in the name of Vedius Antonius. It is a magnificent structure, built as a venue for sporting and cultural education and contains exercise fields and covered rooms, baths, changing rooms, a courtyard and ceremonial room in the centre. To the south is the Stadium, where races, games, and Olympic events took place.
There is a building dated to the 6th century BC on a hill known as Acropolis at opposite side to stadium. There is a temple dated to years of 350 BC at north – west of the hill.
Byzantine Public Baths
After Stadium way coming across to the Byzantines public baths.
Church of St Mary (Double Church)
Near the Byzantine public baths, this Church holds a special importance in Christian history. Built between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, it was originally a museum and venue for lectures and debates. It was destroyed by fire in the 4th century and rebuilt as a church, which became the venue of the third Ecumenical Council in 431. It is the first church to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Port Public Baths
The public baths first built at 2nd century AC, it restored and some changes made on building at the 4th century empire in empire Konstantinus period.
Arkadiane (Port Street)
Beyond the church is Arcadiane Way, a huge wide street over 500m long and 11m wide. Named after 5th century Byzantine Emperor Arcadius who renovated it, it was the street which ran towards the port, and where kings were greeted and religious ceremonies took place. The 400m long Marble Street, also known as Sacred Way, begins at the base of the theatre and runs alongside the agora and Serapis Temple, and was rebuilt during the 5th century.
This is one of most beautiful and best preserved of all the ruins, and is used as the venue for the annual Ephesus Festival. With a capacity of 25,000, it was built during the Hellenistic period, with reconstruction continuing during Empire Claudius’s times, and finalised between 98-117 AD.
Marble floored street that starts from Magnesia gate placed at south – east of Ephesus and lie towards the Koresos gate placed at north – west of city, approximately 400 m long street is rebuilt at the 5th AC.
Library of Celsus
The library is adjacent to the commercial Agora, built by Asian consul Gaius Julius Aquila, in 135AD, in memory of his father who is entombed here. In a building showing all the characteristics of Roman architecture, the front is ornately decorated with replicas of statues of four women between the front columns, symbolising mind, destiny, science and wisdom. The originals are in the Vienna Museum.
When you go up from marble street, at the cross section point with Kuretler street Love house can be seen. This interesting house dated to first century AC, consist of one main hall and many rooms connected to this hall. It is estimated that the mosaic girl portraits found in love house are figures of working girls in this building. It is very interesting that in the love house there is and heating and cooling system present equivalent to today’s air condition system. It is known that there were wine granaries, huge ovens, public baths, pools, bed rooms, conference saloons and a magnificent library.
Skolastika Public Bath
A wealthy Roman woman, Skolastika, restored these baths in the 5th century, although they were probably built 400 years earlier. They were heated by a central heating system, and are an interesting example of the use of marble. Her headless statue adorns the entrance.
This is one of the most beautiful buildings on Curetes Way, although only the front façade remains today. In the architrave is an interesting mythological scene, depicting Andoklus killing a wild boar.
Next to the Gate of Hercules and near the Temple of Hadrian, is the Trajan Fountain. There used to be a huge statue of the emperor decorating the fountain, which is now exhibited in Ephesus Museum.
Near the Library of Celcus, at the bottom of the slope of the mount, is a row of houses that were thought to be the residences of the wealthy people of Ephesus. The recent restorations pay close attention to their original form of opening straight onto the street with wide stairs, walls decorated with mosaics and frescoes, and marble plating.
Temple of Domitian
This is the first temple to be built in the name of an emperor, dedicated to Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96). Opposite this was the governmental agora, which was placed in the most central and beautiful place in the city. The head and arms are the only remaining pieces of the huge statue, which are exhibited at Izmir Archaeology Museum, and the entrance pedestals are at Ephesus Museum.
City Hall (Prytaneion)
On the right of the assembly palace, a Hestia altar with a sacred fire burning continuously is accepted as a holy site. This was the venue of political duties, important ceremonies and official greetings, and one of the most important religious places in Ephesus.
Odeon tat built by Publis Vedius Antonius a rich man of ephesus at 2nd cemtury AC, cover was wooden plated at its times.
It is known that the first ephesus settlements was built around these temple place, which collapsed by an earthquake than ephesusians built temple more imposing by the support of Roman empire. Ephesus Artemis Temple known as one of the seven wonders of world today only base ruins remained.
St. Jean Basilica
Basilisca that built by Byzantine Empire Justinyen for the name of St. Jean at 6th AC, is take place on Ayasuluk hill. Cross planed building have entrance at west is 40 X 110 m. sized, and an domed type basilica.
According to rumour, before the acceptance of Christianity as an official religion, seven young men fled from Ephesus in the 3rd century and took refuge here. They sealed up the cave and fell asleep, and were woken up 200 years later by an earthquake which broke the seal. When they awoke and walked into the town, they realised that Ephesus was now an official Christian city. It was deemed to be a miraculous event, and when the young men died they were buried in the same cave, which is now a Byzantine-era grotto. The adjacent building is named after them and has a large monument, many rock-engraved tombs, two churches and catacombs.
The Virgin Mary House
Beyond Ephesus and on Bulbul Dag (mountain), 8km southwest of Selcuk, the monument is thought by some to be where the Virgin Mary died, and is visited by Christian and Muslim pilgrims from around the world. The small stone house is now a chapel, and probably dates back to the 4th century, although the foundations are thought to be 1st century.
It was not until a German nun, Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) claimed that she had visions of Mary living in ‘a small, stone house’ in even though the nun had never left Germany. Following her descriptions, 19th century clergy discovered the foundations of the house, which was then verified by a Papal visit in 1967. It has since been accepted that Mary spent her last few years in there until she died at the age of 101.
The Feast of Assumption, on August 15, is celebrated here by the Orthodox Greeks, and Mass is said daily. The church can only be accessed by car, as no public buses come through the dense forest surrounding it.
Monuments And Tombs
Situated on the Izmir highway 13km from Selcuk, this mausoleum is in the town of Belevi, and one of the biggest and highest monuments in Anatolia, after the Halicarnassus Mausoleum. It dates back to the Hellenistic era.
Ayasuluk Hill and Castle
This hill was protected well forticicated castle during the early Christian, Byzantine and Seljuklian periods. The rampart which still out standing, built at early Christianity period than take an big restoration in Seljuklian period.
The aqueduct, which can be seen around the train station, is a relic of the Byzantine times. The canal brought water from the east, through Ayasuluk hill. This aqueduct and its immediate surrounding area have become a breeding and nesting place for storks, which have become a modern day symbol of Selcuk. There is another aqueduct 6km along the highway to Aydin, known as the Gaius Sextillius Pollio Aqueduct.
On the valley slopes outside Selcuk, Sutni Cave has stalactites and stalagmites that drip white water into the cave. The belief is that mothers of new-born babies who have insufficient milk should drink the water from the cave.
Mosques Nad Publıc Baths
İsa Bey Mosque Near the Artemision are the mosque and baths, examples of very distinguished Seljuk monuments. They were built by Isa Bey in 1375 and boast innovative architecture that combines Seljuk and Ottoman style, with a courtyard and hoop stalactite vaulting over the entrance. The hamam has classical Turkish features, and is also domed.
The water at the Selcuk Gevekirse lake is a bird protection and breeding area, in a 1000 hectare site between Ephesus and Pamcak, north of Ephesus. There are between 30 and 40 species of birds and mammals living here, including divers, pelicans, many types of ducks, woodcocks, as well as wild boar, foxes and jackals.
This small village 7km through the hills from Selcuk, is attractive for its setting among fruit orchards, old-fashioned stone houses with red tiled roofs, and narrow streets. It is also famous for its home-made wine, and lace made by the local women.
Once known as Kirkince, the village was built the Greeks around 800 years ago and since the population exchange in 1924 has since been inhabited by Muslims from Salonica. The village has a few guest-houses and restaurants, and is popular with foreign and Turkish tourists to experience a taste of traditional village life in a peaceful environment.