EPHESUS. Once a renowned seaport, this ancient city was also a major marketplace for the goods and ideas of six cultures. Alexander the Great, Antony and Cleopatra, and Paul of Tarsus walked its streets. Today it is a stunning ruins whose broad streets and elegant statues tell of its former opulence.

IF you want a good look at the ancient world, follow the footsteps of Androclus. The Greek prince, who lived about 1100 BC, once asked a soothsayer where he and his troop of 1,000 colonists from Argos should build a city. The soothsayer told him, ``A fish will show you the place and a wild boar will take you there.'' While standing on the Aegean shore watching fish being cooked, Androclus saw a fish leap from the flames. The fish, carrying a live coal with it, landed in bushes that immediately caught fire. The flames sent a wild boar, harbored in the branches, running for its life. Androclus quickly pursued the boar to the northern slope of Mt. Pion by the Cayster River, where he overtook and slew it. On that spot he founded the city of Ephesus.

Since that time some 3,000 years ago, Ephesus has fallen successively under the rule of the Persians, Romans, Goths, Byzantines, and Turks. Today, it is a stunning archaeological site. Archaeologists, artists, and tourists are lured here by ruins that are fascinatingly unruined: The imagination is barely taxed to picture life as it was here long ago, when the likes of Alexander the Great, Octavius, Antony and Cleopatra, Paul of Tarsus, and the Apostle John walked the streets.

Ephesus is no longer connected to the sea, for the mouth of the Cayster River silted closed centuries ago. Today's visitors reach the site by flying into Izmir and driving 60 miles south, or by docking at Kusadasi, a port 10 miles southwest of the ancient city. The road to Ephesus winds past the earlier sites of the city. Ephesus was relocated five times through the centuries, usually because of the silting up of its harbor. The Ephesus of Androclus is known as Ephesus II. It was founded more than a thousand years after Ephesus I, which legend speculates was established by the Amazons, a legendary nation of female warriors.

Ephesus II is best known as the site of the Temple of Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt (also known by the Roman name Diana). The Bible's Book of Ephesians claims that she was worshiped by ``all Asia and the world.'' Little is left of this temple today. The foundation stones and one towering resurrected column hint at the size of the structure, whose ground dimensions were larger than a soccer field.

Nearby, the Ephesus Museum offers two life-size statues of Artemis. The two figures are considered the most important pieces in the museum, although they are among many intriguing finds excavated by Austrian and Turkish archaeologists over the last 100 years.

To date, only 20 percent of the Ephesus sites have been excavated, primarily in the area of Ephesus III. This site was established in the 4th century BC by one of Alexander the Great's generals, who moved the city to a location between Mt. Pion and Mt. Coressus. In the 2nd century BC, it was conquered by Rome; most of what can be seen today are Roman and Byzantine structures built on earlier foundations. The remnants offer a considerable taste of the luxury of Ephesus: grand marble streets trimmed with stately statues of prominent citizens and canopied colonnades that shielded pedestrians from sun and rain as they moved along exquisite mosaic sidewalks. The colonnades opened onto shops, restaurants, gambling houses, temples, public buildings, a brothel, and chic patrician homes.

On the the north side of Curetes Street, named for the priests who guarded the city's sacred fire, stands the Scholastica, one of the city's six public baths. At its center, each bath had a frigidarium (cold bath), tepidarium (lukewarm bath), and calderium (hot bath). Surrounding the baths were changing rooms which, like those in a modern-day health or country club, were a center of communication.

Down the street stands the majestic two-story Library of Celsus, built in AD 135 by a Roman consul. In the naves of its ground floor stand statues of Wisdom, Virility, Goodwill, and Knowledge -- plastic replicas of the original marbles, which are now in Vienna's Museum of Ephesus. To protect the 12,000 scrolls of papyrus housed in the library, a humidity-control system was used: Air channels ran behind the niches where the manuscripts were stored.

The most overwhelming of the city's enormous relics is the 3rd-century BC Great Theater, which held 25,000 people. The acoustics were said to be perfect. It was here that Paul of Tarsus urged the Ephesians to adhere to the one God -- giving a speech that nearly caused a riot. Thousands of angry voices replied: ``Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'' After this, Paul was imprisoned in a nearby tower, now called St. Paul's Prison, on Mt. Coressus. The prison is not far from the ``Virgin Mary House,'' where it is said the Apostle John brought the mother of Jesus to live in safety.

Stretching from the Great Theater to the site of the former harbor is the Arcadiane Way -- an avenue 35 feet wide and half a mile long lined with columns. In the past, lanterns lighted this marble thoroughfare, and broad mosaic walkways trailed along the colonnades leading to shops. Chronology for Ephesus 1869 Archaeologists discover ancient site of Ephesus 1300? Ephesus is slowly deserted and its location forgotten In 1243, Mongols invade; Ephesus becomes part of a vassal state 1090 Seljuks, Muslim invaders from the east overwhelm the region For seven centuries, city experiences relative calm. But silting of the harbor and opening of new trade routes in Asia Minor reduce once-bustling city to a small town 324 Ephesus becomes part of Byzantine Empire By AD 300, most of population converts to Christianity Goths destroy city in AD 262, it is rebuilt St. Paul lives and preaches in the city about AD 57 Ephesus is the greatest commercial city in Asia Minor, with population in excess of 200,000 133 BC Ephesus becomes part of the Roman Empire 333 BC Alexander the Great overruns the city 500-333 BC Ephesus changes hands several times during wars between Greek city-states and Persia Temple of Artemis (Diana), finished about 540 BC, ranks as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world 546 BC Persia rules Ephesus after defeating Croesus Gold coins, minted by Croesus, attract merchants eager to avoid delay in bartering their goods; city becomes a trade center 560 BC Croesus, King of Lydia, conquers city 1087 BC According to Greek legend, Ephesus founded Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica; ``The Story of Civilization'' (Vols. II and III), by Will Durant; ``Greece and Rome -- Builders of Our World,'' by the National Geographic Society; Tyndale House New Bible Dictionary (Second Edition)

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