Once a pivotal part of the Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, this Turkish site's rich heritage owes much to its role as a former thriving trading centre on the coast of Ionia.
Excavations have revealed grand monuments of the Roman imperial period, such as the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre.
Of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, only foundations and sculptural fragments remain.
The Greek temple drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean. Since the 5th century, the House of the Virgin Mary, a chapel 7km from Ephesus, also became a place of Christian pilgrimage.
The city's importance as a commercial centre started declining when an earthquake hit the town in AD614 and sedimentation from the Cayster River gradually filled the inlet around its harbour, cutting off its access to the Aegean Sea.