Due to its proximity to the famous site of Ephesus, it can be tempting to treat Selcuk only as a stepping stone to those ruins. However, I think that the city is definitely worth some of your time, even if it is just a day. Unfortunately, the giant fortress that you see on Selcuk’s horizon is not one of them – it isn’t open to the public. Nevertheless, besides having a meal practically under a Byzantine era aqueduct, here are three interesting things to see in Selcuk:
Temple of Artemis
This Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was first built in the Bronze Age, rebuilt about 550BC after a flood, and then rebuilt a second time after a fire in 356BC. This fire was set by some fool named Herostratus. We know who it was because he set the fire and then told everyone about it. He was looking to have his name go down in history*. And it did – as the guy who burned down a temple and got tortured/executed for it. The temple was rebuilt but was then destroyed for the final time in 401 AD. I think by then people probably got the hint not to rebuild yet again… In 1869, the Temple of Artemis was rediscovered by an expedition sponsored by the British Museum. Today, all that is left marking its location is a single column which was put together from pieces of the long-gone temple.
Basilica of St. John
This basilica was built by Justinian I in the 6th century. Legend has it that the basilica stands on the burial site of John the Apostle. As such, it was believed to be one of the holiest churches of its time. You may have heard of John. After all, he’s only the guy who wrote a little book called Revelation. It’s full of doom, gloom, and kaboom…
There isn’t all that much left of the basilica but there is definitely more than there is at Artemis. Many marble columns and partial walls made of brick are still standing, a large octagonal baptistery still remains, and some of the floor mosaics are intact. I recommend that you visit the site during the late afternoon – you’ll probably have the site to yourself at that point and focused imagining is key to a successful ruins site visit. That sounded rather New Age-y didn’t it…never mind…
Isa Bey Mosque
This mosque was completed in 1375 and is still in use today. While not as gorgeous as other mosques I saw in Istanbul, this one is pretty special to me as it is the first mosque I have ever visited. Isa Bey is a pretty mosque with a small courtyard that has many Ottoman tombstones lining the outer walls. Inside the mosque itself, the walls are made from stone and marble and are decorated with the famous Iznik tiles. Again, a visit in the late afternoon means you’ll probably have the place to yourself. You’ll probably never have that at the mosques in Istanbul.
*The term Herostratic fame basically means “fame at any cost”. It is used to describe someone who commits a criminal act so that they could become famous/notorious.