Ephesus has been a major historical destination for explorers and archaeologists for over one hundred years. It is the largest excavated site in Anatolia. It was once the most important commercial center in Asia.

It was the capital city of the Roman Province of Asia Minor. The Artemesion, or Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was located in Ephesus. This city, reputed to have been founded by Amazons, was not just a center of commerce but played a leading role in both culture and art. Over many centuries Ephesus played an important role in the spreading of different religions. For example, the statue of the Ephesian Artemis, now in the museum in Selcuk, is a major symbol of polytheism. The Basilica of St John the Evangelist, also in Ephesus, is a major symbol of Christianity.

Ephesus lost its commercial leadership to Constantinople (Istanbul) after its harbor was silted up by mud carried down by the Meander River. It is now 5 kilometers from the coast.