The ancient city of Ephesus in western Turkey has been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List following a vote in Bonn on July 5.
The move came just a day after Diyarbakir’s wall and its nearby Hevsel Gardens were added to the list as well.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Permanent Representative of Turkey to UNESCO Hüseyin Avni Botsalı – who headed the Turkish delegation at the session – described the unanimous approval of Ephesus as a great success.
“In fact, we have a great responsibility on our shoulders in terms of cooperation of the international community in this field. We will make significant efforts for the protection of civilizational values and cultural properties,” he added.
Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik celebrated the development in a series of Twitter posts.
“We have just received the second good news from Germany. Ephesus is now officially on the world heritage [list],” he said.
The minister said Ephesus had always been a key port city, as well as a cultural and commercial center, throughout history.
“A principal city of science, culture and art of its era, Ephesus had been a residential area starting from the pre-historic era and through the Hellenistic, Roman, Eastern Roman periods and also under the Ottoman Empire for about nine millennia without interruption,” he said.
Çelik also said Ephesus, which draws 2 million visitors a year, was a place that the whole world agreed was a site of global cultural heritage.
In a later interview with Anadolu Agency, Çelik noted the threat that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) posed to world heritage in neighboring countries like Syria.
“While a terrorist group called Daesh destroys cities, it is a significant message against this barbarism that Turkey as a Muslim country in the Muslim world managed to put its properties on the world heritage list,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
In May, ISIL militants seized the Roman ruins at the Palmyra World Heritage site in Syria’s Homs Governorate. Last week, members of ISIL destroyed a peerless statue of a lion at the site on the grounds that it is idolatrous, while it has also allegedly conducted executions at the ancient city’s famous theater.
Other Turkish UNESCO sites
Describing Ephesus, UNESCO said: “The Temple of Artemis, which was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is situated on the edge of this small town. The city which was situated at the beginning of the Persian Royal Road has survived sufficiently enough to enable us to understand the ancient way of life in Ephesus. It is one of the cities which played an impressive role in the beginnings of Christianity and during the period of its proliferation (St. John Church and the shrine of the Virgin Mary). It contains one of the most spectacular examples of religious architecture of the Seljuk Period.”
Turkey first entered the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1985 with Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia and the Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği – both in central Turkey – and the historic areas of Istanbul.
The Hittite capital Hattuşa was added to the list in 1986, followed by Mount Nemrut in Adıyaman 1987, and Hierapolis-Pamukkale in Denizli and the ancient city of Xanthos-Letoon between Muğla and Fethiye in 1988.
In 1994, the city of Safranbolu was approved as a world heritage while the archaeological site of Troy was added to the list in 1998. In recent year, Edirne’s Selimiye Mosque and its social complex was added in 2011, as was Konya’s Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in 2012.
The latest entries in 2014 were Bursa’s Cumalikızık village which witnessed the birth of the Ottoman Empire and İzmir’s ancient city of Pergamon and its multi-layered cultural landscape.