This article has been previously published as a part of book Around Ephesus and Kusadasi: TAN Travel Guide by Izabela Miszczak
In ancient times Colophon was one of the most important cities of the Ionian coast of Asia Minor. This city, conveniently located near the Aegean coast, quickly developed through trade. It also featured a powerful fleet of warships. Currently, extremely modest remains of this ancient city do not reflect its former importance and bring on the reflections on the transience of even the most powerful civilizations and human memory.
The city of Colophon was founded by Ionian settlers in the 9th or the 8th century BC, on a very fertile plain watered by numerous streams flowing from five hills that surrounded it. Another advantage of its position was the location on the shortest route connecting Smyrna with Ephesus and Notion. Archaeological excavations have shown that the earliest settlements in the area date back to prehistoric times.
In the 6th century BC Colophon, the member of the Ionian League, got under control of the rulers of Lydia. In 546 BC it was conquered by the Persians, but contrary to popular beliefs about the destructive power of the Persian occupation, Colophon tremendously developed in this period, and even began to mint its own coins.
Colophon surroundings were ideal for the breeding of horses, and the city was famous for its cavalry. In addition, during the battles Colophonians were traditionally accompanied by their dogs. Black female dogs were also sacrificed to the underworld goddess Hecate. This custom of dog sacrifice was unique in the Greek world, as it was only practiced in Colophon and Sparta.
Due to the prosperity of their city the Colophonians got slothful, leading ostentatiously opulent lifestyles. With time the city lost its importance to the advantage of nearby Notion.
In the early Hellenistic period the Colophonians supported Antigonus I Monophthalmus in his struggle against Lysimachus. When Lysimachus won the ultimate victory, he punished Colophon by expelling most of its inhabitants to Ephesus. The city never fully recovered from this blow. It was incorporated into Notion under the name 'Old Town.' Both settlements drew profits from the existence of the world-famous Hellenic oracle at Claros. Their significance, however, was outshone by the glory and power of Ephesus.
In Roman times, during the reign of Emperor Trajan, for a short period Colophon again gained some importance and once again minted its own coins. The researchers speculate that the city might have functioned until the end of ancient times.
Not much has been preserved from the ancient Colophon. The city was situated on the hills where the fragments of walls, dating back to the 4th century BC, can be seen. Most traces of the old city survived on the acropolis hill , located on the south-western side of the settlement. It contains traces of an agora, two colonnades and residential houses. Archaeological excavations conducted in Colophon also uncovered the sections of streets and the ruins of baths from Roman times.
To reach the meager remains of the ancient Colophon, leave the vehicle at the information board from which the path leads further uphill. You need to walk for about 500 meters on difficult terrain. In some places you have to wade through the thicket growing on the hillside. Do not expect any signposts or clearly visible directions.
Sightseeing Colophon is a task for the most ardent lovers of ancient history and archeology only. At the site of the former settlement the traces of foundations and walls of houses and a number of ditches made by archaeologists can be discerned. They provide a perfect illustration of the great determination of investigators who apparently wanted to find some larger structures preserved in this important ancient city.
Admission to Colophon is free of charge and the area is not fenced off. Before heading out to explore it make sure that you wear long trousers and apply mosquito repellent as these insects can make the trip unbearable.
Getting to the ruins of Colophon is practically possible only by your own means of transport. Colophon is located near Değirmendere village. If you come by the coastal road from Seferihisar to Selçuk turn inland, to the north, near the town of Ahmetbeyli. After driving another 15 km you will reach Değirmendere village. The final leg of the journey leads through the narrow streets of this village, quite steeply uphill. In Değirmendere there are several signposts to Colophon, but some of them are difficult to spot as they are obscured by bushes and garbage cans.