According to the old legends, Ephesus was founded by the female warriors known as the Amazons. The name of the city is thought to have been derived from “APASAS”, the name of a city in the “KINGDOM OF ARZAWA” meaning the “city of the Mother Goodness”. Ephesus was inhabited from the end of the Bronze Age onwards, but changed its location several times in the course of its long history in accordance with habits and requirements. Carians and Lelegians are to be having been among the city’s first inhabitants. Ionian migrations are said to have begun in around 1200 BC. According to legend, the city was founded for the second time by Androclus, the son of Codrus, king of Athens, on the shore at the point where the Cayster empties into the sea, a location to which they had been guided by a fish and a wild boar on the advice of the soothsayers. The Ionian cities that grew up in the wake of the Ionian migrations joined in a confederacy under the leadership of Ephesus. The region was devastated during the Cimmerian invasion at the beginning of the 7th century BC. Under the rule of the Lydian kings, Ephesus became one of the wealthiest cities in the Mediterranean world. The defeat of the Lydian King Croesus by Cyrus, the King of Persia, prepared the way for the extension of Persian hegemony over the whole of the Aegean coastal region. At the beginning of the 5th century, when the Ionian cities rebelled against Persia, Ephesus quickly dissociated itself from the others, thus escaping destruction.
Ephesus remained under Persian rule until the arrival of Alexander the Great in 334 BC, when it entered upon a fifty year period f peace and tranquility. Lysimachus, who had been one of the twelve generals of Alexander the Great and became ruler of the region on Alexander’s death, decided to embark upon the development of the city, which he called Arsineia after his wife Arsinoe. He constructed a new harbor and built defense walls, moving him whole city 2.5 km to the southwest. Realizing, however, that the Ephesian were unwilling to leave their old city, he had the whole sewage system blocked up during a great storm, making the houses uninhabitable and forcing the inhabitants to move. In 281 BC the city was re-founded under the old name of Ephesus and became one of the most important of the commercial ports in the Mediterranean.
In 129 BC the Romans took advantage of the terms of the will left by Attalos, King of Pergamon, by which they were bequeathed his kingdom, to incorporate the whole region into the Roman Empire as the province of Asia. Ancient sources show that at this time the city had a population of 200.000. In the 1st century BC the heavy taxes imposed by the Roman government led the population to embrace Mithridates as their savior and to support him in his mutiny against Roman authority and in 88 BC a massacre was carried out of all the Latin speaking inhabitants of the city, which was then stormed and sacked by a Roman army under Sulla. It was from the reign of Augustus onwards that the buildings we admire today were constructed. According to documentary sources, the city suffered severe damage in an earthquake in 17 AD. After that, however, Ephesus became a very important centre of trade and commerce. The historian Aristio describes Ephesus as being recognized by all the inhabitants of the region as the most important trading centre in Asia. It was also the leading political and intellectual centre, with the second school of philosophy in the Aegean. From the 1st century onwards, Ephesus was visited by Christian disciples attempting to spread the Christian belief in a single God and thus forced to seek refuge from Roman persecution. Besides enjoying a privileged position between East and West coupled with an exceptionally fine climate, the city owed its importance to its being the centre of the cult of Artemis.
For the Christians, the city, with its highly advanced way of life, its high standard of living, the variety of its demographic composition and its firmly rooted polytheistic culture, must have presented itself as an ideal pilot region. From written sources we learn that St. Paul remained in the city for three years from 65 to 68, and that it was here that he preached his famous sermons calling upon the hearers to embrace the faith in one God. He taught that God had no need of a house made with human hands and that he was present in all places at all times. This was all greatly resented by the craftsmen who had amassed great wealth from their production of statues of Artemis in gold, silver or other materials. A silversmith by name of Demetrius stirred up the people and led a crowd of thousands of Ephesians to the theatre, where they booed and stoned Paul and his two colleagues, chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So turbulent was the crowd that the Paul and his companions escaped only with great difficulty. From his Epistles to the communities it would appear that Paul spent some time as a prisoner in Ephesus.
Legend has it that St. Paul the Evangelist came to Ephesus with the Virgin Mary in his care. Some also say that it was here that he wrote his Gospel and was finally buried. In 269 Ephesus and the surrounding country was devastated by Goths. At that time there was still a temple in which the cult of Artemis was practiced. In 381, by order of the Emperor Theodosius, the temple was closed down, and in the following centuries it lay completely abandoned, serving as a quarry for building materials.
The situation of the city, which had given it its privileged geographical position, was also the cause of its decline and fall. The prosperity of the city had been based on its possession of a sheltered natural harbor, but by the Roman period ships reached the harbor to the west of Mt Pion 1.5km from the temple of Artemis through a very narrow and difficult channel. The cause of this was the Meander River, which emptied Aegean a little to the west of the city of Ephesus, where it created a delta formed by the alluvium carried down by the river over thousands of years. By the late Byzantine era the channel had been so silted up as to be no longer usable. The sea gradually receded farther and farther, while the marshy lands around the harbor gave rise to a number of diseases, such as malaria. The new outlook that had arisen with the spread of Christianity led to the gradual abandonment of all buildings bearing witness to the existence of polytheistic cults and the construction in their place of Christian churches. In the year 431 the third Ecumenical council took place in Ephesus.
Emperor Theodosius convoked another council in Ephesus in 449, which came to be known as the “robber council”. From the 6th century onwards the Church of St. John was an important place of pilgrimage, and Justinian took measures to protect it by having the whole hill on which it stood surrounded by defense walls. Shortly afterwards, the Church of the Virgin and other places of worship were destroyed and pillaged in Arab raids. In the 7th century the city was transferred to the site now occupied by the town of Seljuk and during the Byzantine era Ephesus grew up around the summit of Mt Ayasulug. The city enjoyed its last years of prosperity under the Seljuk Emirate of the Aydinogullari. During the middle ages the city ceased to function as a port. By the 21st century the silt carried down by the Meander had extended the plain for a distance of 5 km.
Excavations at Ephesus
The first excavations were carried out in 1859-74 on the Odeon and the theatre by J. T. Wood under the auspices of the British Museum. Excavations were carried out on the Temple of Artemis in May 1869. Regular excavations began in 1895 under the direction of Otto Bendore, a member of the Viennese Academy. The excavations directed by R. Heberg on behalf of the Austrian Archaeological Institute uncovered the Agora, the Theatre, the Arcadiane and the Library of Celsius. Operations were suspended during the First World War, but work was resumed in 1926. Excavations were conducted by a large team under the direction of Hermann Vetters on behalf of the Austrian Archaeological Institute. Owing to the dense and continuous nature of the Roman settlement it was only in 1960 that the Hellenistic layers were reached.
Present-day visitors wishing to visit the Hellenistic and Roman remains at Ephesus have a choice between two entrances. If they arrive form the direction of Kusadasi they will enter Ephesus from the harbor gate. In that case the first building the visitor encounters will be:
The gymnasium of Vedius
This gymnasium was built in 150 AD by Vedius Antonius, a wealthy citizen of Ephesus. According to an inscription discovered during excavations on the eastern façade of the building. The gymnasium was dedicated to Artemis and Consul Antonius Pius. The most important of the chambers opening off the palaestra contained a cult statue of the emperor. A large number of statues were found, among them two sculptures of the river god now exhibited in the Izmir Archaeological Museum. The latrine is in very good state of preservation.
The stadium, which is located immediately to the south of the gymnasium, was built by the Emperor Nero (56 – 68 AD). The whole measures 228 x 38 m, with the tiers of seats resting against the slope of Mt Panayir and the northern section of the cave supported by vaults. The finds include a number of column capitals and roughly carved marble slabs. The building was later used as a quarry for building materials for use in the construction of the Byzantine castle; with the result that very little now remains. The stadium was used for chariot races, athletic displays and gladiatorial combats and marble relief’s depicting gladiators are displayed along the Marble Way. In the hilly terrain opposite the stadium a number of buildings of uncertain date have been unearthed. These include a fish market, a Byzantine fountain and a funeral chamber thought to be that of Androcles, the legendary founder of the city, passed by here. The stadium is now used for the camel wrestling competitions which have gradually become a traditional feature. Every year, in spring, visitors come from all over the country for the festivities taking place during the annual fair.
Roman bourse (Church of the Virgin Mary)
This Roman building is dated to the 2nd century AD. It is a three-aisled church measuring 265 x 90 m. Until its conversion into a church in the 4th century AD it performed a secular function. Its proximity to the harbor allowed important commercial goods to be marketed here without the necessity of transporting them into the city itself. The Byzantine church was added to the western side. Austrian archaeologists are engaged here in endeavors to locate the site of bishop’s palace. The church itself housed the third Ecumenical council at which the divine character of Christ and the Virgin Mary was discussed. Nestorius (380 – 451), the founder of the school of Antioch and the Patriarchate of Istanbul, put forward the view opposing the divine nature of Christ and regarding Mary not as the mother of God but as the mother of a human being. The Alexandrian school, on the other hand, put forward the more mystical, more traditional view that Mary was the mother of God and in the end Nestorius was exiled. Ephesus thus became one of most important centers of the Christian world and the reverence for the Virgin Mary at Ephesus was greatly increased. The so called Robber Council of 449 accepted the thesis of the purely divine nature of Christ in which his human character was completely ignored. This doctrine was later known in the East as Monophysitism.
This street, 600 m long and 1 m wide, was given this name after its restoration by the Emperor Arcadius (395 – 408). The main street of the city connecting the theatre and the surrounding area to the port, it was flanked by stoats with mosaic floors. These colonnades, which included a row of shops, served to protect the inhabitants of the city from wind and rain in the winter and from the sun in the summer. Inscriptions on four imposing Corinthian columns erected by the Emperor Justinian (525 – 566) indicate the existence of sculptures of the four Evangelists. An inscription in the theatre informs us that the street was illuminated by two rows of torches.
The theatre is built against the slope of Mt Panayir. It has now lost most of its imposing decoration. It was one of the largest theatres in the Aegean world, measuring 60 m from the floor of the stage to the top of the galleries. The caveat consists of three sections. The auditorium held 24.000 spectators with another thousand in the vaulted galleries, making up a total capacity of over 25.000. Massive alterations to the original auditorium would appear to have been undertaken during the reign of Claudius and completed under the Emperor Trajan. The tiers of seats were later used as spoil in the construction of other buildings. The first and second storey of the stage building was constructed during the reign of Nero (54 – 68), while the third storey was constructed during the reign of Septimus Severus (193 – 211). The stage façade was adorned with niches, columns, reliefs and statues. The stage was at height of 2.70m above the orchestra and was reached by ramps on the left and right.
The Marble Way
The Marble Way connects the theatre to the Library of Celsius. It assumed its present-day appearance during the 5th century AD. Drains were installed throughout the whole length of the street in the form of lower galleries. A few reliefs on the ground on the right hand side indicate the city brothel. The reliefs include a left foot, the portrait of a woman and a heart decorated with perforations. They are surrounded by an iron railing.
The gate of Mazaeus and Mithridates
This gate, built almost entirely of marble, was dedicated in 3rd century BC to Augustus and his son-in-love Agrippa by two rich freedmen of the city Mazeus and Mithridates. These two imposing gates leading into the agora constitute the finest example of restoration work carried out in recent years.
Originally built in the 1st century BC it was in the form of an open-air marketplace measuring 110 x 110 m. Repaired by the Emperor Caracalla at the beginning of the 3rd century, it was reduced to more or less the state we see it in today by a great earthquake in the 4th century. The largest centre of commerce in the city, foodstuffs and all sorts of manufactured goods were bought and sold here. The shops were arranged along the colonnades and opened into vaulted storerooms at the back. A water clock and sundial were placed in the middle of the agora.
Library of Celsus
Although the building is of a mainly cultural character it is also a funerary monument. After the death of Celsus Polemaneus, a former consul who had been appointed governor of Ephesus, his son erected a magnificent reading room over his tomb. The building, which dates from the 2nd century, was attacked by fire in 260 but the façade suffered no damage. It is 21m wide and 16m high. Equestrian statues stood on pedestals on each side of the main staircases and there are also indications that statues were placed in the niches on the upper floor. The main room measures 16 x 10m. The burial chamber under the ground floor contains a sarcophagus in an excellent state of preservation. Excavations carried out by Austrian archaeologists at the beginning of the 20th century revealed a 4th century fountain in the front courtyard and very valuable carvings in high relief depicting the wars waged by Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus against Parthians. Advantage was taken of legal loopholes existing at the time of the excavations to transfer these relief’s, together with four female statues from façade of the library, to the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna. The monumental façade as it stands today is the result of restoration work begun in the 1970s. Lead plates are placed at the top and bottom of the columns and the whole given a play of 50cm capable of withstanding a 9 degree earthquake on the east-west axis. A perforation of 10cm has been made in each of the columns and iron inserted. While work was in progress on the front façade an unknown aspect of Roman architecture was discovered in the form of a curve starting from zero at the bottom of the stairs and reaching 4.5cm at the bases of the columns. This curve reaches 10cm in converse fashion, a feature which until now was thought to have existed only in Greek architecture. This expedient is known to have been employed in order to increase the monumental effect over an area 21m in width. Restoration of the building was completed and the whole opened to the public in 1978.
Temple of Serapis
This temple dates from the 2nd century and was dedicated to Serapis, one of the Egyptian gods. It is of considerable importance as evidence of the atmosphere of tolerance that existed in Ephesus, the cosmopolitan character of whose population allowed the proliferation of a number of different religious beliefs. It is built in the Corinthian order, with marble of very high quality, and is remarkable for the size of its monolithic columns, some of them rising to a height of 12m. A door opening on rollers gives access to a long cult chamber in which a statue of Egyptian granite is thought to have stood. Some of the monolithic blocks weigh over 50 t. It would appear to have been left unfinished. There are no inscriptions.
The whole of the present-day complex dates from the 4th century. Situated immediately opposite the Library of Celsus, it consists of rooms and salons grouped around a courtyard measuring 20 x 20m. A narrow section gives access to the rooms and salons. On the left hand side of the entrance there was a section in which visitors wiped the mud and dust from their clothes. The houses are adorned with rich and interesting mosaics. The beautiful women are known to have been intellectual and well-educated and, besides enjoying privileges unknown to the ordinary Roman woman, such as being able to own their own houses and take part in demonstrations and elections, they also had the right to choose their own costumers.
This is in a very good state of preservation. It originally consisted of a semi-covered rectangular area surrounded by columns with marble and bronze statues in the centre and a pool affording ventilation. The room is surrounded by a row of marble seats with a marble conduit below it allowing a flow of water. The floor was covered with mosaics and the walls with marble panels. Use of the latrine was restricted to men, who paid a fee on entrance. Public latrines were built in order to obtain the uric acid used in tanning sheep and goatskins in the tanneries opened by the Emperor Vespasian.
Some of these houses were first opened to the public in 1985, when restoration work was completed. It has been proved that this sector was used for urban development from the 1st century BC onwards. The houses were the property of various owners until the 7th century. The district enjoyed its peak of prosperity between the 2nd and 4th centuries. These were one-storey houses occupied by wealthy citizens or priests of noble lineage and composed of spacious rooms grouped around an open-air courtyard, the largest being used as reception and dining-rooms. It addition to kitchens and cellars a large number of bed-rooms have been unearthed. Water was supplied by fountains surrounded by mosaics. Some of the walls reach a height of 4m. Stairs leading to the upper storey have also been unearthed. For flooring, mosaics were preferred to marble pavements but marble was frequently employed in the thresholds. Wall decorations consist mainly of painting on plaster. A visit to the terrace houses should be supplemented by a visit to the Archaeological Museum in Selcuk in which a very rich collection of murals, furniture and utensils are exhibited.
These baths date from the 1st century AD but were restored and enlarged in the 5th century by a wealthy woman by the name of Scholasticia. The hot room remains in a fairly good state of preservation and the well-preserved statue of the wealthy founder stands on the entrance terrace.
The street of the Curettes
This street runs from the Library of Celsus to the Gate of Hercules and thence to the Odeon. On the right, work is in progress on the Gate of Hadrian. In the same road a burial chamber, known as the “Octagon” has been discovered containing the bones of a young woman of about twenty years of age. The building itself has been dated to the 1st century, but marble slabs dating from the 4th century contain inscriptions recording the repairs carried out by the administrators Eutropius and Festus between the years 358 and 368.
The Temple of Hadrian
This Corinthian temple dates from the 2nd century but underwent repairs in the 4th and has recently been re-erected from the surviving architectural fragments. The reliefs in the upper section are casts, the originals being now exhibited in the Selcuk Archaeological Museum. The temple is a veritable miracle, a peerless specimen of Roman architecture. A number of interesting figures are depicted in the reliefs, including the Emperor Theodosius I, his wife and eldest son, the Emperor Arcadius accompanied by the goddess Athena (depicted at both ends of the block), Artemis of Ephesus and Androcles stalking a wild boar. In front of the façade stood statues of four important emperors (Diocletian, Constantine, Maximilian and Galerius). The pediment with its lacelike carving is adorned with a relief bust of the goddess Tyche. The entrance door is surrounded by an egg design and surmounted by a large Medusa relief.
Fountain of Trajan
Erected in the 2nd century, it has undergone partial repair. On the front façade there was a life-size statue of Trajan of which only the right foot and a portion of the torso has survived. A sculpture depicting two reclining satyrs and a statue of Aphrodite discovered here is now exhibited in the local museum. It is a two-storey structure 12m height surrounding the pool in front on three sides.
Gate of Hercules
This is dated to the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 5th century. A block adorned with a relief of Nike, the goddess of victory, now located a little further on, and originally stood at this gate, which consist of two blocks of stone with a relief depicting the combat of Hercules and the Nemaean lion. On the terrace immediately to the left of the gate there is a four-columned Hellenistic fountain.
Monument of Memmius
This monument was erected by the dictator Sulla in 86 BC as a symbol of Roman authority in Ephesus. The Ephesians lent support to Mithridates, king of Pontus, in his attempt to conquer the region in defiance of Rome. Having achieved his aim, he ordered a massacre of all Roman citizens in the region, in which, according to some sources, as many as 80.000 perished in a single night. This monument was erected as a memorial of this event.
Fountain of Pollio
This fountain, which dates from the 1st century AD, was dedicated to Sextilius Pollio, who was responsible for the constructor of the Marnas aqueduct. It has a concave façade. A sculpture group depicting one of the adventures of Ulysses discovered here was repaired and is now exhibited in the local museum.
Temple of Domitian
A member of the Flavian dynasty, Domitian became Emperor in 81 AD. At first an honest administrator he later became a tyrannical despot, proclaiming himself “Lord and God”. Assassinated with the connivance of his wife Domitia, his memory was damned by decree of the senate and all his statues destroyed. Erected on a pseudo dipteral plan with 8x13 columns, it was one of the largest temples in the city. A colossal statue was discovered here consisting of an arm with clenched fist made from a single piece of marble and a very well-preserved head. The temple and statue in Ephesus are of particularly great importance in view of the very few remains connected with Domitian.
Known as a place of worship dedicated to Artemis Boulaea, the Prytaneion was built during the reign of the Emperor Augustus, underwent repairs in the 3rd century and was destroyed at the end of the 4th. Here was to be found an urban sanctuary consisting of a square chamber paved with black and white marble containing an altar in a niche in front of which stood a figurine of the goddess Hestia, while the courtyard contained a statue of Athena. Here, too, burned the eternal flame symbolizing the life of the city.
The large building consisted of a courtyard surrounded by porticos containing rooms and chambers, the colonnaded courtyard opening into a rectangular chamber with a roof supported by four Corinthian columns, three of which have survived. The building also had a secular function. The city administrators, foreign guests and local philanthropists would gather here to dine together. The famous statue of Artemis as goddess of plenty now exhibited in the museum was discovered here in absolutely perfect condition.
This building in the form of a small theatre was built in the 2nd century at around the same time and by the same people, namely Varius Antonius and his wife Flavia Papiona, as the baths beside it. It differs from the theatre in function, being used for meetings of the municipal council and concerts. It also differed from the theatre in being roofed by a wooden awning providing protection from sun and rain. It had seating for between 1500 and 2000. The first five tiers above the orchestra are original, with the stairs adorned with lion’s paws in a very good state of preservation. An extraordinarily beautiful head of Eros found in the orchestra area is now exhibited in the Selcuk Museum.
Investigations have shown that until the 4th century AD the site of the agora, where it was the custom to hold all types of political activity (election, meetings, demonstrations, etc), was occupied by a cemetery through which ran the sacred way. In the western section of this rectangular structure, three sides of which are surrounded by rows of columns, excavations have revealed the foundation of a 1st century temple dedicated to the cult of Isis. Between the state agora and the odeum lies a three-aisled roofed structure, 160m in length, known as the Basilica. This is surrounded by three rows of columns with Corinthian and Ionic capitals adorned with bull’s heads. This was used as the city bourse where money-lenders and bankers would meet to exchange money. It was completely destroyed at the end of the 6th century. Beyond the state agora stands the Magnesian Gate, by which one leaves the ruins of Ephesus. Erected during the reign of Vespasian (69 – 79), in the form of a victory arch, this marks the beginning of the city walls surrounding the Panayir and Bulbul hills. On the left as you leave the gate you will see the eastern gymnasium, generally known as the women’s gymnasium built by the Sophist Domianus and his wife Faetrina in the 3rd century AD. Excavations yielded a number of statues of young women providing very important evidence regarding the education of girls in ancient times. This is further corroborated by the inclusion of the name of a woman among the founders.
Cave of the seven sleepers
The inscriptions in this cave date from the 1st century, making them the earliest known Christian documents. According to Mecdelli, the Virgin Mary resided in Ephesus and was buried there. An inscription in ancient Greek to the effect that the famous believer known as St Feotini was buried in this cave was observed during excavations carried out by the Austrian team. It was in this cave that seven young men are said to have gone to sleep during the reign of the Emperor Decius and wakened under the Christian Emperor Theodosius. The cave is located in Mt Panayir at a point outside the defense walls erected by Lysimachus. The place seems to have been concealed. A different version of the legend appears in the Qur’an.