Home > Places of Interest > The Ruined City of Ephesus

The Ruined City of Ephesus

By: Grahame Johnston - Updated: 29 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Ephesus Roman Asia Minor Turkey Smyrna

Ephesus is the grandest of the ruined ancient cities of modern Turkey’s antiquity. It was the most important city in the entire Roman province of Asia Minor. It is located on Turkey’s southwestern coast, a little east of the bustling commercial city of Izmir formerly known as Smyrna.

A Silting River Kills Ephesus

Ancient Ephesus was once a thriving port city but silting of the harbour from the deposits carried by the Cayster River caused the port to progressively move seaward. The retreating harbour presently six miles from the city ruins, meant that shipping was no longer tenable and as trade ships preferred Smyrna, so too did the Ephesians move out and eventually the magnificent city was fully abandoned.

Early History of the City

The modern ruins are particularly spectacular with the remains of what was an eleven metre wide paved road lined with fine marble columns running through the city, past the great theatre, the baths, the ornate library, and the agora.

However, before the Romans so beautifully built Ephesus, Ionian colonists around the 10th century BC augmented the original Anatolian settlement. Archaeologists have had great difficulty convincing Turkish authorities to permit the deep excavation of the site to obtain more data about this period. The ruins attract millions of visitors annually and there is a heightened fear that open excavation would destroy the tangible, visible, upper record and possibly devastate tourism.

Archaeological evidence concludes that the initial major settlements were established and continuously occupied from the 3rd Millennium BC. These Bronze Age settlers, at Ephesus, included the Mycenaean traders and later occupations built the Sanctuary of Artemis around 800 BC.

The Roman Period

Ephesus is best known for its archaeologically excavated Roman architecture. Archaeologists have discovered that during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus, in 20 – 10 BC, a wholesale renovation was undertaken of the market area known in Latin as the Agora.

The old Hellenistic marketplace was raised 1.5 metres and a new quadrangular agora was constructed with sides exceeding 100 metres long. This open market was surrounded by two-storied, colonnaded stoa, 17 metres deep, bringing the total structure to more than 154 metres long.

Smart Leaders

Ephesian rulers curried the favour of Roman Emperors by constructing and dedicating temples and monuments to them. The remains of the temple dedicated to Julius Caesar was first erected in 29 BC. The deification of Rome’s elite birthed the reign of the Emperor Cults. In return for being so honoured the Emperors further beautified the city with funds collected from elsewhere in the Empire.

Coins excavated from the site are struck with the titles “First and Greatest Metropolis in Asia” and “First of All the Great Ones”. By this time, in Ephesian history, archaeologists believe the city was at its height with a population of around 250,000 permanent residents.

Idol Worship

The agora was the commercial hub of Ephesian trade. The city’s chief industry was the supply of idols to pilgrim worshippers who travelled to Ephesus from all parts of the world to pay homage at the city’s great god temples such as Diana.

Hundreds of fertility god artefacts have been located in these areas. These miniature replicas of the gods were said to charm away evil spirits and provide protection to its devotee owners. Idols of this nature brought great profit to Ephesian artisans. Among other similar artefacts that have been archaeologically excavated are scrolls about magic, mysticism, and incantations. These writings are known as the ‘Ephesian Letters’ and contain magical remedies for illness, infertility, and ensured prosperity.

Burning the Scrolls

These magic letters should not be confused with the widely known ‘Epistle to the Ephesians’ written in the first century AD by the Hebrew evangelist, Sha’ul. However, another author makes reference to the mystical scrolls in the biblical book of Acts. In chapter 19 the apostle, Luka, tells of the public burning of the scrolls used in sorcery. The value of the loss is calculated at 50,000 drachmas.

As one drachma equalled a man’s daily wage this would make the equivalent value today around four million pounds. Such a sizable deliberate loss would not be acceptable had something not deeply influenced and altered the pagan culture of Roman Ephesus.

The Circle of Seven

Ephesus, being the major port access, was the first on a list of seven cities that formed a circle clockwise into inland Asia Minor. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of the ancient Roman Road that stretched from Ephesus to Laodicea, the last of the seven cities. Starting at the great city, the roads form a geographic semi-circle connecting all seven cities on what functioned as an ancient postal route.

A letter, written in the first century AD, to the Christians of wealthy, pampered, and pagan Ephesus, rebukes them for forsaking their first love and mixing the Ephesian cult worship with the truth that they had first received. Papyrus fragments, found at Oxyrhynchus, of copies of 3rd and 4th century manuscripts are held in the Papyrology Rooms, of the Sackler Library in Oxford, England.

Archaeologists have not uncovered any Christian places of gathering at Ephesus earlier than the third century AD. It appears that early believers in the Jewish Messiah met in private homes or in public places. Their magnificent, opulent surroundings and the ingrained pagan cult culture was an ever-present temptation to their simple lives that eventually overcame them.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • dee
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    I'm an older woman not in the best of health, I'm 62 but I have been finding things since I was a small child Indian artifacts it…
    13 December 2017
  • allie
    Re: Pottery Experts
    I'm in a GT class and I chose my passion as pottery and I need an outside expert. Can you help me with that? If I don't have an outside expert I…
    11 December 2017
  • will
    Re: Radio Carbon Dating
    Hi there, just a brief comment, you say: "(iron cannot be tested using C14)" and strictly speaking of course pure iron contains no carbon and…
    11 December 2017
  • Steve
    Re: Stone Tool Experts
    I grew up in SE Kent running around the fields as a kid. Just by chance found a top end biface hand axe in mint condition. This got me hooked…
    26 November 2017
  • Maziyar
    Re: Archaeological Excavation
    My only love and dream is Archeology science
    22 November 2017
  • Sankha
    Re: What Animal Bones Can Tell Us In Archaeology
    How do we know from bones whether an animal was domesticated or not?
    21 November 2017
  • Acchhu
    Re: Academic Qualifications to Be An Archaeologist
    Sir im Studying BSC CBZ i want to became an Archeologist so on basis of 2nd puc PCMB and i wish to became…
    19 November 2017
  • Becky
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Hello my name is Rebecca Cuevas, I was born in Mississippi and since I can remember I have been digging things up whether it be…
    19 November 2017
  • CuriousForFacts
    Re: Radio Carbon Dating
    Question: How much does modern-day burning at archaeological sites from campfires, cookouts, candle-burning, etc...affect the results of…
    13 November 2017
  • Timothy
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    I'm completed masters in archaeology. And I 'm already participate in one excavation. I really intrested to work as a volunteer in…
    5 November 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the ArchaeologyExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.