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Thousands of Ephesians came from the city in the background to events in this theater.
Thousands of Ephesians came from the city in the background to events in this theater.

Ephesus was one one of the great cities of the Ionian Greeks in Asia Minor, located in Lydia where the Cayster river flows into the Aegean Sea (in modern day Turkey). It was founded by colonists principally from Athens. The ruins of Ephesus are a major tourist attraction, especially to people that travel Turkey by cruise, via the port of Kuşadasi.

Ancient Ephesus

Site of the Temple of Artemis
Site of the Temple of Artemis

Ephesus is believed by many to be the Apasa (or Abasa) mentioned in Hittite sources as the capital of the kingdom of Arzawa. Mycenaean pottery has been found in excavations at the site. The many-breasted "Lady of Ephesus", identified by Greeks with Artemis, was venerated in the largest building of the ancient world, according to Pausanias (4.31.8), one of the Seven Wonders of the World, of which scarcely a trace remains (illustration, left).

Roman Ephesus

Beginning in the Roman Republic, Ephesus was the capital of proconsular Asia, which covered the western part of Asia Minor. The city bore the title of "the first and greatest metropolis of Asia." It was distinguished for the Temple of Artemis (Diana), who had her chief shrine there, for its library, and for its theatre, which was the largest in the world, capable of holding 50,000 spectators. It was, like all ancient theatres, open to the sky. Here were exhibited the fights of wild beasts and of men with beasts. Also built in Ephesus around this time were the Roman Baths, of interest is what is believed to be the first instance of indoor plumbed toilets.

Ephesus is mentioned in the New Testament. The Epistle to Ephesians is a letter written by Paul to the Christians at Ephesus. The Council of Ephesus that condemned Nestorius was held in 431 under Emperor Theodosius II.

According to one legend, the Virgin Mary settled in Ephesus after the crucifixion. A house about 7km from Selcuk, lying just outside Ephesus, is said to have been the last home of the Virgin Mary and is a place of pilgrimage; this structure dates to the 7th century and presumably is built on the site of the house where she lived.

There is also a letter written by Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians in the early 2nd century AD.

Modern Ephesus

Roman scholars spent their mornings studying in the civic library.
Roman scholars spent their mornings studying in the civic library.

A part of the site of this once famous city is now occupied by a small Turkish village, Ayasaluk , of which name is regarded as a corruption of the two Greek words, hagios theologos, i.e. "the holy divine."

It is a vast site, not yet completely excavated but what is visible gives some idea of its original splendour and the names associated with it are evocative of its former life. The amphitheatre is huge and in a very outstanding position which dominates the view down Harbour Street leading to the harbour, long since silted up.

The Celsus library , whose facade still stands, was built by a Roman in memory of his father. It is spectacular. The building faces east so that the reading rooms could make best use of the morning light.

It is unfortunate that the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is represented only by one inconspicuous column.

This article uses text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 -- Please update as needed

Last updated: 02-08-2005 15:17:56
Last updated: 03-02-2005 12:58:17