Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/June 1875/Wood's Discoveries at Ephesus
EPHESUS, one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia Minor, was famous in antiquity as containing one of the seven wonders of the world, the great temple of Artemis, or Diana. From very early times Ephesus was a sacred city; the fable ascribed its foundation to the Amazons, and the Amazonian legend is connected with Artemis. The first Ionian colonists in Lydia found the worship of the goddess already established here in a primitive temple, which was soon superseded by a magnificent structure. This Grecian temple was seven times restored, at the expense of all the Greek communities in Asia Minor. In the year 356 b. c. it was burned to the ground, but again rebuilt in a style of far greater splendor than before, the work extending over 200 years. This later temple was 425 feet long and 220 feet wide. "The foundations were sunk deep in marshy ground, as a precaution against earthquake," says Pliny. There were two rows of columns at the sides, but the front and back porticoes consisted of eight rows of columns, placed four deep. Outside, at the entrance to the temple, stood a basin of porphyry, 15 feet in diameter, for the worshipers to lave and purify themselves in. The internal decoration was of the most sumptuous kind. The cedar roof Avas supported on pillars of jasper ; the doors were of cypress. The altar was the work of Praxiteles, and it was surrounded by many statues, one
Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
of them of gold. The image of the goddess herself was roughly hewed out of wood, black with age, and greasy with the oil with which it was customary to anoint it. When the apostle Paul visited Ephesus in the middle of the first century, the worship of Diana still flourished there, and the temple retained all its original splendor. Pilgrims to the venerated abode of the goddess used to buy little models of the temple in silver, or precious stones, as mementos of their visit, and as amulets to insure to them the protection of the Ephesian Diana. The Goths sacked the city and burned the temple, about 200 years later, and in the reign of Theodosius I., toward the end of the fourth century, the furious zeal of the Iconoclasts, or Image-breakers, completed the work of destruction. The ancient city almost entirely disappeared before the modern era, the very site of the temple being lost.
In 1863 an Englishman, Mr. J. T. Wood, while engaged as a civil-engineer in constructing a railway from Smyrna to Aidin, discovered at Ayasalouk the ruins of the Odeum, or Lyric Theatre of Ephesus, and this circumstance led him to commence excavations in that locality in search of the temple of Diana. He began his excavations on the west side of the ancient city, at a point where a long rise of ground above the level of the plain seemed to cover the portico of the temple. Here he found nothing but the remains of a Roman monument; so he went on digging trial-holes in every direction on the west side, and explored the great Gymnasium, which proved to be a Roman building, erected on the site of a former Grecian structure of similar character. On the surface of the ground, in the vicinity of this Gymnasium, were the remains of some columns of Egyptian silex. At some former time seven of these columns were carried away to Constantinople, and there set up in the church of Saint Sophia, now the Great Mosque. Hitherto they have been regarded as columns from the temple at Ephesus, but erroneously.
The plain has been filled up to the average height of about 15 feet. Digging in the agora, forum, or market-place of the ancient city, Mr. Wood found what he calls a baptismal font, the diameter of which is 15 feet. Its basin is 15 inches deep, and in the centre is an elevated pedestal, on which the minister of baptism might stand dry-shod, the postulants standing in the water. Other monuments of Christian antiquity were also discovered.
But there was yet no sign of the temple, and the literary remains of antiquity gave no indication as to its site. His private funds being now exhausted, the trustees of the British Museum were applied to by Mr. Wood for the means necessary to carry on the work of exploring the Odeum, or Lyric Theatre, in the hope of finding there some bas-relief, or other monument, or at least some idle scratching of a rough artist of the time, which might give some indication of the site of the great temple. In this hope he was encouraged by what he had years before seen in Venice and other places, viz., the plans of cities cut in bas-relief upon the pinnacles of the churches. The trustees of the British Museum having made the required grant of funds, Mr. Wood began the exploration of the Odeum. He found his way into this theatre through the central doorway, and, on clearing the pulpitum. or stage, discovered on the pavement many small fragments of marble. These, on being put together, were discovered to contain inscriptions in Greek; they were the text of three letters of Antoninus Pius to the people of Ephesus, two dated a. d. 145, and one dated five years later. This theatre was 153 feet in diameter, and could seat 2,300 persons. Near it were found the remains of a tomb, which Mr. Wood takes to be that of the evangelist Luke; it was apparently a circular building, 50 feet in diameter, standing in a quadrangle 150 feet across, surrounded by a colonnade.
The exploration of the Great Theatre or amphitheatre began in February, 1866. This was one of the largest structures of its kind in Asia Minor, being 495 feet in diameter, and capable of seating 24,500 persons. Here were found many interesting Greek, and a few Latin inscriptions—chiefly decrees of the senate and people of Rome—and also some sculptures. One of these inscriptions, known as the Salutarian inscription, furnished to the persevering explorer the clew to the site of the temple. The inscription consisted of decrees relating to gold and silver images vowed to Diana by C. Vibius Salutarius. It is there prescribed that on certain days of assembly in the theatre these images were to be carried in procession by a priest of the temple, accompanied by a staff-bearer; and after the assembly they were to be carried back to the temple. Here was the desired clew to the site of the temple. "There were," says Mr. Wood, "two gates to the temple, named the Magnesian and the Coressian gates. It seemed to me that if I could find these gates their direction could not fail to point to the site of the temple. I at once searched for them, and in due time they were found."
In January, 1868, he put a gang of seventy men to work at the great theatre, and at the same time began to follow up the road leading from the Magnesian gate. This consisted of three openings—two for foot-passengers, and one for wagons and chariots. The pavement was intact, with four distinct chariot-ruts cut into it. Having followed up this road for about 700 feet, Mr. Wood came upon the stone piers of a portico 12 feet wide. This was undoubtedly the grand portico built by Damianus, a rich Roman noble. Many tombs were found, some of which were vaulted chambers finished in stucco or cement, and painted, and these had tablets over them. In some of the tombs were found several skeletons—in one as many as fourteen—lying in various directions. Next he hit upon a corner of the Peribolus wall, on which were inscriptions showing that this wall was built in the time of Augustus.
This was in May, 1869. The discovery of the Peribolus wall proved sufficient to induce the trustees of the British Museum to make further advances of money, and accordingly work was resumed in the October following. In the area within this wall, i. e., in the sacred precinct of the temple, Mr. Wood sank a great number of trial-holes. Nothing of interest was discovered until the explorer had proceeded about half a mile from the angle first discovered, and then remains of Roman buildings began to be found. Soon he came to a long-line of Roman buildings which must have been the dwellings of the priests and priestesses of Diana. He continued the explorations, searching for a similar range of buildings opposite, but found only one small building—a Roman temple. As this was not the Temple of Diana, he next began a search of the space between the buildings. This was found to be an open space, and the explorer conceived the idea that the temple must be in the rear of it; but in the mean time he found another building, and finally in the very last day of the year 1869 he hit upon the pavement of the temple itself, more than twenty feet underground. The main difficulties of the work were over: it was now a question simply of expense. The pavement was all beautiful marble. It was in two layers: the upper course in white marble, the lower one in cement, making altogether a thickness of two feet. At this stage the village of Ayasalouk was flooded by heavy rains, and the excavations were completely filled up with sand and water. When the water had subsided operations were resumed, and by October, 1870, there had been unearthed half a dozen of the large columns of the temple and fragments of one of the capitals, which had fallen over. One fallen column he traced to its base, and there ascertained that the same base had been employed in supporting columns in the last three temples. First of all we have the stone of the temple which was commenced 500 b. c.; this was used as the foundation of the column of the last two temples, one rising above the other.
In January, 1871, Mr. Wood bought the land over the temple for 160, and in less than a month afterward found, five feet beneath the surface, 2,600 coins of the fourteenth century, amounting in value to many times the price paid for the land. The British Government, in 1872, made a grant of £5,000 for the prosecution of the work, and another of £6,000 in the following year.
The discoveries on the site of the temple in the season of 1872-'73 comprised two large fragments of the frieze with human figures, life-size, in high relief, and the figure of a stag; the base of one of the inner columns of the peristyle; two sculptured drums of columns; some lions' heads, from the tympanum at the west end of the temple; a large fragment of a cedar beam from the roof, and a number of fragments from the last three temples. Numbers of Arabs came and pitched their tents near the excavations, and all the able-bodied men were employed on the works. The explorer's wife was of great service in caring for the health of these laborers and their families; sometimes she had as many as sixty patients under her care, without any doctor nearer than Smyrna.
Work was suspended in May, 1873, and resumed in October. During the season of 1873-'74, Mr. Wood made discoveries which enabled him to complete his plan of the temple. More than 100 feet of of the lowest steps of the platform were found in position in different parts; also a sculptured drum, with draped figures alternately seated and erect. At the beginning of 1874, Mr. Wood, having only a small balance on hand, applied to the trustees of the British Museum. He was allowed only a small sum, with instructions to close the work when it was expended. He therefore began to remove the cella walls, and found distinct remains of the last three temples. Part of the pavement of the temple destroyed by Erostratus was found in position, and also the altar at the east end of the cella, or shrine, which must have served for the three temples; also about 200 fragments of sculpture and architectural enrichment, of which the piers had been composed. Some of the sculpture was archaic. As Mr. Wood found several lime-kilns on the site of the temple, and large heaps of marble chippings ready for burning, we know what became of the works of Praxiteles, Scopas, and others.
On extending the excavation thirty feet beyond the lowest step of the platform a wide portico was found, which must have surrounded the temple on three sides, and also the remains of a Grecian Doric building, which could not be explored for want of funds. We have already stated that the foundations of the temple were laid in marshy ground, and Pliny says that this ground was prepared for receiving the foundation by having laid down upon it a layer first of charcoal, and then of wool! Mr. Wood makes no mention of this absurd statement of Pliny's, but says that, according to the usual account of the building of the temple, there was first laid a solid foundation of stone and that upon this were laid charcoal and pieces of wood. To clear up the question, he made very careful excavations near the walls of the temple and underneath the wall, and found first of all a layer four inches thick, of a putty-like substance, very similar to glaziers' putty, both in constitution and appearance. Underneath this there was a layer of charcoal three inches thick. Then came a layer of putty four inches thick, making in all eleven inches, and upon this the walls of the temple rest.