1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ephesus

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EPHESUS, an ancient Ionian city on the west coast of Asia Minor. In historic times it was situate on the lower slopes of the hills, Coressus and Prion, which rise out of a fertile plain near the mouth of the river Caÿster, while the temple and precinct of Artemis or Diana, to the fame of which the town owed much of its celebrity, were in the plain itself, E.N.E. at a distance of about a mile. But there is reason to think both town and shrine had different sites in pre-Ionian times, and that both lay farther south among the foot-hills of Mt. Solmissus. The situation of the city was such as at all times to command a great commerce. Of the three great river basins of Ionia and Lydia, those of the Hermus, Caÿster and Maeander, it commanded the second, and had already access by easy passes to the other two.

The earliest inhabitants assigned to Ephesus by Greek writers are the “Amazons,” with whom we hear of Leleges, Carians and Pelasgi. In the 11th century B.C., according to tradition (the date is probably too early), Androclus, son of the Athenian king Codrus, landed on the spot with his Ionians and a mixed body of colonists; and from his conquest dates the history of the Greek Ephesus. The deity of the city was Artemis; but we must guard against misconception when we use that name, remembering that she bore close relation to the primitive Asiatic goddess of nature, whose cult existed before the Ionian migration at the neighbouring Ortygia, and that she always remained the virgin-mother of all life and especially wild life, and an embodiment of the fertility and productive power of the earth. The well-known monstrous representation of her, as a figure with many breasts, swathed below the waist in grave-clothes, was probably of late and alien origin. In early Ionian times she seems to have been represented as a natural matronly figure, sometimes accompanied by a child, and to have been a more typically Hellenic goddess than she became in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Twice in the period 700–500 B.C. the city owed its preservation to the interference of the goddess; once when the swarms of the Cimmerians overran Asia Minor in the 7th century and burnt the Artemision itself; and once when Croesus besieged the town in the century succeeding, and only retired after it had solemnly dedicated itself to Artemis, the sign of such dedication being the stretching of a rope from city to sanctuary. Croesus was eager in every way to propitiate the goddess, and since about this time her temple was being restored on an enlarged scale, he presented most of the columns required for the building as well as some cows of gold. That is to say, these gifts were probably paid for out of the proceeds of the sequestration of the property of a rich Lydian merchant, Sadyattes, which Croesus presented to Ephesus (Nic. Damasc. fr. 65). To counteract, perhaps, the growing Lydian influence, Athens, the mother-city of Ephesus, despatched one of her noblest citizens, Aristarchus, to restore law on the basis of the Solonian constitution. The labours of Aristarchus seem to have borne fruit. It was an Ephesian follower of his, Hermodorus, who aided the Decemviri at Rome in their compilation of a system of law. And in the same generation Heraclitus, probably a descendant of Codrus, quitted his hereditary magistracy in order to devote himself to philosophy, in which his name became almost as great as that of any Greek. Poetry had long flourished at Ephesus. From very early times the Homeric poems found a home and admirers there; and to Ephesus belong the earliest elegiac poems of Greece, the war songs of Callinus, who flourished in the 7th century B.C. and was the model of Tyrtaeus. The city seems to have been more than once under tyrannical rule in the early Ionian period; and it fell thereafter first to Croesus of Lydia, and then to Cyrus, the Persian, and when the Ionian revolt against Persia broke out in the year 500 B.C. under the lead of Miletus, the city remained submissive to Persian rule. When Xerxes returned from the march against Greece, he honoured the temple of Artemis, although he sacked other Ionian shrines, and even left his children behind at Ephesus for safety’s sake. We hear again of Persian respect for the temple in the time of Tissaphernes (411 B.C.). After the final Persian defeat at the Eurymedon (466 B.C.), Ephesus for a time paid tribute to Athens, with the other cities of the coast, and Lysander first and Agesilaus afterwards made it their headquarters. To the latter fact we owe a contemporary description of it by Xenophon. In the early part of the 4th century it fell again under Persian influence, and was administered by an oligarchy.

Alexander was received by the Ephesians in 334, and established democratic government. Soon after his death the city fell into the hands of Lysimachus, who introduced fresh Greek colonists from Lebedus and Colophon and, it is said, by means of an artificial inundation compelled those who still dwelt in the plain by the temple to migrate to the city on the hills, which he surrounded by a solid wall. He renamed the city after his wife Arsinoë, but the old name was soon resumed. Ephesus was very prosperous during the Hellenistic period, and is conspicuous both then and later for the abundance of its coinage, which gives us a more complete list of magistrates’ names than we have for any other Ionian city. The Roman coinage is remarkable for the great variety and importance of its types. After the defeat of Antiochus the Great, king of Syria, by the Romans, Ephesus was handed over by the conquerors to Eumenes, king of Pergamum, whose successor, Attalus Philadelphus, unintentionally worked the city irremediable harm. Thinking that the shallowness of the harbour was due to the width of its mouth, he built a mole part-way across the latter; the result, however, was that the silting up of the harbour proceeded more rapidly than before. The third Attalus of Pergamum bequeathed Ephesus with the rest of his possessions to the Roman people, and it became for a while the chief city, and for longer the first port, of the province of Asia, the richest in the empire. Henceforth Ephesus remained subject to the Romans, save for a short period, when, at the instigation of Mithradates Eupator of Pontus, the cities of Asia Minor revolted and massacred their Roman residents. The Ephesians even dragged out and slew those Romans who had fled to the precinct of Artemis for protection, notwithstanding which sacrilege they soon returned from their new to their former masters, and even had the effrontery to state, in an inscription preserved to this day, that their defection to Mithradates was a mere yielding to superior force. Sulla, after his victory over Mithradates, brushed away their pretexts, and inflicting a very heavy fine told them that the punishment fell far short of their deserts. In the civil wars of the 1st century B.C. the Ephesians twice supported the unsuccessful party, giving shelter to, or being made use of by, first, Brutus and Cassius, and afterwards Antony, for which partisanship or weakness they paid very heavily in fines.

All this time the city was gradually growing in wealth and in devotion to the service of Artemis. The story of St Paul’s doings there illustrates this fact, and the sequel is very suggestive,—the burning, namely, of books of sorcery of great value. Addiction to the practice of occult arts had evidently become general in the now semi-orientalized city. The Christian Church which Paul planted there was governed by Timothy and John, and is famous in Christian tradition as a nurse of saints and martyrs. According to local belief, Ephesus was also the last home of the Virgin, who was lodged near the city by St John and there died. But to judge from the Apocalyptic Letter to this Church (as shown by Sir W. M. Ramsay), the latter showed a dangerous tendency to lightness and reaction, and later events show that the pagan tradition of Artemis continued very strong and perhaps never became quite extinct in the Ephesian district. It was, indeed, long before the spread of Christianity threatened the old local cult. The city was proud to be termed neocorus or servant of the goddess. Roman emperors vied with wealthy natives in lavish gifts, one Vibius Salutaris among the latter presenting a quantity of gold and silver images to be carried annually in procession. Ephesus contested stoutly with Smyrna and Pergamum the honour of being called the first city of Asia; each city appealed to Rome, and we still possess rescripts in which the emperors endeavoured to mitigate the bitterness of the rivalry. One privilege Ephesus secured; the Roman governor of Asia always landed and first assumed office there: and it was long the provincial centre of the official cult of the emperor, and seat of the Asiarch. The Goths destroyed both city and temple in the year A.D. 262, and although the city revived and the cult of Artemis continued, neither ever recovered its former splendour. A general council of the Christian Church was held there in 431 in the great double church of St Mary, which is still to be seen. On this occasion Nestorius was condemned, and the honour of the Virgin established as Theotokus, amid great popular rejoicing, due, doubtless, in some measure to the hold which the cult of the virgin Artemis still had on the city. (On this council see below.) Thereafter Ephesus seems to have been gradually deserted owing to its malaria; and life transferred itself to another and higher site near the Artemision, the name of which, Ayassoluk (written by early Arab geographers Ayathulukh), is now known to be a corruption of the title of St John Theológos, given to a great cathedral built on a rocky hill near the present railway station, in the time of Justinian I. This church was visited by Ibn Batuta in A.D. 1333; but few traces are now visible. The ruins of the Artemision, after serving as a quarry to local builders, were finally covered deep with mud by the river Caÿster, or one of its left bank tributaries, the Selinus, and the true site remained unsuspected until 1869.

Excavations.—The first light thrown on the topography of Ephesus was due to the excavations conducted by the architect, J. T. Wood, on behalf of the trustees of the British Museum, during the years 1863–1874. He first explored the Odeum and the Great Theatre situate in the city itself, and in the latter place had the good fortune to find an inscription which indicated to him in what direction to search for the Artemision; for it stated that processions came to the city from the temple by the Magnesian gate and returned by the Coressian. These two gates were next identified, and following up that road which issued from the Magnesian gate, Wood lighted first on a ruin which he believed to be the tomb of Androclus, and afterwards on an angle of the peribolus wall of the time of Augustus. After further tentative explorations, he struck the actual pavement of the Artemision on the last day of 1869.

The Artemision.—Wood removed the whole stratum of superficial deposit, nearly 20 ft. deep, which overlay the huge area of the temple, and exposed to view not only the scanty remains of the latest edifice, built after 350 B.C., but the platform of an earlier temple, now known to be that of the 6th century to which Croesus contributed. Below this he did not find any remains. He discovered and sent to England parts of several sculptured drums (columnae caelatae) of the latest temple, and archaic sculptures from the drums and parapet of the earlier building. He also made accurate measurements and a plan of the Hellenistic temple, found many inscriptions and a few miscellaneous antiquities, and had begun to explore the Precinct, when the great expense and other considerations induced the trustees of the British Museum to suspend his operations in 1874. Wood made two subsequent attempts to resume work, but failed; and the site lay desolate till 1904, when the trustees, wishing to have further information about the earlier strata and the Precinct, sent D. G. Hogarth to re-examine the remains. As a result of six months’ work, Wood’s “earliest temple” was re-cleared and planned, remains of three earlier shrines were found beneath it, a rich deposit of offerings, &c., belonging to the earliest shrine was discovered, and tentative explorations were made in the Precinct. This deep digging, however, which reached the sand of the original marsh, released much ground water and resulted in the permanent flooding of the site.

Ground plan of the 6th Century (“Croesus”) Temple at Ephesus, conjecturally restored by A. E. Henderson.

The history of the Artemision, as far as it can be inferred from the remains, is as follows. (1) There was no temple on the plain previous to the Ionian occupation, the primeval seat of the nature-goddess having been in the southern hills, at Ortygia (near mod. Arvalia). Towards the end of the 8th century B.C. a small shrine came into existence on the plain. This was little more than a small platform of green schist with a sacred tree and an altar, and perhaps later a wooden icon (image), the whole enclosed in a temenos: but, as is proved by a great treasure of objects in precious and other metals, ivory, bone, crystal, paste, glass, terra-cotta and other materials, found in 1904–1905, partly within the platform on which the cult-statue stood and partly outside, in the lowest stratum of deposit, this early shrine was presently enriched by Greeks with many and splendid offerings of Hellenic workmanship. A large number of electron coins, found among these offerings, and in style the earliest of their class known, combine with other evidence to date the whole treasure to a period considerably anterior to the reign of Croesus. This treasure is now divided between the museums of Constantinople and London. (2) Within a short time, perhaps after the Cimmerian sack (? 650 B.C.), this shrine was restored, slightly enlarged, and raised in level, but not altered in character. (3) About the close of the century, for some reason not known, but possibly owing to collapse brought about by the marshy nature of the site, this was replaced by a temple of regular Hellenic form. The latter was built in relation to the earlier central statue-base but at a higher level than either of its predecessors, doubtless for dryness’ sake. Very little but its foundations was spared by later builders, and there is now no certain evidence of its architectural character; but it is very probable that it was the early temple in which the Ionic order is said to have been first used, after the colonists had made use of Doric in their earlier constructions (e.g. in the Panionion); and that it was the work of the Cnossian Chersiphron and his son, Metagenes, always regarded afterwards as the first builders of a regular Artemision. Their temple is said by Strabo to have been made bigger by another architect. (4) The latter’s work must have been the much larger temple, exposed by Wood, and usually known as the Archaic or Croesus temple. This overlies the remains of No. 3, at a level higher by about a metre, and the area of its cella alone contains the whole of the earlier shrines. Its central point, however, was still the primitive statue-base, now enlarged and heightened. About half its pavement, parts of the cella walls and of three columns of the peristyle, and the foundations of nearly all the platform, are still in position. The visible work was all of very fine white marble, quarried about 7 m. N.E., near the modern Kos Bunar. Fragments of relief-sculptures belonging to the parapet and columns, and of fluted drums and capitals, cornices and other architectural members have been recovered, showing that the workmanship and Ionic style were of the highest excellence, and that the building presented a variety of ornament, rare among Hellenic temples. The whole ground-plan covered about 80,000 sq. ft. The height of the temple is doubtful, the measurements of columns given us by later authority having reference probably to its successor, the height of which was considered abnormal and marvellous. Judged by the diameter of the drums, the columns of the Croesus temple were not two-thirds of the height of those of the Hellenistic temple. This fourth temple is, beyond question, that to which Croesus contributed, and it was, therefore, in process of building about 540 B.C. Our authorities seem to be referring to it when they tell us that the Artemision was raised by common contribution of the great cities of Asia, and took 120 years to complete. It was dedicated with great ceremony, probably between 430 and 420 B.C., and the famous Timotheus, son of Thersander, carried off the magnificent prize for a lyric ode against all comers. Its original architects were, probably, Paeonius of Ephesus, and Demetrius, a ἱερός of the shrine itself: but it has been suggested that the latter may have been rather the actual contracting builder than the architect. Of this temple Herodotus speaks as existing in his day; and unless weight be given to an isolated statement of Eusebius, that it was burned about 395 B.C., we must assume that it survived until the night when one Herostratus, desirous of acquiring eternal fame if only by a great crime, set it alight. This is said to have happened in 356 B.C. on the October night on which Alexander the Great came into the world, and, as Hegesias said, the goddess herself was absent, assisting at the birth; but the exactness of this portentous synchronism makes the date suspect. (5) It was succeeded by what is called the Hellenistic temple, begun almost immediately after the catastrophe, according to plans drawn by the famous Dinocrates the architect of Alexandria. The platform was once more raised to a higher level, some 7 ft. above that of the Archaic, by means of huge foundation blocks bedded upon the earlier structures; and this increase of elevation necessitated a slight expansion of the area all round, and ten steps in place of three. The new columns were of greater diameter than the old and over 60 ft. high; and from its great height the whole structure was regarded as a marvel, and accounted one of the wonders of the world. Since, however, other Greek temples had colonnades hardly less high, and were of equal or greater area, it has been suggested that the Ephesian temple had some distinct element of grandiosity, no longer known to us—perhaps a lofty sculptured parapet or some imposing form of podium. Bede, in his treatise De sept. mir. mundi, describes a stupendous erection of several storeys; but his other descriptions are so fantastic that no credence can be attached to this. The fifth temple was once more of Ionic order, but the finish and style of its details as attested by existing remains were inferior to those of its predecessor. The great sculptured drums and pedestals, now in the British Museum, belong to the lower part of certain of its columns: but nothing of its frieze or pediments (if it had any) has been recovered. Begun probably before 350 B.C., it was in building when Alexander came to Ephesus in 334 and offered to bear the cost of its completion. It was probably finished by the end of the century; for Pliny the Elder states that its cypress-wood doors had been in existence for 400 years up to his time. It stood intact, except for very partial restorations, till A.D. 262 when it was sacked and burned by the Goths: but it appears to have been to some extent restored afterwards, and its cult no doubt survived till the Edict of Theodosius closed the pagan temples. Its material was then quarried extensively for the construction of the great cathedral of St John Theológos on the neighbouring hill (Ayassoluk), and a large Byzantine building (a church?) came into existence on the central part of its denuded site, but did not last long. Before the Ottoman conquest its remains were already buried under several feet of silt.

The organization of the temple hierarchy, and its customs and privileges, retained throughout an Asiatic character. The priestesses of the goddess were παρθένοι (i.e. unwedded), and her priests were compelled to celibacy. The chief among the latter, who bore the Persian name of Megabyzus and the Greek title Neocorus, was doubtless a power in the state as well as a dignitary of religion. His official dress and spadonic appearance are probably revealed to us by a small ivory statuette found by D. G. Hogarth in 1905. Besides these there was a vast throng of dependents who lived by the temple and its services—theologi, who may have expounded sacred legends, hymnodi, who composed hymns in honour of the deity, and others, together with a great crowd of hieroi who performed more menial offices. The making of shrines and images of the goddess occupied many hands. To support this greedy mob, offerings flowed in in a constant stream from votaries and from visitors, who contributed sometimes money, sometimes statues and works of art. These latter so accumulated that the temple became a rich museum, among the chief treasures of which were the figures of Amazons sculptured in competition by Pheidias, Polyclitus, Cresilas and Phradmon, and the painting by Apelles of Alexander holding a thunderbolt. The temple was also richly endowed with lands, and possessed the fishery of the Selinusian lakes, with other large revenues. But perhaps the most important of all the privileges possessed by the goddess and her priests was that of asylum. Fugitives from justice or vengeance who reached her precincts were perfectly safe from all pursuit and arrest. The boundaries of the space possessing such virtue were from time to time enlarged. Mithradates extended them to a bowshot from the temple in all directions, and Mark Antony imprudently allowed them to take in part of the city, which part thus became free of all law, and a haunt of thieves and villains. Augustus, while leaving the right of asylum untouched, diminished the space to which the privilege belonged, and built round it a wall, which still surrounds the ruins of the temple at the distance of about a quarter of a mile, bearing an inscription in Greek and Latin, which states that it was erected in the proconsulship of Asinius Gallus, out of the revenues of the temple. The right of asylum, however, had once more to be defended by a deputation sent to the emperor Tiberius. Besides being a place of worship, a museum and a sanctuary, the Ephesian temple was a great bank. Nowhere in Asia could money be more safely bestowed, and both kings and private persons placed their treasures under the guardianship of the goddess.

The City.—After Wood’s superficial explorations, the city remained desolate till 1894, when the Austrian Archaeological Institute obtained a concession for excavation and began systematic work. This has continued regularly ever since, but has been carried down no farther than the imperial stratum. The main areas of operation have been: (1) The Great Theatre. The stage buildings, orchestra and lower parts of the cavea have been cleared. In the process considerable additions were made to Wood’s find of sculptures in marble and bronze, and of inscriptions, including missing parts of the Vibius Salutaris texts. This theatre has a peculiar interest as the scene of the tumult aroused by the mission of St Paul; but the existing remains represent a reconstruction carried out after his time. (2) The Hellenistic Agora, a huge square, surrounded by porticoes, lying S.W. of the theatre and having fine public halls on the S. It has yielded to the Austrians fine sculpture in marble and bronze and many inscriptions. (3) The Roman Agora, with its large halls, lying N.W. of the theatre. Here were found many inscriptions of Roman date and some statuary. (4) A street running from the S.E. angle of the Hellenic Agora towards the Magnesian gate. This was found to be lined with pedestals of honorific statues and to have on the west side a remarkable building, stated in an inscription to have been a library. The tomb of the founder, T. Julius Celsus, is hard by, and some fine Roman reliefs, which once decorated it, have been sent to Vienna. (5) A street running direct to the port from the theatre. This is of great breadth, and had a Horologion half-way down and fine porticoes and shops. It was known as the Arcadiane after having been restored at a higher level than formerly by the emperor Arcadius (A.D. 395). It leaves on the right the great Thermae of Constantine, of which the Austrians have cleared out the south-east part. This huge pile used to be taken for the Artemision by early visitors to Ephesus. Part of the quays and buildings round the port were exposed, after measures had been taken to drain the upper part of the marsh. (6) The Double Church of the Virgin “Deipara” in the N.W. of the city, wherein the council of 431 was held. Here interesting inscriptions and Byzantine architectural remains were found. Besides these excavated monuments, the Stadion; the enceinte of fortifications erected by Lysimachus, which runs from the tower called the “Prison of St Paul” and right along the crests of the Bulbul (Prion) and Panajir hills; the round monument miscalled the “Tomb of St Luke”; and the Opistholeprian gymnasium near the Magnesian gate, are worthy of attention.

The work done by the Austrians enables a good idea to be obtained of the appearance presented by a great Graeco-Roman city of Asia in the last days of its prosperity. It may be realized better there than anywhere how much architectural splendour was concentrated in the public quarters. But the restriction of the clearance to the upper stratum of deposit has prevented the acquisition of much further knowledge. Both the Hellenistic and, still more, the original Ionian cities remain for the most part unexplored. It should, however, be added that very valuable topographical exploration has been carried out in the environs of Ephesus by members of the Austrian expedition, and that the Ephesian district is now mapped more satisfactorily than any other district of ancient interest in Asia Minor.

The Turkish village of Ayassoluk (the modern representative of Ephesus), more than a mile N.E. of the ancient city, has revived somewhat of recent years owing to the development of its fig gardens by the Aidin railway, which passes through the upper part of the plain. It is noteworthy for a splendid ruined mosque built by the Seljuk, Isa Bey II., of Aidin, in 1375, which contains magnificent columns: for a castle, near which lie remains of the pendentives from the cupola of the great cathedral of St John, now deeply buried in its own ruins: and for an aqueduct, Turkish baths and mosque-tombs. There is a fair inn managed by the Aidin Railway Company.

Bibliography.—E. Guhl, Ephesiaca (1843); E. Curtius, Ephesos (1874); C. Zimmermann, Ephesos im ersten christlichen Jahrhundert (1874); J. T. Wood, Discoveries at Ephesus (1877); E. L. Hicks, Anc. Greek Inscr. in the Brit. Museum, iii. 2 (1890); B. V. Head, “Coinage of Ephesus” (Numism. Chron., 1880); J. Menadier, Qua condicione Ephesii usi sint, &c. (1880); Sir W. M. Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches (1904); O. Benndorf, R. Heberdey, &c., Forschungen in Ephesos, vol. i. (1906) (Austrian Arch. Institute); D. G. Hogarth, Excavations at Ephesus: the Archaic Artemisia (2 vols., 1908), with chapters by C. H. Smith, A. Hamilton Smith, B. V. Head, and A. E. Henderson.  (D. G. H.)