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The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East What is This? Provides comprehensive coverage of the history and scope of archaeology in the Near East.

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major ancient Greek city now in western Turkey, situated on the western coast of Asia Minor (37°50′ N, 27°15′ E). There has never been any question about the site's identification. In the Late Bronze Age the name of the site was perhaps Apasa, the capital of the empire of Arzawa. Under the first Hellenistic king, Lysimachos, the town was called Arsinoeia, but after his death the traditional name was maintained. During the Byzantine period, after the main town was abandoned, the site around the hill, east of the Artemision (temple sacred to the goddess Artemis), was called Ayasoluk, which nowadays is the Turkish town of Selçuk.


EPHESUS. Figure 1. The Roman town. View from above the embolos with the monument of Memmius in front. The harbor gymnasium can be seen toward the rear. (Courtesy A. Bammer)

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Ephesus and the surrounding area have been settled since the Bronze Age. During Mycenaean times the hill of Ayasoluk and the Artemision showed remains of occupation. Until now little was known about the earlier Ionian migration period, but since the eighth century BCE, Ephesus has played an important role within the Ionian civilization. Remains below the lower agora of the Roman town and a peripteros in the central base of the Artemision underline the specific significance of the site (see figure 1). Other than the Artemision, little is known about the remains of the site in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. In the fourth century the temple of Artemis remained the center of activities, but after a new town was founded by the diadoch (follower of Alexander the Great) Lysimachos, Ephesus began to flourish. The new urbanization was the basis for the development of Ephesus into a metropolis in the Roman empire.

Although Ephesus has been visited by many people since the time of Cyriacus of Ancona, one of the first scholarly travelers (1446 CE), archaeological investigations did not begin until the second half of the nineteenth century. John Turtle Wood began excavating there In 1864 and continued his archaeological work until he discovered the Artemision in January, 1870. Some of the marbles that he excavated can now be seen in the British Museum. In 1904 and 1905 the British Museum undertook another excavation in the Artemision and David G. Hogarth discovered the earlier strata of the sanctuary. The Austrians started their work at Ephesus In 1895, an ongoing undertaking that has been interrupted only by the two world wars. The emphasis of the Austrian research was on the Roman town; however, since 1965 the Artemision has also been included in the activities.


EPHESUS. Figure 2. Peripteros in the Artemesion. Eighth century BCE. (Courtesy A. Bammer)

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The Artemision.

The temple of Artemis is situated outside the Roman town in the plain, east of the hill of Ayasoluk, and its remains lie partly in the groundwater. In the center of the temple a peripteros (colonnaded rectangle) 9.5 m (31 ft.) wide and 13.3 m (43.5 ft.) long with columns arranged four by eight, was excavated (see figure 2). Within the cella (inner part) is a rectangular base surrounded by six column bases of green schist. Beneath it a hoard of jewelry was found, perhaps the necklace for the xoanon (statue in wood of the goddess). The whole construction is to be dated in the eighth century. The eastern part of the cella was reused in the middle of the sixth century as a foundation for a shrine in marble, perhaps the shelter for a new cult statue. Therefore the coins of electrum (alloy of gold and silver) found below its floor give a terminus ante quem of around 560, the year in which Croesus gained political power.

Two other large constructions, Temple C, as designated by Hogarth, in the center of the temple, and orthogonal to it the so-called hekatompedos in the west, existed before the first big marble temple was erected. Designated after an early temple to Athena on the Acropolis in Athens, the hekatompedos (meaning “one hundred feet long” in Greek) was the first construction at the site made with marble and measured 100 Ionian feet long. Temple C had antae (pilasters) on the west side. This arrangement implies that around 600 BCE two main cults existed at the site. Numerous votive offerings in gold and ivory, some of them female figurines, as well as the animal bones of the sacrifices, emphasize the special character of the early cults at the site. Pigs were especially common as a sacrifice, more in the central base than at the other locations; however, donkeys, dogs, bears, and lions were also used as a sacrifice to the goddess. Even human sacrifices, called pharmakos by the Lydian poet Hipponax, are archaeologically evident.

The great marble temple, also called the temple of Croesus, was 59.9 m (194.5 ft.) wide including the krepidoma (solid base of the building); however, its length is not yet known. Eight of the thirty-six Ionian sculptured columns, which stood at the entrance, and the sima (gutter) in marble, which was covered by a sculptural frieze, were some of the remainders from the temple, which was burnt down In 356 BCE. This temple was rebuilt with the same dimensions but on a higher level. Once again some of the column pedestals and drums were sculptured. Pliny tells us that 127 columns existed and of them thirty-six were sculptured. Some of the remains of both these columns and the archaic columns are now in the British Museum. With the erection of the marble temple of Croesus all earlier cults were suppressed, and the worship of Artemis alone was established. An archaic sacrificial area, consisting of a ramp and two bases with a water pipe made of lead, was surrounded by a courtyard, axial to the temple of Croesus. Their foundations were reused in the fourth century, and a new altar with a screen wall was built on them. This screen wall was composed of a frieze on a socle and was topped with an Ionian colonnade. The cella of the temple was reused as a church in early Byzantine times.

Hellenistic and Roman Town.

Lysimachos of Thrace (322–281) founded a new city between the two hills Panayirdağ and Bülbüldağ. It was designed in a rectangular grid system that was oriented to the axis of the Artemision. The Embolos (Gk., “wedge,” in general also late antique streets) was not adapted to this hippodamic (rectilinear) system, but instead, it used the archaic processional road in the valley between the two hills. The new urbanization included an archaic settlement, which was probably the ancient town Smyrna, at the valley's entrance. The town walls enclosed a big area that went along the ridges of the two hills.

During the Roman times the Hellenistic urbanization was completed. Some of the main constructions included a sheltered harbor north of the Bülbüldağ and the water supply from the surrounding mountains to the town. A procession road partly covered by the sophist and philosopher Damianos led around the Panayirdağ to the Artemision.


Many shrines for the cult of the emperors existed in the Roman towns, such as a twin shrine perhaps one for the Divus Iulius and the other for Dea Roma (Dio Cassius, 5120.6) near the Prytaneion at the upper agora, a temple for Domitian and Titus (Die Inschriften von Ephesos [IvE], nos. 232–242, 1498, 2048) south of the courtyard of Domitian, a small temple for Hadrian at the Embolos, built by C. Quintilius (IvE, no. 429), and a huge temple in Hadrianic times, maybe the Olympieion (Pausanias, Periegesis 7.2.6) at the harbor. Sanctuaries for non-Greek gods are still more difficult to identify, but at the upper agora stood a temple, possibly for Isis (or Dionysos?) and a sanctuary, perhaps for Serapis, was discovered west of the lower agora.

Gymnasia and Baths.

Because gymnasia needed much space, two of them were built near the northern and eastern city wall, two in the plain between the theater and the harbor, one east of the upper agora and only one, the baths of Varius, later restored by Scholastikia, at the Embolos in the center of the town (IvE, nos. 431, 453, 500, 1313–1315, 3008). Most of the gymnasia were constructed in the second and third century CE, and all of them were restored up to the fourth and fifth century.


Most of the fountains stood in the upper part of the town, near the upper agora, the courtyard of Domitian, and the Embolos. A fountain with a big niche was constructed by the proconsul Calvisius Ruso in honor of the emperor Domitian (92 CE), and then another one was built west of the Monument of Memmius. Along the Embolos stood the hydrekdocheion (“water castle”) of Trajan (IvE, nos. 415–416, 419, 424, 435–436, 4249), and near the street to the Magnesian gate another fountain for the same emperor was erected. South of the upper agora a semicircular water container was built, and at the southwest corner of the upper agora stood the hydrekdocheion of Laecanius Bassus (IvE, nos. 232–421).

Public Squares and Administrative Buildings.

The upper agora had a political connotation. Its northern front was covered by the basilica with three naves, sponsored by C. Sextilius Pollio and his wife, Ofilia Bassa (IvE, no. 404). It was decorated with bull-head capitals on the inner colonnade. Behind it stood the prytaneion (headquarters of the city administrative body) with the sanctuary for Hestia, which in late antiquity was decorated with heart-leaf columns.

The lower agora seems to have served more for commerce, but a Doric stoa on a higher level at its eastern edge had perhaps also an administrative purpose. The agoras and main streets were divided by arches and gates. In late antiquity the public squares, like the agoras, were built over by private buildings. Their function was taken over by larger streets with colonnades like the Arkadiane from the theater to the harbor or the stoa of Servilius to the stadium.

Private Buildings.

Private buildings were on the slopes of the Panayirdağ and the Bülbüldağ, but only two insulae (squares surrounded by streets) south of the Embolos have been completely excavated. They are composed of flats lying on several terraces. The dwellings themselves were mostly composed around a courtyard, often a peristyle. The walls of the rooms were decorated with paintings and marble revetments. Among the paintings scenes of dramas and comedies of Euripides and Menander should be mentioned. The floors were worked in mosaics. Remains of the furniture in bronze and ivory have also been found. The decorations as a whole belong to the most outstanding in Asia Minor.

Heroa and Tombs.

Among the tombs outside the city wall, only one along the street to Magnesia, which today is beside the street to Aydin, has been excavated, and it has the form of a tholos (beehive-shaped structure). Within the city wall the monument of Pollio, the sponsor of the aqueduct over the River Marnas and the basilica is known. At the courtyard of Domitian, the monument for C. Memmius, a grandson of Sulla (IvE, no. 403) in the form of a tetrapylon with niches at the same place, was erected around 51 BCE. The octagon, a grave for a maiden, perhaps Arsinoe IV, killed by Cleopatra VII, stands at the Embolos. Next to it another heroon (shrine for a deified deceased person) is situated, which may have been built by Androklos. At the end of the Embolos the library of Celsus Polemaeanus (IvE, no. 5101) erected around 117 CE was built over the sarcophagus of its sponsor.

Churches in Late Antiquity.

Smaller churches and chapels were built all over the town, one in the northern wall at the stadium, another one into the gymnasium close to the eastern city wall. The biggest church was the church of Holy Mary in the harbor area perhaps used for the council of Ephesus 431 CE. The basilica of St. John at the hill of Ayasoluk was first built in the fifth century, then rebuilt under Theodosius in the sixth century. Two churches were built into the Cemetery of the Seven Sleepers at the east side of the Panayirdaǧ. Finally, the church in the courtyard of the Artemision must be mentioned, also one of the largest and earliest churches.


Although Ephesus did not have a sculptural school like the one at Aphrodisias, sculptures played a great role in decorating buildings. The richly decorated Artemision has certainly been a model. Also of great importance are the Statues of Amazons dedicated in the fifth century to the Artemesion but only conserved as copies from Roman times. Androklos, the mythical founder of Ephesus, is often represented. For instance, he is represented in a frieze at the heroon near the octagon, in the frieze of the temple of Hadrian, and in the sculptures of the fountain for Trajan. At the end of the Roman republic the monument of Memmius was highly decorated with caryatids at the pillars and officials and soldiers on the surrounding frieze on top of the arches. The facade of the substructure of the temple of Domitian was decorated in the second floor with male and female barbarians. In the prytaneion three statues of Artemis Ephesia have been found. The library of Celsus was decorated with the allegories of the virtues of Celsus. However, the most important frieze is that of the so-called monument of the Parthians with battle scenes and the adoption of Lucius Verus. The foundation of this important altar still has to be identified.


  • Bammer, Anton. Ephesos: Stadt an Fluss und Meer. Graz, 1988.
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  • Engelmann, Helmut. “Zum Kaiserkult in Ephesos.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 97 (1993): 279–289.
  • Foss, Clive. Ephesus after Antiquity. Cambridge, 1978.
  • Friesen, Steven J. Twice Neokoros, Ephesus, Asia and the Cult of the Flavian Imperial Family. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 116. Leiden, 1993.
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  • Knibbe, Dieter. Via sacra Ephesiaca I. Berichte und Materialen, 3. Vienna, 1993.
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  • Muss, Ulrike. Die Bauplastik des archaischen Artemesions, Sonderschriften, vol. 25. Vienna, 1994.
  • Oster, Richard E. A Bibliography of Ancient Ephesus. Metuchen, N.J., 1987.
  • Rogers, Guy M. The Sacred Identity of Ephesos: Foundation Myths of a Roman City. London, 1991.
  • Strocka, Volker M. “Zeus, Marnas und Klaseas, Ephesische Brunnenfiguren von 93 n. Chr.” In Festschrift für Jale Inan, pp. 79–92. Istanbul, 1989.
  • Thür, Hilke. “Arsinoe IV: Eine Schwester Kleopatras VII, Grabinhaberin des Oktogons von Ephesos?” Jahreshefte des Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut 60 (1990): 43–56.
  • Torelli, Mario. “Il monumento efesino di Memmius.” Scienze dell'Antichità 2 (1988): 403–426.

Anton Bammer

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