Ephesus (also spelled “Ephesos”) is located in the western part of Asia Minor, 422.5 miles (680 km) south of Istanbul along the Aegean Coast of modern-day Turkey. The excavation site of the ancient city lies 3.1 miles (5 km) outside of the modern city of Selçuk. The city is extremely important for histories of the Roman Empire. Not only did it boast one of the largest and wealthiest temples in the Roman world, the Temple of Artemis, but it also was one of the busiest harbors in the eastern Mediterranean. As the Roman provincial capital of Asia Minor and three-time temple warden of the imperial cult (with temples to Augustus, the Flavians, and the Antonines) Ephesus held a position of prominence in the imperial discourse of the early empire. The city is also extremely important for histories of early Christianity since many New Testament texts remember it as a formative place for several early Christian communities. Paul spent time in the city (1 Cor 16:8). Acts recounts apostolic workers and artisans in the city (19:23–41). John the Seer depicts Ephesus as one recipient of God’s wrath against Rome (Rev 2:1–7). Ephesus became an important center of Christian memory as early Christian communities contested the relationship between social status and leadership roles within the community (1 Tim, 2 Tim, 1 Pet).

The first settlement that scholars identify with Ephesus began as an Athenian colony in the tenth century B.C.E. Its legendary founder, Androkolos, established the settlement after witnessing mythical signs on the site. By the time of Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 B.C.E.) a well-established temple to Cybele/Artemis anchored the city’s religious, political, and economic life. Lysimachus, one of Alexander’s generals, moved the city away from the Artemis temple to the western slope of the Panayırdağ in the third century B.C.E., where it remained until its decline after the sixth century C.E. By 133 B.C.E. it was under the rule of the Pergamene kings when Attalus III (r. 138–133 B.C.E.) of Pergamum bequeathed the city to Rome. This new relationship was tumultuous. During the Mithridatic wars, Ephesus sided with Mithridates IV (r. ca. 170–150 B.C.E.) in his rebellion against Caesar and welcomed Antony and Cleopatra to the city in 32 B.C.E. The city fell again to Roman rule after the battle of Actium. In 27 B.C.E. Augustus (r. 29 B.C.E.–14 C.E.) named it the new provincial capital of Asia.

During the next three centuries, the city prospered and grew as both a center for commerce and trade in the eastern empire and a center for the cult of the Roman emperors. In the Christian era Ephesus hosted the third ecumenical council at the Church of St. Mary in 431 C.E. In the sixth century Emperor Justinian (r. 527–565 C.E.) built the large Basilica of St. John over the reported grave of its namesake. Throughout the sixth and seventh centuries C.E. Ephesus as a landscape became a kind of repository for communal memories of early Christian heroes, including John, Luke, Paul, and Thekla. Over the next few centuries the city slowly fell into decline, the harbor silted up, and earthquakes devastated the region. It was largely deserted by the tenth century C.E. Modern excavations at Ephesus began in 1895 and continue under the guidance of the Austrian Archaeological Institute (Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut).


The first Greek settlement was established on the fertile plain at the base of the Ayasoluk hill. Founded near the mouth of the Kaystros River, this settlement established a harbor for sea commerce from the Black Sea in the north, the Aegean rim to the west, and the southern Mediterranean. Silt from the river gradually filled the harbor, and significant effort was required to keep it open through the centuries. Repeated dredgings in Roman times maintained it into the third or fourth century C.E. Gradually, it silted in and the coast extended westward to its modern location about 6.2 miles (10 km) west of the excavations. In addition to the Kaystros River and the harbor, Ephesus stood at the crossroads of several overland commercial roads, including the east–west Laodicean road and the north–south road to ancient Smyrna.

The new third-century B.C.E. settlement was eventually built on the south and west slopes of the Panayırdağ and on the north slope of the Bülbüldağ. A processional road circumlocuted the base of the Panayridağ, connecting the city with the Artemis temple. Three roads spurred from this processional road. The first moved through the city gate at the top of the valley between the Panayırdağ and the Bülbüldağ and led to nearby Magnesia. The second, the road to Ortygia, began at the bottom of the valley between the two hills and wound south to Artemis’s legendary birthplace. The third was the road to the Artemesion itself (located on the plain between the Panayırdağ and the Ayasoluk, near the Greek settlement) on the north side of the Panayırdağ. Distinct from these main roads, a Hippodamian grid system of narrow alleys, at times stepped, organized buildings on the slopes of both hills. Freshwater springs on the Bülbüldağ and streams on the north side of the Panayırdağ supplied ample water to the city.

The excavation site is concentrated around two hills, the Panayırdağ and the Bülbüldağ. The valley between them creates one of the main roads connecting the governmental center of the city (Upper Agora) with the civic (Triodos) and commercial (Tetragonos Agora and Harbor) centers. Springs on the Bülbüldağ provided one source of freshwater, as did the Selinous and Marnas brooks on the northern side of the Panayırdağ. The land surrounding the temple must have been very fertile farmland because of the river silt and high water-table.

The City of Artemis.

Artemis of Ephesus, whose temple was called one of the seven wonders of the world according to most ancient lists, was a pervasive presence in the religious, economic, and political life of the city from the fifth century B.C.E. onward. Not only was this temple architecturally one of the most opulent in the Greek and Roman world, its economic influence in the city and the region was equally great.

The colossal temple itself was first built in the sixth century B.C.E. Designed by Chersiphron, a well-attested Greek architect, it was destroyed by fire in the fourth century B.C.E. The Ephesians rebuilt it to similar specifications with the help of Alexander the Great. Standing at the base of the Ayasoluk hill, the temple was 426.5 ft (130 m) east to west and 229.7 ft (70 m) north to south (according to Pliny, Nat. 36.95–96). It had 127 columns with ionic capitals, 6.6 ft (2 m) in diameter and nearly 65.6 ft (20 m) high. The bottom drum of each column was carved with reliefs of mythical figures. A cella, or walled enclosure for the cult statue, probably stood in the midst of the forest of columns. One column has been reconstructed on the site. Fragments of columns and capitals have been found throughout the region. A more exact reconstruction is not possible since most of the superstructure was reused in later building projects.

The cult statue of Artemis was distinctive and easily recognized as belonging to Ephesus. While the wooden cult statue that was kept in the temple no longer exists, several finely sculpted marble copies were found in the city on the Upper Agora near the Pyrtaneion. Smaller and less finely detailed copies of the Ephesian Artemis have been found all around the Mediterranean basin, suggesting that she was significant beyond her own city limits. The distinctiveness of the iconography for the Ephesian Artemis stems from her conflation with Cybele, the native goddess for the region. Artemis of Ephesus, unlike the traditional Greek iconography for Artemis, stood straight and unmoving, with her arms bent at the elbow and extended at a right angle from her waist. Her dress was tightly drawn around her legs. Stags flanked her on the right and the left. Bees, griffins, and more stags adorned her dress. Her midsection was covered with bulbous protrusions, at one time understood as breasts but later disputed in their origin and significance. These orbs may have originated from the sacrificial practice of the cult: when a bull was sacrificed, his testicles were affixed to the cult statue. In some versions of the statue, Artemis wore a necklace with signs of the zodiac. She was also often depicted wearing a mural crown of the city walls on her head.

The Artemis temple, at its prime, served as a banking, religious, and asylum center for the entire region. The temple building itself was just one part of a complex of buildings surrounded by a temenos, or sacred precinct, whose boundaries shifted over the centuries of Roman rule. To the west of the temple stood a U-shaped altar foundation, similar to several others in the city. On this foundation stood an altar platform, which was used for animal sacrifices. An extensive drainage system and a supply system for clean, fresh water was also part of the altar building. While reconstruction of the superstructure remains tentative, the foundations and small fragments suggest that this altar complex must have complemented the temple in its extravagance.

Still farther to the west, excavations begun in 2009 have revealed a small odeion, a small, covered theater-style meeting space, about 590.6 ft (180 m) southwest of the altar foundations. Archaeologists suggest that this odeion was the place for musical and rhetorical festivals associated with the cult. Additional buildings within the temenos have been identified to the north of the altar but are not fully excavated. Archaeologists speculate that these were administrative buildings for, among other things, the maintenance of the cult’s vast plantation lands, fisheries, and enslaved population.

The Artemis temple complex fell into disrepair sometime in the fourth or fifth century C.E. The ground upon which it stood had a very high water table, making the area marshy and susceptible to flooding and silting. Once the temple was no longer fully functioning, its buildings served as a marble quarry for the Basilica of St. John on top of the nearby Ayasoluk hill. In the twenty-first century only a single, reconstructed column stands on the ancient foundations.

The Harbor Quarter.

The Ephesian harbor was located nearly 492.1 ft (150 m) west of the base of the valley between the Panayırdağ and the Bülbüldağ. While the basic contours of the quay (land wall) and the mole (sea wall) have been preliminarily sketched, modern excavators must contend with the same swampy silt that closed down the harbor in antiquity. Thus, excavations in the area have been limited. Nevertheless, several buildings near the harbor give a few clues to the flow of traffic through the area. Along the line of the quay, three gates dating from the second to the third century C.E. mark the three major roads leading from the port into the city. Certainly, these three roads existed well before the gate structures that cover them. The center road, which leads into the heart of the ancient city, was 32.8 ft (10 m) wide. Such breadth suggests that the harbor accommodated huge amounts of traffic with large cargoes. In the first century C.E. this space in the city, perhaps more than in any other space, teemed with a cross section of human life. Mixed in with workers in the fishing industry were arriving Roman dignitaries, merchants hoping to buy and sell their wares, and itinerant tradespersons.

Just on the east side of the harbor gates stood two large, aisled structures that ran parallel to each other east and west. Each was 82 ft (25 m) wide and up to 393.7 ft (120 m) long. Four rows of square, limestone pillars carried brick vaults that would have made three distinct, covered aisles on each structure. No evidence of walls between the pillars was found, suggesting that these were not warehouses but rather open-air halls for sorting, inspecting, packing, and distributing cargo to or from sailing vessels. Millions of Byzantine-era amphorae shards have been found in this area, suggesting that even in later centuries wine, oil, and other liquid imports were probably the most common cargoes to come through the port.

A lengthy inscription, found in reuse as the base of the ambo in the Basilica of St. John but probably originally set up in the harbor area, details a Roman tax code for merchandise coming into the port in Ephesus. The text is very difficult to decipher in places, and some is lost because the stone was cut when reused. This tax code shows that all kinds of goods came through the harbor, including slaves who were both bought and sold. The port tax inscription, among others, suggests that Ephesus was a center for the Roman slave trade.

The Ephesian harbor was also the center of a lively fishing industry. Attesting to this industry is a fishing customs center at the harbor’s edge. A stele made of blue-veined marble was found in situ near the ancient harbor line. It stood 75.2 inches (191 cm) tall and 32.3 inches (82 cm) wide and was 12.2 inches (31 cm) thick. It rested on a pedestal that was wider and deeper than the stele itself. The two faces of the stele contained Greek writing. The text field on the best-preserved side (side A) is recessed so that the edges of the marble block form a frame around the text. The other side of the stele (side B) is so badly preserved that only a few lines can be reconstructed.

The inscription on the stele suggests that it was part of a large building complex that housed a local fishing industry association. Erected sometime around 54 C.E., the stele dedicates the new association house to Nero (r. 54–68 C.E.), Julia Agrippina (Nero’s mother), and Octavia (Nero’s wife) as well as the demos (citizen population) of Rome and that of Ephesus. The association secured land for the project through the city council of Ephesus and built the building from its own funds. The majority of the inscription lists individual benefactors and their specific contributions to the building project. From the contributions of the benefactors named on both sides of this stele it can be seen that the association attracted members with a wide range of economic means. For example, Phobos and Secundus, who are listed on side B, were security guards who gave just a few bricks each to the new building. Cornelia Eisius along with her husband Publius Cornelius Felix gave one whole column, while Lucius Fabricius Vitalius, the overseer of the construction work, together with his wife and his slaves donated two columns. This cross section of benefactors gives a relatively rare glimpse into the activities of lower-status workers in first-century C.E. Ephesus. The names on this stele show that low-status workers and women participated in benefaction systems in Ephesus alongside higher-status free men.

The Tetragonos Agora.

Three roads move eastward from the harbor area to the base of the Panayırdağ. The northern road leads to a large bath and gymnasium complex that was built to honor Domitian (r. 81–96 C.E.) and eventually farther east to the area of the city where an enormous temenos for the emperor Hadrian (r. 117–138 C.E.) was built in the second century C.E. The middle road, dubbed Arkadian Street in later centuries, connected the enormous theater (seating 25,000) to the harbor. Its breadth made it ideal for transporting large cargoes in and out of the harbor. It was also ideal for processions of dignitaries. The southern road led directly to the west entrance of the commercial agora, or the Tetragonos Agora. Goods intended for sale would have been taken from the harbor, including fish, amphorae of wine and oil, as well as slaves, along one of these streets into the city proper.

Built on the foundations of a Hellenistic agora, the Tetragonos Agora enlarged the earlier structure so that the entire space was 1,609.2 ft2 (149.5 m2, exactly 520 Roman feet). This reconstruction began under Augustus, but an earthquake in 23 C.E. destroyed the new construction so that rebuilding ensued until the time of Nero. A commercial market continued in this area through the Byzantine era. Many of the extant ruins come from a Theodotian renovation in the late fourth century C.E. Along each side of the square complex ran a double-aisled structure with small rectangular rooms on the perimeter and two rows of columns supporting open hallways in front of these rooms. Staircases in the corners of the agora, double-columned pillars on the ground floor, and the fallen remains of columns and capitals not associated with the ground-level columns all suggest a second story. The west side of the complex relied most heavily on its Hellenistic precursor, which stood several meters below the Roman ground level. The old west stoa became a cryptoporticus, or basement with small rooms and a hallway running the length of the upper portico. The central square area of the agora complex would have been an open space for merchants to set up moveable tables and stands for selling goods. As expected, thousands of amphorae, pottery shards, and coins were found in this area, although debris from excavation campaigns in the early twentieth century makes them stratigraphically difficult to date.

Regardless, all kinds of goods would have been bought and sold at the Tetragonos Agora, from the mundane to the luxurious. Elected officials called agoranomoi, or market overseers, managed this market area. Many of these officials are known from inscriptions found throughout the city. One such list is inscribed on four stone blocks that make up part of a support pillar on the south gate of the Tetragonos Agora. These lists date to the end of the first or the beginning of the second century C.E. Among other duties, the market overseers would have established the price ranges of all kinds of bread. Merchants and buyers alike would have haggled over prices for all kinds of goods and services in this space, goods that included slaves. A decree from the Roman proconsul Paullus Fabius Persicus, issued in 44–45 C.E., was inscribed on an adjacent face of the stone pillar that contained the names of market overseers (IEph 17–19). In it, Persicus regulates the financial dealings of the Artemis cult in Ephesus. As part of his plan for curtailing spending, Persicus addresses public slaves who buy babies on the market at a trifling cost. The decree entreats public slaves not to dedicate these babies and slaves to Artemis for upbringing at the goddess’s expense. The placement of this decree in the market not only suggests that those most likely to be affected by its decisions would notice it but also implies that babies would have been bought and sold in this very space.

While no structure called a statarion, or slave market, can be identified, two statue bases, most likely from the Tetragonos Agora, mention the slave trade in Ephesus explicitly. The first bears an inscription that honors C. Sallustius Crispus Passienus, who was proconsul of Asia under the Romans in 42–43 C.E., on behalf of “those who do business in the slave market” (IEph 3025). The second is dedicated to Titus Claudius Secundus, also by those doing business in the slave market (IEph 646). Secundus, whose name signals his low-status background, perhaps even that he was enslaved at some point in his life, appears in other inscriptions in the city, suggesting that he was a well-known figure (IEph 857). These statue bases attest that slave markets existed in Ephesus. They also attest that those doing business in these markets made considerable profits for their efforts. Yet slave traders in antiquity enjoyed little social or political prestige—they were often considered unvirtuous, dishonorable, and suspicious. Thus, honoring Secundus with a statue in the market implies an attempt to raise his social and political status in the city.

This same kind of ambiguity is present when examining the southeast gate of the Tetragonos Agora. Former slaves of Livia and Augustus named Mithridates and Mazaeus dedicated the monumental structure in 3 B.C.E., predating the renovations to the agora. Originally it served as a gateway along the processional road (Via Sacra) of the Artemis cult in the city. It had three arched entryways, supported by nine square pillars. The two side archways were deeper north to south than the central archway. Some reconstructions suggest that on top of these two side archways once stood a second story with statue niches and perhaps even a place for the cenotaphs of its dedicators, Mithridates and Mazaeus. By the middle of the first century C.E., when the agora was completed, this gate complex was built into the south portico. As a benefaction of former imperial slaves, it stood as one entrance to slave markets. The south gate underscores the complex interconnections between social, political, and economic status which are found even in archaeological materials.

Triodos: The Crossroads.

The southern market gate marks the boundary between the commercial center and the civic center of the Ephesian cityscape. Through this gate to the south is the Triodos (“three roads”) plaza. At the base of the valley between the Panayırdağ and the Bülbüldağ, three major roads form the Via Sacra of the Ephesian Artemis and cross at this plaza. At this juncture Marble Street, which runs north and south along the base of the Panayırdağ from the stadium past the theater and along the east end of the agora, joins Curetes Street, which runs east and west along the geographical valley between the Panayırdağ and the Bülbüldağ, and the road to Ortygia, which runs east and west along the Bülbüldağ toward Artemis’s birthplace. These three roads not only constitute a convergence of traffic into and out of the city but also are at the center of Ephesian civic and religious identity.

Directly across the plaza from the south market gate stands a set of 13 stairs that lead to a large U-shaped platform open to the north. The platform stood 72.2 ft (22 m) east to west and 275.6 ft (84 m) north to south. The stairs were nearly 59.1 ft (18 m) wide. The foundations are made of coarse cement (opus caementicium) in which larger stones were wedged. No traces of the superstructure remained. Marks on the foundation stones, however, indicate that this entire structure was covered in marble. The shape of the foundations, an extensive drainage system, the steps at the open end, the structure’s centrality in the city, and inscriptional evidence (IEph 3059) all suggest that this was a sacrificial altar for Artemis, already in use by the early first century.

At least at the end of Hadrian’s reign, but arguably later in the second century, this altar platform was retrofitted with a set of reliefs known as the “Parthian reliefs.” Depicting battle scenes of Romans fighting victoriously with Parthian opponents, a lineup of gods, and an imperial adoption being celebrated with a sacrifice, these reliefs showcased the military victory, divine sanction, and piety of the emperor. The adoption/sacrifice scene depicts Hadrian and Antoninus Pius (r. 138–161 C.E.) adopting Lucius Verus (r. 161–169 C.E.) as the imperial heir. The men are surrounded by low-status cultic workers who bear implements of sacrifice, including sacrificial bulls.

Juxtaposed with these low-status workers and subjugated peoples in the Parthian reliefs are the heroic graves that populate the rest of the plaza and spill over eastward, crowding the length of Curetes Street. Some of these graves belonged to ancient, almost mythical civic heroes and predate Lysimachus. In the first two centuries C.E., however, as the Roman presence grew on the Triodos, new graves were added. By the early second century C.E. the most prominent of these was the library dedicated to Titus Julius Celsus Polemanaeanus, a Roman senator who was buried within its walls. Rising two stories above the plaza, the upper line of the facade curves slightly upward, making the building feel more imposing to a visitor on the ground. On the first story, four sets of columns carry entablatures that give the appearance of four pavilions. These pavilions frame female statues as representations of Sophia (Wisdom), Arete (Excellence), Ennoia (Thought), and Episteme (Understanding), virtues heralded to Celsus. The same numbers of columns carry the upper story, but only three entablatures, which alternate with those on the bottom story, rest on these columns. Inside, a large semicircular niche on the west wall displayed a statue of Celsus. Under this statue in a basement vault, archaeologists found a sarcophagus with the remains of Celsus. Two upper levels of the building show markings consistent with cabinets for storing the library’s scrolls. Visually, the library dominated the west side of the plaza.


Gate of Mazaeus and Mithridates, Ephesus. Todd Bolen/Bible Places.com

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In addition to Celsus’s burial site, a sarcophagus belonging to the Sophist Dionysius Rhetor from the early second century C.E. stood on the northeast corner of the plaza. Just east of the Triodos, along Curetes Street, several more grave monuments lined the road. Among them were a cenotaph and fountain dedicated to Androkolos, the legendary founder of Ephesus. The grave of Arsinoë IV, half-sister to Cleopatra (r. 51–30 B.C.E.), stood on the south side of the road. Farther up Curetes Street, almost to the plaza at the base of the Flavian temple terrace, stood the grave of C. Sextilius Pollio, one of the city’s major benefactors in the first century C.E. These graves and monuments along with the Artemis altar that marked the Triodos and Curetes Street stood at the center of claims to civic and religious identity and authority, claims made by and about Ephesus from imperial families, ruling elites, civic benefactors, and even former slaves.

In the first and second centuries C.E. the built environment of the Triodos evolved strikingly, reflecting both the shifting assertions of imperial power that are evident elsewhere in Ephesus and the incorporation of imperial persons into civic religious practices. Within these shifts the presence of low-status persons is at once obscured in the monumental tributes to civic and imperial heroes and yet ubiquitous in the images of conquered peoples and the crowd of cultic workers on the Parthian reliefs.

The Triodos plaza is the place where three different roads along the Via Sacra of Artemis met. Archaeologists suggest that this processional route was in use before Lysimachus moved the city to near the Triodos (fifth century B.C.E.). It served as the route for ritual processions in honor of Artemis’s birthday and other civic–religious festivals. Both Tacitus (Hist. 6.3) and Pliny (Nat. 35.93) allude to nocturnal processions with the cult statue that started from the Artemision, outside the city at the base of Ayasoluk, and followed the base of the Panayırdağ counterclockwise over the Triodos, up Curetes Street, and around the Panayırdağ back to the temple. Strabo (Geogr. 14.1, 20) describes processions for the celebration of Artemis’s birthday as following a similar route. Strabos’s procession, when it reached the Triodos, would have taken the road to Ortygia, where mysteries in honor of Artemis’s birth were celebrated. Xenophon of Ephesus (Ephesian Story of Anthia and Habrocomes 1.2–6, 2.2–3.3) describes the third type of procession as one beginning in the new city, perhaps at the Triodos, running clockwise along Marble Street, around the Panayırdağ, and ending at the temple for sacrifice.

Finally, the fourth procession traces its beginnings to a fund given to the city in 104 C.E. by C. Vibius Salutaris (IEph 27). Salutaris, who was from the senatorial class in Italy, prescribed frequent processions from the Artemis temple around the far side of the Panayırdağ, over the Triodos, and to the theater. Temple personnel were to bring gold and silver statues of Trajan (r. 98–117 C.E.) and Plotinus from Salutaris’s house along with the cult statue of Artemis and place them on bases in the theater. In order to ensure that these processions took place, Salutaris appropriated an endowment from his own funds. Rogers (1991) argues that these processions asserted a certain kind of religious and civic identity on the Ephesian cityscape, an identity that wove a new historical narrative in space and practice in order to incorporate Roman imperial presence into the life of the ancient city.

The Terrace Houses.

Just to the south of the Triodos stood a set of multistory urban condos known as the Terrace Houses. Rising from Curetes Street on the north up three terrace levels to the public street on the south and stretching across three steep, narrow side streets, these houses occupied some of the most central and sought-after land in Ephesus, as their proximity to the Triodos area suggests. Archaeologists have excavated two insulae, or city blocks, divided by a narrow, stepped street. Several more insulae lie unexcavated on the east, west, and south of the excavations. First built in the early first century C.E., they were remodeled continuously until they were abandoned in the mid-third century C.E. after an earthquake heavily damaged them. In the Byzantine era, water mills were built into the western edge of the excavated houses. These mills were used for grinding grain and powering heavy machinery—one drove a stone-cutting saw.

In the Roman era the western insula, designated Terrace House 2, consisted of seven separate apartments on three terraces. Two narrow side streets with alternating stairs and steeply inclined pavements follow the Hippodamian grid system and provided access to the apartments from both Curetes Street on the north and Terrace House Street on the south. Only the largest apartment unit (apartment 6) was directly accessible from Curetes Street. While each apartment shared a common wall with its east or west neighbor and a terrace wall with its north and south neighbor, renovations frequently shifted the boundaries of individual units. Each apartment was arranged around its own central open courtyard called a peristyle. Rooms adjoining the peristyle courtyard would have included dining areas, reception rooms, bedrooms, and even cult rooms. Each apartment was several stories high, as attested by stairs and architectural remains of upper stories found in destruction layers. Most of these apartments were opulently furnished with mosaics on the floors, intricate opus sectile (flat, thin, precisely cut pieces of different colored marble fitted together to form a pattern) revetment on some walls, and frescoes of theater characters, Greek philosophers, or muses on other walls. These apartments also enjoyed amenities such as private latrines, kitchens, heated floors, fountains, and spaces for collections of ancient art.

Apartment 6 follows the typical peristyle pattern of Greek housing, with a central courtyard, surrounded by smaller rooms. In one room on the north side of the peristyle (room 31b) on the north wall was found a small pedimented shrine that is reminiscent of domestic cult shrines found in Pompeii. An early second-century C.E. renovation stage for apartment 6 added enormous rooms onto the south side of the peristyle court, shifting the terrace wall that is shared with the apartment to the south (apartment 4) and significantly altering the southern apartment’s space. These renovations suggest that apartment 4 belonged to the same person as apartment 6.

On the southwest corner of the peristyle in apartment 6 a large apsidal hall (room 8) stood more than two stories high. In its first incarnation, it probably included a freshwater fishpond in the center of the room. Later renovations covered the fishpond and added a heating system under the floor. The heating system connected to two small, whitewashed rooms behind the apse, where a large amount of dining ware was found. Archaeologists think that the apsidal room was primarily a dining room, with these heated rooms providing staging areas for keeping meals warm before guests were served. To the east of the apsidal room another large hall (room 31) stands equally high and was decorated with marble revetment; intricate purple, green, pink, and white opus sectile; and faux architectural elements in the corners. The size, configuration, and renovation phases of apartment 6 suggest that it was used for large gatherings of people.

The second-century C.E. owner of apartment 6 is known from an inscription set up in the peristyle (IEph 1267): C. Flavius Furious Aptus. Aptus, a member of one of the oldest families of Ephesus, was named as a priest of Dionysus. From the large opulent dining spaces and the connections with apartment 4 on the terrace above, archaeologists suggest that apartment 6 was a kind of clubhouse for a Dionysus association in the city. Of course, owners and their families would have lived in all of these houses, but so would their slaves, extended families, clients, guests, and others. Much of the upkeep, maintenance of cultic practices, and daily workings of these households would have depended on the household slaves.

Another wealthy Ephesian, C. Vibius Salutaris, who established the foundation for processions from the Artemis temple to the theater, is linked to the Terrace Houses by an ungracious graffito in the latrine of apartment 2. Although the aforementioned silver statues of Trajan and Plotinus were not found in this apartment, evidence of imperial veneration is present. A set of ivory reliefs that probably adorned a large piece of furniture depicts the emperor Trajan in military dress. In one scene another prominent figure, perhaps Salutaris, appears with Trajan. Elsewhere in the Terrace Houses (apartment 7) busts of Tiberius (r. 14–37 C.E.) and Livia grouped with a large, coiled bronze snake were found. The inhabitants of these houses embraced Rome’s influence in Ephesus.

While scholars often point to houses such as these to understand the meeting spaces in which early Christian house-churches met, very few early Christians wealthy enough to afford such luxurious housing are known. In fact, most were probably low-status workers, tradespersons, or slaves. On the Curetes Street level, however, 12 separate workshop spaces have been identified under Terrace House 1 (to the east of Terrace House 2). These workshops had two rooms, one built into the side of the hill and an anteroom that opened to the street. These spaces were ideal for tradespeople to work, sell their goods, and even live. Such spaces may be useful in reconstructing the lives of the first Christians in Ephesus.

Upper Agora: Government Center.

Moving east up the valley along Curetes Street, past a public bath complex, fountains, workshops, and memorials, one arrives at a saddle of flat land (525 by 183.7 ft [160 by 56 m]) between the Panayırdağ and the Bülbüldağ, called the Upper Agora. This area was originally a Hellenistic graveyard but was transformed in the late first century B.C.E. into an imperial governing center. On the far north side of this parcel of land stood three important government buildings: the Pyraneion, two tetrastyle (four columns in front of three solid cella walls) podium temples, and a bouleterion (council house). The first-century C.E. bouleterion, with its stepped seating and small orchestra-like speaking area, was probably replaced in the middle of the second century C.E. by the structure that has survived. A Roman senator, P. Vedius Antoninus, and his wife, Flavia Papiane, dedicated this later building to Artemis. On its walls were inscribed honorific inscriptions praising the Antonine emperors. To the west of the bouleterion stood the two podium temples dedicated to Dea Roma and Divus Iulius.

Still farther to the west was the Pyrtaneion, or the sacred hearth of the city. A facade of eight plain Doric columns supported the architrave. Yearly lists of the Curetes along with other sacred personnel were inscribed on both the architrave and the columns. The Curetes, honorary priests of Artemis chosen yearly to keep the sacred fire burning, celebrated mysteries for Artemis and hosted dignitaries visiting the city. Generations of prominent families in the city can be traced over several decades through the lists of Curetes. The sacred personnel, listed below the Curetes, were lower-status cultic specialists who provided continuity in cultic practices from year to year. In some cases the same person performed a particular role for decades at a time. These lower-status cultic roles seemed to be hereditary and passed from father to son.

Just to the south of the Pyrtaneion, Diva Roma and Divus Iulius temples, and bouleterion a three-aisled, two-story, basilica-type stoa was built during the reign of Augustus. Dedicated by C. Sextilius Pollio and his wife, Ofillia Bassa, and their children to Artemis, Augustus, Tiberius, and the demos of Ephesus, this structure was approximately 52.5 ft (16 m) wide and ran the length of the Upper Agora. Ionic columns with bulls’ heads on the capitals carried the interior aisles, while plain ionic capitals adorned the outer colonnades. Statues of prominent Ephesians, including Pollio and his wife, stood between the interior columns. Under the floor tiles of the eastern end of the building excavators found buried two seated statues of Livia and Augustus.

Beginning with Augustus, the Upper Agora was transformed into the center for imperial presence in Ephesus during the first century C.E. The city’s first imperial neokorate (the right to build a regional temple dedicated to a Roman emperor) was granted for a temple to Augustus. Inscriptions from various places in the city mention this temple (e.g., IEph 902), but a secure placement for it has not been identified. In the center of the Upper Agora stood a peripteral temple (49.2 ft [15 m] north to south by 72.2 ft [22 m] east to west) with six columns on the east and west and 10 columns on the north and south. Inside the temple ruins, excavators found artifacts that included an image of Ammon, a rattle like that used in Isis cults, and a marble portrait of Mark Antony. Some scholars suggest that this temple was converted into the temple of Augustus as a way of erasing Ephesian allegiance to Mark Antony and Cleopatra.

Domitian granted Ephesus a second imperial neokorate, but a few years later, in 96 C.E. (after his memory was condemned), the temple was rededicated to Vespasian (r. 69–79 C.E.) and the Flavian emperors in succession. This temple stood on a large artificial terrace (approximately 282.2 by 213.3 ft [86 by 65 m]) to the west of the Upper Agora. On the south and west sides the terrace was built into the side of the Bülbüldağ. A three-story conical substructure held up the north and east sides of the terrace. Several important statue remnants were found in the underground portions of the substructure. In the twenty-first century this space is used as a depot for archaeological artifacts from the excavations. From the plaza below the northeast corner of the terrace stretching westward, the substructure forms workshops and storefronts on three stories. Doric columns carry the first story, engaged half-columns with reliefs of gods and goddesses carry the second, and the third was probably of the Corinthian order. A monumental staircase in the middle of the north side leads up to the top of the terrace.

The pseudodipteral temple, roughly in the center of the terrace, stood eight by thirteen columns on a six-stepped platform that measured 78.7 ft (24 m) north to south by 111.5 ft (34 m) east to west. The tetraprostyle cella (four columns in the front with solid walls on three more sides) was 24.6 ft (7.5 m) north to south and 42.7 ft (13 m) east to west. It housed a colossal statue of the emperor Titus (r. 79–81 C.E.) that was over 23 ft (7 m) tall. Statues of Titus’s father, Vespasian, and his younger brother, Domitian, were probably also housed in the temple. To the east of the temple stood a U-shaped foundation with reliefs depicting sacrificial scenes and weapons. This foundation was the monumental altar for the temple. The perimeter of the terrace was ringed with open colonnades.

The Upper Agora remained the imperial center of Ephesus until the second century C.E. when Trajan and Hadrian began new building projects in the lower city, most notably the immense colonnaded temenos (1,148.3 ft [350 m] east to west by 738.2 ft [225 m] north to south) for the temple near the harbor dedicated to Hadrian in 130 C.E. This temple was Ephesus’s third imperial neokorate. In the fourth century C.E., the Church of Mary was built into the southern colonnade of the temenos.

First-Century C.E. Christians in Ephesus.

No direct archaeological evidence of first-century C.E. Christians exists from Ephesus. New Testament texts mention Ephesus in several places, for example, Paul spent time in Ephesus (1 Cor 15:32; Acts 18:19–21, 19:1—20:1). Paul also wrote a letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus (1 Cor 16:8). Revelation mentions several cities in Asia Minor, including Ephesus, in its opening chapters. Scholars have shown that social contexts in Ephesus help to illuminate its polemic against Roman imperial rule. Some scholars argue that the gospel of John was also written for an Ephesian community, although this identification is disputed. Finally, early second-century C.E. texts hold Ephesus as one center for the early churches (1 Tim, 2 Tim, Eph, 1 Pet). Archaeological materials help to reconstruct the social context in which these texts are embedded. Spaces and objects cannot be mapped directly onto texts, nor do texts explain exactly what happened in certain spaces.

One key example comes from Acts. The Luke–Acts volumes certainly understand that Ephesus was an important center in Asia Minor at the time of Paul. Luke suggests that Paul sailed in and out of the city several times (Acts 18:19, 19:1). Acts 18:24–28 introduces readers to Apollos, a native Alexandrian and a Jew whose relationship with Paul teeters (1 Cor 1:12, 3:4–6, 4:6, 16:12). Priscilla and Aquila, traveling companions of Paul, also spend time in Ephesus according to Acts 18:19–28. Scholars are, however, very cautious when reconstructing historical events within Ephesus from the stories in Acts. For example, Luke, in Acts 19:23–41, tells the story of Demetrius, the silversmith who accuses Paul of destroying the trade in silver Artemis shrines all over Asia Minor. Calling together his compatriots, a near riot ensues as they call a meeting of the ekklēsia, or democratic assembly of citizens in the theater. Eventually a representative of Paul convinces the crowd that their assembly is ill-advised, and the angry mob disperses, leaving Paul to his ministry. While this account of Paul’s single-handed destruction of the trade in Artemis shrines serves Luke’s narrative purposes of aggrandizing Paul’s missionary success, it also draws on the realities of commercial ebbs and flows in the marketplaces throughout Asia Minor, Ephesus included. The archaeological excavations at Ephesus indicate a large silver trade in spaces like the Tetragonos Agora, the Terrace House workshops, and shops at the Flavian temple. The economic dependence of the city on the Artemis Temple also contextualizes the silversmiths’ anger.

One final example from Revelation also shows the use of archaeological contextualization for biblical interpretation. In John’s vision of the fall of Babylon (often understood as Rome), the wealthy merchants who mourn for the fallen city decry the loss of markets for their goods of gold, silver, precious stones, linen and silk in purple and scarlet, ivory, rare woods, incense, myrrh, wine, olive oil, fine milled flour, wheat, livestock, and enslaved human bodies (Rev 18:11–13). This laundry list, when paired with the port tax inscription listing taxes on goods coming into the port, offers just a glimpse into the possible goods that would have arrived and departed from the Ephesian harbor daily. Although John’s list dramatically builds to the inclusion of human beings as one of the merchants’ wares, his implication of the slave trade has a basis in the social world of the Ephesian harbor. Multiple sources, including inscriptions from the harbor and the Tetragonos Agora, attest to a thriving slave trade in the city. Thus, John’s vision of the mourning merchants is clearer for its connections with the realities of the Ephesian port city.



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Katherine A. Shaner