Colonnaded road, Ephesus, Ephesos

Baths of Scholisticia and Brothel, from NW, Ephesos

North entrance to the Commercial Agora, from S and inside agora, Ephesos

Overall view of Fountain of Trajan, from N, Ephesos

Facade, Temple of Hadrian, Ephesus, Ephesos

Sarcophagi in field NE and outside the Magnesian Gate, from S, Ephesos

Summary: An important Ionian city and later seat of the Roman governor of Asia Minor.
Type: Fortified city and port
Region: Ionia








Ephesos was originally established at the base of Mount Pion, on a natural harbor at the delta of the Cayster river. The second site, the unfortified late Archaic and Classical city was farther inland, closer to the location of modern Selcuk. With the exception of some Archaic graves, there has been little exploration of the Archaic or Classical settlements.

The location selected by Lysimachos at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. is represented by the ruins visible today. Hellenistic Ephesos was planned on a grid system at the W base of Mt. Pion and in the narrow valley S of Mt. Pion and NW of Mt. Koressos. The city was enclosed by massive fortification walls reaching a height of 10 m and extending over a distance of 9.6 km. The ancient harbor lay to the NW of the city center and was approached by a broad, straight avenue. This 600 m long avenue was provided, at the start of the 5th century A.D., with flanking porticoes and mosaic sidewalks, marble pavement, and 100 street lamps.

The harbor area was dominated by a large gymnasium and bath complex, warehouses, and a long narrow building, thought to have been a grain exchange. The city's center, at the E end of the long avenue (the Arcadian Way), contained the 24,000 seat theater, the commercial or lower agora, the Library of Celsus, and possibly the official residence of the Roman governor.

A non-aligned major street (the Street of Curetes or the Marble Way) follows a winding route between Mt. Pion and Mt. Koressos to the upper agora (the State Agora) and the Magnesian Gate. This section of the city contained the East Gymnasium, Baths of Varius, the Bouleuterion, the Prytaneion, and most of the temples, monuments, fountains and other public buildings of the city. In the main part of the city, between the lower and the upper agora, the Street of Curetes separates luxurious residential houses to the SW from the brothel and public baths and latrine to the the NE. At the extreme N of the city was a fourth large gymnasium and the Roman stadium.

On the lower NE slope of Mt. Pion, beyond the city walls, are a rustic sanctuary of the Mother Goddess and the Christian shrine of the Seven Sleepers. From the Magnesian Gate a sacred way led to the Artemision, 1 km to the NE. The structures at this sanctuary consisted of the monumental temple to Artemis and a single large altar.


Traditionally, Androklos, a son of the legendary king Kodros of Athens, led a colony of Ionian Greeks to found Ephesos at the mouth of the Cayster river. The Ionians apparently settled peacefully among the local inhabitants and integrated the worship of Artemis into the local cult of Cybele. The new fortified Greek city was established on the shore at the base of Mount Pion, ca. 1 km W of the Cybele cult center.

The foundation date for the Cybele sanctuary is unknown, but the transformation of Cybele into an Asian Artemis appears to have been completed by as early as the 8th century B.C. The sanctuary, which became known as the Artemision, underwent three building phases between the 8th and 6th centuries B.C. before the Archaic temple of ca. 560-500 B.C. was constructed. The Archaic temple of Artemis was the largest building in the Archaic Greek world and the first large structure to be built entirely in marble.

In 356 B.C. the temple was burnt by a madman. The Ephesians rebuilt the temple in the original dimensions, but on a higher base. The greatest sculptors of the age worked on the temple and it was completed nearly a century later. The temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The sanctuary of Artemis was plundered in A.D. 263 by the Goths and extensively quarried for building stone in the early Christian era.

The city of Ephesos, which benefited from its association with the sanctuary and from its favorable position at the center of the W coast of Asia Minor, flourished as a result of trade between the Aegean and the large asian cities of the interior.

In the 7th century B.C. Ephesos fell to the Cimmerians and in the 6th century it came under the control of the Lydians. King Croesus demolished the city walls and forced the inhabitants of Ephesos to build a new unfortified city farther inland. After the fall of Croesus, Ephesos, with the rest of Ionia, became part of the Persian Empire. Following the defeat of the Persians in Greece, Ephesos became a member of the Delian League. The King's Peace of 386 B.C. caused the city to revert to Persian control for a short period until the conquest of Asia Minor by Alexander the Great.

At ca. 290 B.C. Lysimachos compelled the Ephesians to abandon their site and to construct a new fortified city at the shore, in the area between Mounts Pion and Coressus. Lysimachos' city included over 9 km of fortification walls, a sheltered harbor, and extensive wharves and warehouses. Today the site is 5 km from the sea due to the silting action of the Cayster river.

During the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. control of Ephesos changed hands frequently. In 133 B.C. it was part of the Attalid kingdom given over to Rome. Ephesos became the capital of the Roman Province of Asia and one of the largest and most important commercial centers of the eastern Empire. Ephesos was granted special honors by Rome and many monumental buildings and architectural adornments were added to the city. Through Roman engineering the harbor was kept open despite the silting of the river.

In the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. the prosperity of Ephesos declined with the decline of Roman power. Plague and raids by the Goths were followed by raids by the Arabs. The harbor was allowed to silt up and trade was greatly weakened. In the 4th century A.D. Christianity was adopted as the state religion and two important early Church councils were held at Ephesos in the 5th century A.D. By the 6th century A.D. most of the inhabitants had moved to the more secure position at Ayasluk, near the former site of the Artemision.


The location of the Artemision was discovered by J.T. Wood in the mid 19th century and his work there was followed by Hogarth at the beginning of the 20th century. Austrian excavations at the Artemision and at Ephesos began first in 1896 and continue today.

Sources Used:

PECS, 306-310; McDonagh 1989, 261-285

Other Bibliography:

RE v (1905) 2773ff. RE Suppl. xii (1970) 248ff, 297ff, 1588ff. C.H. Picard, Ephèse et Claros (1922). F. Miltner, Ephesos, Stadt der Artemis und des Johannes (1958). W. Alzinger, Die Stadt des 7. Weltwunders (1962); Sonderschriften d. ÖAI (1972). W. Alzinger and D. Knibee, Ephesos, Ein Rundgang durch die Ruinen (1972). J. Keil, Führer durch Ephesos (1964, 5th ed.). E. Akurgal, Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey (1969) 142-71. J.T. Wood, Discoveries at Ephesus (1877). D.G. Hogarth, Excavations at Ephesus (1908).<