Fast Facts About Ancient Ephesus

Turkey's Hidden Treasure

Artemis of Ephesus
Artemis of Ephesus in the Ephesus Museum.

CC Flickr User Son of Groucho

Ephesus, now Selçuk in modern Turkey, was one of the most famous cities of the ancient Mediterranean. Founded in the Bronze Age and important from ancient Greek times, it contained the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and served as a crossroads between the East and West for centuries.

Home of a Wonder

The Temple of Artemis, constructed in the sixth century B.C., contained wondrous sculptures, including the multi-breasted cult statue of the goddess. Other statues there were constructed by the likes of the great sculptor Phidias. The temple was sadly destroyed for the last time by the fifth century A.D., after a man tried to burn it down centuries earlier.

Library of Celsus

There are visible ruins of a library dedicated to Proconsul Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemeanus, governor of the province of Asia, that housed between 12,000-15,000 scrolls. An earthquake in 262 A.D. dealt a devastating blow to the library, although it wasn't fully destroyed until later.

Important Christian Site

Ephesus wasn't just an important city for the pagans of antiquity. It also was the site of St. Paul's ministry for years. There, he baptized quite a few followers (Acts 19:1-7) and even survived a riot by silversmiths. Demetrius the silversmith made idols for Artemis's temple and hated that Paul was affecting his business, so he caused a ruckus. Centuries later, in 431 A.D., a Christian council was held at Ephesus.

Cosmopolitan

A great city for pagans and Christians alike, Ephesus contained the normal centers of Roman and Greek cities, including a theater that seated 17,000-25,000 people, an odeon, a state agora, public toilets, and monuments to the emperors.

Great Thinkers

Ephesus produced and fostered some of the brilliant minds of the ancient world. As Strabo writes in his Geography, "Notable men have been born in this city... Hermodorus is reputed to have written certain laws for the Romans. And Hipponax the poet was from Ephesus; and so were Parrhasius the painter and Apelles, and more recently Alexander the orator, surnamed Lychnus." Another alumnus of Ephesus, the philosopher Heraclitus discussed important thoughts on the nature of the universe and humanity.

Restoration

Ephesus was destroyed by an earthquake in 17 A.D. then rebuilt and enlarged by Tiberius.