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. It was sadly destroyed for the last time by the fifth century A.D. after a man tried to burn it all 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 he 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 trappings of Roman and Greek cities, including a theater that seated 17,000-25,000 people, odeon, state agora, public toilets, and monuments to the emperors.

Great Thinkers

Ephesus produced and fostered some of the brilliant minds of the ancient world.

 Writes Strabo in his Geography, "Notable men have been born in this city." The philosopher Heraclitus discussed important thoughts on the nature of the universe and humanity. Other alumni of Ephesus include: "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," says Strabo.

Restoration

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

-Edited by Carly Silver