Ephesus

Ephesus

The history of Ephesus stretches out like a landscape, from its hazy and distant beginnings veiled in myth, to its later glory, as the Roman Capital of Asia.

The name "Ephesos" was probably derived from the word "Apasas", the name for the site in the late Bronze Age. A pre Greek name, most likely meaning bee, it is strongly supported by the popular symbolism of that most famous of goddesses, the Ephesian Artemis. The ancient author Strabo refers to the early populations as "Karians and Lelegians, whilst Pausanias relates the tradition of the Amazons of Thermodon founding the city, and raising a shrine to the goddess, whose protection they sought on several occasions.

A popular belief in its second founding by Androklos son of Kodros, the King of Athens, is attested to by architectural reliefs, which can still be viewed today in the nearby Selcuk/Ephesus museum. Translated into stone, the famous words of the Oracle of Apollo, telling where the city should be built, "a fish shall show you, and a boar will lead the way", celebrate the ancient story. Archaeological evidence has yet to support this myth, although geographical elements from the story share distinct similarities with the geography of the earliest settlements, where the finding of ceramics dating to Mycenean times further demonstrate the antiquity of the site.

Witha total population reaching 200,000 (1st Century AD), Ephesus's successful development was largely due to certain geographical advantages. Inits earliest times, the unusual feature of a beach with fresh water spring, provided ancient sailors with a valuable resource, whilst its possession of a sheltered harbour for ships travelling the Aegean trade routes, and location at the western point of one of the great land trade routes, ensured the city's prosperity.

Today one can witness the "magic" of Roman Ephesus, as do many thousands of overwhelmed tourists each year. But what is not readily apparent are the many stages of its development, including its relocation in Hellenistic times to its present position. These transitions were the result of various influences, ranging from political to geographical.

Unlike many of its neighbours Ephesus, survived many of its political battles intact. Falling to the invading Cimmerians in the 7th century, its capture in the 6th century by King Kroisos, the "Golden Monarch of Lydia" saw its first relocation further inland. The demise of Kroisos was followed by Persian hegemony, as with the rest of Ionia, under the rule of King Cyrus. With the Persian defeat in Greece, Ephesos joined the Delian League, until the "Kings Peace" in 386 BC. once again restored Persian rule.

Alexander the Great

Its liberation by "Alexander the Great in 334 B.C, returned it to Greek rule. In 290 BC, a second relocation and "short lived" change of name by Lysimachos, placed the metropolis further down stream of the Kaystros river's steadily depositing alluviums, to the side of Mount Pion (Panayirdag), the area of its now famous location. By 133 BC Ephesus was part of the Attalid kingdom, bequeathed to Rome, when under Augustus it rightly became capital of the "Roman Province of Asia". The one constant element however, present till the Imperial edicts of Theodosius in 381AD. prohibiting pagan worship, was Ephesus's relationship with its tutelary goddess, Artemis.The sanctity of her temple site was at the very heart of the earliest settlements, and the goddess, unique in her own symbolism, demonstrates many "Archaic" and Asiatic features.

The Greek author Pausanias tells of the first Greek settlers discovering peoples settled peacefully around this spiritual centre under the protection of the goddess. This goddess was then adopted by the Greeks under the guise of their own Artemis. It was a combination of this unchallenged right of sanctuary, with the ancient authority of the goddess, glorified by the successive structures which occupied the site (her temple being one of the seven wonders), which drew pilgrims from the furthest corners of the ancient Near East.

Generating massive wealth and universal fame for the metropolis, the importance of this sacred structure to Ephesus was so, that the city was often described as "Neokoros", or "Temple Keeper". The present day visitor to this sacred site has difficulty imagining the former splendour that once met the ancient eye. Save for a single re-erected column, minus its famous "columnae caelatae" or sculpted drums; the remains are few, the best finds being "preserved" in some of the worlds finest museums. Yet despite the sparse remains, this site retains a sense of peace and tranquillity, an echo of its ancient past.

The famous episode mentioned in Acts19: 23- 41, demonstrated the considerable impact Christianity was having on the cult of Artemis, and how dependant the economy was on revenue generated by visiting pilgrims. The uproar led by Demetrius the silversmith against the teachings of Paul was primarily inspired by the suffering trade in devotional statues of the goddess in her famous shrine.

Today's visitor can stand in this, one of the biggest theatres in Asia Minor, with its astounding total capacity of 24,500, and almost hear the defiant outcry... "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians" With the waning of Roman power in the 3-4 centuries Ephesus itself went into decline. Ostrogoth raids operating from Crimean seaports further compounded this fate. With the destruction of much of the city and the "firing" of the "Artemision (structure"E") in 262 AD, Ephesus never regained its former glory. But as before, a rebuilding programme commenced, and many splendid new buildings were raised. The eventual outlawing of paganism by the edicts of the Christian emperors in the 4 Th century, and the adoption of Christianity as the State Religion, provided the necessity for more Christian buildings. The shattered ruins of the Artemisions great facades, providing a "quarry" of the finest Belevi marble.

Virgin Mary

Justification of the cult of the Virgin Mary as "Theotokos" (God-Bearer) by the Third Ecumenical Council of the Church in 431, added continuity to the ancient idea of the "Divine Mother" at Ephesus. Mary was reputed to have been brought to Ephesus in the care of St John in the first century. Her house, high upon the peaceful wooded mountainside overlooking the ancient metropolis, draws pilgrims and the curious alike. The great double church at Ephesos, named in Mary's honour is still in occasional use by the present day Church.

By the Middle Ages the neglect of the now heavily silted up harbour, not only caused isolation from trade, but malarial sickness to boot, further decline was inescapable. By the late Byzantine era it was an insignificant small town, relocated to the safety of the Ayasoluk hill, which despite a renaissance in the 14-century was finally deserted.