1902 Encyclopedia > Ephesus

Ephesus




EPHESUS, a very ancient city on the west coast of Asia Minor. It was situate on some hills which rose out of a fertile plain near the mouth of the river Cayster, while the temple and precincts of Artemis or Diana, to the fame of which the town owed much of its celebrity, were in the plain itself, at the distance of about a mile. The situation of the city was such as at all times to command a great commerce. Of the three great river basins of western Asia Minor, those of the Hermus, Cayster, and Maeander, it commanded the second, and had ready access by easy passes to the other two, besides being the natural port and landing-place for Sardes, the capital of the Lydian kings.

The earliest inhabitants assigned to Ephesus are the mythical Amazons, who are said to have founded the city, and to have been the first priestesses of the Asiatic Artemis. With the Amazons we hear of Leleges and Pelasgi as in possession. In the 11th century B.C, according to tradition, Audroclus, son of the Athenian king Codrus, landed on the spot with his lonians, and from this conquest dates the history of the Greek Ephesus. But here the lonians by no means succeeded in absorbing the races in possession or superseding the established worship. Their city was firmly established on Coressus and Prion, between which hills lies the city harbour ; but the old inhabitants still clustered in the plain around the sanctuary of Artemis. When, however, we call the deity of Ephesus Artemis, we must guard against misconception. Beally she was a primitive Asiatic goddess of nature of the same class as Mylitta and Cybele, the mother of vegetation and the nurse of wild beasts, an embodiment of the fertility and productive power of the earth. She was represented in art as a stiff erect mummy, her bosom covered with many breasts, in which latter circumstance Guhl sees allusion to the abundance of springs which arise in the Ephesian plain. The organization of her worship, too, of which more below, was totally unlike anything Hellenic. It was only by reason of their preconceived ideas that the lonians found in this outlandish and primitive being a form of Artemis their conductor. The entire history of Ephesus consists of a long series of struggles between Greek and Asiatic manners and religions, between the ideas of the agora and the harbour and those of the precincts of the goddess. This struggle can be traced throughout in the devices of the Ephesian coin, the type of the goddess which appears in it becoming at times Asiatic, at times Hellenic, according to the predominant influence of the period.

For centuries after the foundation of Androclus, the Asiatic influences waxed and the Greek waned. Twice in the period 700-500 B.C. the city owed its preservation to the interference of the goddess,—once when the swarms of the Cimmerians overran Asia Minor, and once when Croesus besieged the town, and only retired after it had solemnly dedicated itself to Artemis, the sign of such dedication being the stretching of a rope from city to sanctuary. Croesus was eager in every way to propitiate the goddess, and as at this time her first great temple was building on the plans of the architect Chersiphron, he presented most of the columns required for the building as well as some cows of gold. It is probable that policy mingled with his piety, his object being to make Ephesus Asiatic in character, a harmonious part of the empire he was forming in hither Asia, and then to use the city as a port and by such means counterbalance the growing power of Miletus and other cities of the coast. The mother-city of Ephesus, Athens, seems to have counterworked his projects by despatching one of her noblest citizens, Aristarchus, to restore law on the basis of the Solonian constitution. The labours of Aristarchus seem to have borne fruit. It was an Ephesian follower of his, Hermodorus, who aided the Decemviri at Borne in their compilation of a system of law. And in the same genera-tion Heraclitus, probably a descendant of Codrus, quitted his hereditary magistracy in order to devote himself to philosophy, in which his name became almost as great as that of any Greek. Poetry had long flourished at Ephesus. From very early times the Homeric poems had found a home and many admirers there; and to Ephesus belong the earliest elegiac poems of Greece, the war songs of Callinus, who flourished in the 7th century B.C., and was the model of Tyrteeus. And yet that on the whole Crcesus was successful in his schemes seems certain. When the Ionian revolt against Persia broke out in the year 500 B.C., under the lead of Miletus, Ephesus remained submissive to Persian rule ; and when Xerxes returned from the march against Greece, he honoured the temple of Artemis, and even left his children behind at Ephesus for safety's sake. After the great Persian defeat, Ephesus for a time paid tribute to Athens, with the other cities of the coast, and Lysander first and afterwards Agesilaus made it their head-quarters.
In the year 356 B.C., on the same night on which Alexander the Great was born, an incendiary named Herostratus, wishing only to make Ins name famous, if even by a monstrous crime, set fire to that temple of Artemis which Chersiphron had planned, and which had been later enlarged or even rebuilt by Paeonius in the 5th century. With the greatest eagerness the Ephesians set about its re-construction on a still more splendid scale. The ladies of the city sold their jewellery, and neighbouring cities sent 1 contributions, many of the massive columns being the gift of kings. Though Alexander the Great, after his victories, offered to pay the whole cost of reconstruction, on condition that he might inscribe his name as dedicator on the pedi-ment, his offer was refused. The temple was rapidly com-pleted, and was considered in after times the most perfect model of Ionic architecture, and one of the seven wonders of the world. The recent excavations of Mr Wood have enabled us to form a fairly exact notion of its details, as will be seen, below. The architect employed was Dinocrates, and Scopas was one of the sculptors employed in the decoration.





Alexander established a democratic government at Ephesus. Soon after his death the city fell into the hands of Lysimachus, who determined to impress upon the city a more Hellenic character, and to destroy the ancient bar-barizing influences. To this end he compelled, it is said by means of an artificial inundation, the people who dwelt in the plain by the temple to migrate to the Greek quarter on the hill now identified as Coressus. which he surrounded by a solid wall. He recruited the numbers of the inhabi-tants by transferring thither the people of Lebedus and Colophon, and finally, in order to make the breach with the past complete, renamed the city after his wife Arsinoe. But the former influences soon reasserted themselves, and with the old name returned Asiatic superstition and Asiatic luxury. The people were again notorious for wealth, for their effeminate manner of life, and for their devotion to sorcery and witchcraft. After the defeat of Antiochus the Great, king of Syria, by the Bomans, Ephesus was handed over by the conquerors to Eumenes, king of Pergamus, whose successor, Attalus Philadelphia, worked the city irremediable harm. Thinking that the shallowness of the harbour was due to the width of its mouth, he built a mole part-way across the latter ; the result, however, was con-trary to his wishes, the silting up of the harbour with sand proceeding now at a greater pace than before. The third Attalus of Pergamus bequeathed Ephesus with the rest of his possessions to the Boman people, when it became the capital of the province of Asia, and the residence of the proconsul. Henceforth Ephesus remained subject to the Bomans until the barbarian invasions, save for a short period, when, at the instigation of Mithradates, the cities of Asia Minor revolted and massacred their Boman residents. The Ephesians even, dragged out and slew those Bomans who had fled to the precincts of Artemis for pro-tection, notwithstanding which they soon returned from their new to their former masters, and even had the effront-ery to state, in an inscription preserved to this day, that their defection to Mithradates was a mere yielding to superior force. Sulla, after his victory over Mithradates. brushed away their pretexts, and after inflicting on them a very heavy fine, told them that the punishment fell far short of their deserts. In the civil wars of the 1st century B.C. the Ephesians were so unfortunate as twice to support the unsuccessful party, giving shelter to, or being made use of by, first Brutus and Cassius and afterwards Antony, for which partisanship or weakness they paid very heavily in fines.

All this time the city was gradually growing in wealth and in devotion to the service of Artemis, a devotion which had become quite fanatical at the time of St Paul's visit. The story of his doings there need not be repeated ; the supplement of them is, however, very suggestive,—the burning, namely, of books of sorcery to a great value. Addiction to the practise of occult arts was always general in the city. The Christian church which St Paul planted was nurtured by St John, and is great in Christian tradition as the nurse of saints and martyrs. It was, however, long before the spread of Christianity threatened the cultus of Artemis. The city was proud to be termed neocorus, or servant of the goddess. Boman emperors vied with wealthy natives in lavish sifts to her. nne Vibius Salutaris among the latter presenting a quantity of gold and silver images to be carried annually in procession. Ephesus contested stoutly with Smyrna and Pergamus the honour of being called the first city of Asia ; each city appealed to Pome, and we still possess rescripts in which the emperors endeavour to mitigate the bitterness of the rivalry. The Goths destroyed both city and temple in the year 262 A.D. ; and although the city revived, it never recovered its former splendour. A general council of the church was held there in 341; but by the 15th century it had sunk into awretched village, the name of which, Ayasaluk, is now known to be a corruption of the title of St John, Hagios Theologos. The ruins of the temple, after serving as a quarry to the beautifiers of Constantinople, the Turkish conquerors, and the mediaeval Italians, were finally covered deep with mud by the river Cayster, and its true site was unsuspected until the laborious excavations of Mr Wood were rewarded with success in the year 1869.

The organization of the temple hierarchy, and its customs and privileges, retained throughout an Oriental and some-what ascetic tinge. The priestesses of the goddess, termed Melissae or bees, were virgins, and her priests were com-pelled to celibacy. The chief among the latter, who bore the Persian name of Megabyzus and the Greek title Neocorus. was doubtless a power in the state as well as a dignitary of religion. Besides these, there was a vast throng of dependants who lived by the temple and its services,— theologi, who may have expounded sacred legends, hymnodi, who composed hymns in honour of the deity, and others, together with a great crowd of hierodidce who performed more menial offices. The making of shrines and images of the goddess occupied many hands. To support this greedy mob offerings were flowing in in a constant stream from votaries and from visitors, who contributed sometimes money and sometimes statues and works of art. These latter so accumulated that the temple became a rich museum, among the chief treasures of which were the figures of Amazons sculptured in competition by Phidias, Polycletus, Cresilas, and Phradmon, and the painting by Apelles of Alexander holding a thunderbolt. The temple was also richly endowed in lands, and possessed the fishery of the Selinusian lakes, with other large revenues. But perhaps the most important of all the privileges possessed by the goddess and her priests was that of asylum. Fugitives from justice or vengeance who reached her precincts were perfectly safe from all pursuit and arrest. The boundaries of the space possessing such virtue were from time to time enlarged. Mithradates extended them to a bow-shot from the temple in all directions, and Mark Antony imprudently allowed them to take in part of the city, which part thus became free of all law, and a haunt of thieves and villains. Augustus, while leaving the right of asylum untouched, diminished the space to which the privilege belonged, and built round it a wall, which still surrounds the ruins of the temple at the distance of about a quarter of a mile, bearing an inscription in Greek and Latin, which states that it was erected in the proconsulship of Asinius Gallus, out of the revenues of the temple. Besides being a place of worship, a museum, and a sanctuary, the Ephesian temple was a great bank. Nowhere in Asia could money be more safely bestowed than here; therefore both kings and private persons placed their treasures under the guardianship of the goddess.
The government of the city is a matter of some obscurity. We know that for some time after its founda-tion it was ruled by kings of the race of Codrus, and after-wards by archons who belonged to the same stock. In the time of Lysander it was under an oligarchy; Alexander re-established the democracy. We have the titles of several magistrates in imperial times, but without exactly knowing their functions. The tumult raised by Demetrius against Paul was quelled by the town-clerk or recorder (ypaju/iarei's). Inscriptions mention archons, strategi, gymnasiarchs, pcedonomi, and Asiarchs, besides the religious functionaries ; but no doubt the chief power rested with the senate and the demos.





The topography of Ephesus was but very imperfectly known until the excavations conducted by Mr J. T. Wood on behalf of the trustees of the British Museum during the years 1863-74. He first explored the Odeum and the Great Theatre situate in the city itself, and in the latter place had the good fortune to find an inscription which indicated to him in what direction to search for the temple, for it stated that processions came to the city from the temple by the Magnesian gate, and returned by the Coressian. These two gates were next identified, and following up that road which issued from the Magnesian gate, Mr Wood lighted first on the tomb of Androclus, and afterwards on

Scheme of Temple of Artemis or Diana at Ephesus.

an angle of the peribolus wall of the time of Augustus. He next found and excavated the site of the temple of Artemis. He found remains of more than one temple; three separate floors being clearly distinguishable one above the other. Of these the lowest consisted of a layer of charcoal between two of putty. It is probable that this was the floor of the temple of Croesus's time, which Chersiphron was said to have made with charcoal and fleeces. Above this lowest floor were two others of marble, which would seem to have belonged, one to the temple burned by Herostratus, the other to that erected on its ruins immediately afterwards. Of this latter building the remains were sufficient to enable Mr Wood to restore it with considerable accuracy. The dimensions of it, taken at the lowest step of the flight which led up to the peristyle on all sides, were 418 feet 1 inch by 239 feet 4J inches. The number of the external columns was 100, their height about 56 feet. It is observable that the dimensions given by Pliny seem, to be in every case incorrect. The most re-markable fact about the columns is that many of them were sculptured with figures in high relief to a man's height above the ground ; one was, we are told, chiselled by the sculptor Scopas, and certainly the existing fragments of sculptured columns now recovered and preserved in the British Museum are not the work of common hands. The fragments of sculptured frieze found in the excavations would seem to prove that the frieze was adorned with representations of Hercules, Theseus, and the Amazons. The cymatium was decorated with the conventional honey-suckle ornament, intercepted by fine lions' heads. The roof was covered with flat marble tiles. The whole edifice was octastyle, having eight columns at the ends, and dipteral, with two rows of columns all round. Fragments were also found which appear to belong to the 6th century B.C., and as some of these are parts of sculptured columns, it would seem that the temple of Chersiphron had set to the later building the example of cutting reliefs on the main pillars.

The best works on Ephesus are those of Guhl, Falkener, Ernst Curtius, and J. T. Wood. The first of these writers has collected most of the ancient authorities; the last has been successful in topographical researches. The accompanying plans are from his book, and are inserted by his kind permission, and that of Messrs Longmans and Co., publishers. The first gives the general plan of the city, and the road to the temple. The second gives the scheme of the temple, the fragments of walls and columns found by Mr Wood in position being represented black. (P. G.)



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