Photo Essay: Ephesus

Katherine Shaner
Wake Forest University


Oxford Biblical Studies | Photo Essay: Ephesus
Ephesus is located in the western part of Asia Minor, 680 kilometers south of Istanbul along the Aegean Coast of modern-day Turkey. Image copyright Harvard President and Fellows, used with permission.
Ephesus is located in the western part of Asia Minor, 680 kilometers south of Istanbul along the Aegean Coast of modern-day Turkey. Image copyright Harvard President and Fellows, used with permission.

Ephesus is located in the western part of Asia Minor, 680 kilometers south of Istanbul along the Aegean Coast of modern-day Turkey. The excavation site of the ancient city lies five kilometers outside of the modern city of Selçuk. The Athenians first colonized the area around Ephesus in the tenth century BCE. By the time of Alexander the Great, a well-established temple to Cybele/Artemis anchored the city's religious, political, and economic life. Lysimachus, one of Alexander's generals, moved the city away from the Artemis temple to the western slope of the Panayırdağ in the third century CE where it remained until its decline after the sixth century CE. The modern excavation site is concentrated around Lysimachus’ new city which encompassed two hills, the Panayırdağ and the Bülbüldağ. The valley between them creates one of the main roads connecting the governmental center of the city (Upper Agora) with the civic (Triodos) and commercial centers (Tetragonos Agora and Harbor) of the city.

When the Pergamene kingdom was bequeathed to Rome in 133 BCE, the city did not fully welcome Roman rule. After paying a significant tribute to Rome for siding with Antony, Augustus named it the new provincial capital of Asia in 27 BCE. During the next three centuries, the city was a trade center in the eastern Empire and as a center for the cult of the Roman emperors. By the fourth century, Ephesus became a place of Christian pilgrimage, erecting monuments to the communal memory of early Christian figures, including John, Luke, Paul, and Thekla. Over the next few centuries the city slowly fell into decline, the harbor silted up, and earthquakes destroyed much infrastructure. It was largely deserted by the tenth century CE.


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