The History of Ancient City of Ephesus
Ephesus Ancient City Map, History, Facts
The ancient city of Ephesus is one of the most well preserved ancient cities in the world. Even though it’s possible to find ancient cities in Europe that are comparable to Ephesus, without a doubt, Ephesus is the most significant ancient city in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Ancient city of Ephesus was under the influence Cybele, the goddess of fertility. Cybele evolved into the Greek goddess Artemis due to the impact of Ionian city-states, so much so that, the greatest temple dedicated to Artemis was erected in Ephesus. What makes the ancient city of Ephesus so famous is the existence of Temple of Artemis in history.
Unfortunately, there is not much left of the temple these days. However, the solemnity of the Temple of Artemis and the loyalty of the people of Ephesus to this temple became a legend.
Ephesus Ancient City Map, History, Facts
Foundation of Ephesus & King Androcles
Ephesus and Istanbul show similarity in the way they were founded according to the legends. The story of both cities began with the mysterious prophecies of an oracle in Delphi, Greece.
According to the legend, Androcles, the son of the King Codrus, decided to leave Athens upon his father’s death. In ancient Greece, an advice of the oracle of the Temple of Apollo would be sought before making such important decisions. So, Androcles told the oracle that he wanted to make a new start, but didn’t know where to go.
The oracle advised Androcles to go to the East. He told him to cross the Aegean sea and land there. The oracle said, “The fish will give you a signal and the pig will guide you.” Naturally, Androcles and his company didn’t know what to make of what the oracle said. They had to do cross the Aegean Sea to understand what the oracle meant.
Androcles crossed the Aegean Sea and his ship anchored at the bay where Kucuk Menderes River meets the sea. The scouts exploring the area got hungry. They did fishing and started cooking the fish they caught. At that moment, one of the fish jumped to the floor. Then the pig waiting among the bushes till that moment whisked the fish away and ran. Androcles got on his horse and went after the pig. The pig ran up to a hill and Androcles hit the pig with his arrow. So, the prophecy of the oracle came true. The fish gave the signal and the pig guided them. The city where Androcles founded his new city was where he killed the pig.
Ephesus Ancient City
The Union of Ionia
The new city of Ephesus was founded on a commanding hill to protect it from the attacks via the sea and the land. Therefore, the city developed quickly and grew rich as it was not vulnerable to invasion. Gradually, Ephesus became an important part of Ionia Independent City States that was composed of 12 city-states. Ephesus showed tremendous improvement in philosophy and became the center of the intellectual world.
The Cult of Artemis
In Ephesus, a temple was erected to honor Artemis, the Greek goddess of the Moon and the Hunting. After 800 B.C., Ephesus became a religious center and an important location on the pilgrimage route.
Temple of Artemis
The King of Lydia, Croesus
In 800 B.C., the King of Lydia, Croesus set his eyes on the prosperous and rich Ephesus. He wanted to conquer the city and took advantage of its resources.
However, Ephesians had such deep trust in the goddess Artemis that they didn’t even build strong walls to protect the city. They thought Artemis would protect the city from the temple that was 1,200 meters far from the city center.
Due to the almost non-existing defense of the city, the King of Lydia seized the city easily. Some of the Ephesians were exiled from the city and they were forced to live somewhere nearby the temple. The Lydian rule began in the city.
King Croesus showed the respect that the Temple of Artemis deserved, so much so that, he allocated a budget to make this temple more beautiful from his legendary wealth.
The Persian Invasion
The Persians began to invade Anatolia from the East in 550 B.C. They seized all the Ionian cities on the Aegean coast and they vandalized these cities. However, thanks to the diplomatic success of the Ephesians, the city of Ephesus was saved from being ruined. The fact that Ephesus was a rich portal city was another factor that helped it escape from destruction. Ephesians persuaded the Persian King not to invade the city by promising to pay high taxes in return.
The Destruction of the Temple of Artemis
An Ephesian lunatic named Herostratus set the Temple of Artemis to the fire to put his stamp on history and it caused an irreparable damage to the temple. The temple had to be rebuilt and the Ephesians used their every means to do so.
Alexander the Great
The same year that the new temple was supposed to be built, Alexander the Great arrived at Anatolia with his army that’s greatness was unprecedented to that date. He was chasing the King of the Persians and it was the beginning of his military campaign that would last till India.
Iskender fell in love with Ephesus immediately and he was amazed by the beauty of the temple. He ordered the restoration of the temple and he said he would cover the expenses himself on condition that the temple was dedicated to him. However, the Ephesians rejected this offer with a smart move. They made sure it continued to be known as the Temple of Artemis by claiming that a temple that was dedicated to another god or goddess before couldn’t be dedicated to another one as it would overshadow the name of the former one.
The restored Temple of Artemis put its mark on the world thanks to its beauty during the Hellenistic era, so much so that it even entered the list of Seven Wonders of the World.
Ephesus Ancient City Map
Diadochi Period after Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great founded a magnificent world empire. However he died at a young age unexpectedly. The Kingdom of Macedon that Alexander the Great shaped was shared among his generals after his death. The region where Ephesus was located fell under the rule of the general named Lysimachus.
Lysimachus was a quite skilled ruler. He realized that the port was filled with alluvium and decided to move the city to another location. Otherwise, Ephesus would be in danger of losing its feature as a trade port city. However, the Ephesians were obstinate and insisted on staying where they were. Therefore, Lysimachus blocked the sewers of the city to force them to move. Ephesians had to cope with illnesses, dirt and heavy smell due to the blocked sewers and they decided to move although involuntarily.
Lysimachus also built the city walls that Ephesus never had and the city turned into a well-protected one.
The city of Ephesus fell under the rule of Roman Empire like the rest of Anatolia. During the rule of Nerva-Antonine Dynasty in the 1st and 2nd century A.D., the prosperity of the city hit the top. Ephesus was rebuilt by the Romans in a modern style and that turned Ephesus into a breathtakingly beautiful city.
The famous Celsius Library was also built during the Roman Era. Ephesus became more important in time, so much so that it became the capital of the Asian states of the Roman Empire.
Also, the Greek goddess Artemis became to be known as goddess Artemis, the equivalent of goddess Artemis in Pagan belief.
Temple of Hadrian
The Impact of Christianity in Ephesus
Following Jesus Christ’s death, his disciples traveled all around the Anatolia and the rest of the world to spread Christianity. And it’s believed that Saint John and Jesus Christ’s mother, Virgin Mary, came to Ephesus and lived there. Therefore, Ephesus became an important city for Christians on the pilgrimage route.
Curetes Street In Ephesus
The Fall of Ephesus
Although its port was cleared thanks to the great efforts of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, getting far from the sea and the port reduced the importance of Ephesus gradually. Ephesus continued to be a settlement area until 16th century during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire eras. However, it continued losing its glamour and importance over the years.
In our article we have mentioned about the Greco-Roman heritage of Ephesus and Western Turkey. If you would like to check the history of Ephesus surroundings (Anatolia, Asia Minor) during the Byzantine Empire period, you may check the Byzantine Empire Map article to get comprehensive information about Ephesus and Aegean Sea (Ionia) surroundings.
Ephesus Ancient City Map, History, Facts Blog Article By Serhat Engul