A few thoughts on Ephesus
by HM, translated from german by Diana Marian
To this name 102 years of Austrian archaeological research are closely linked. The main concern of the Austrian Archaeological Institute founded in 1897 was the excavations in Ephesus. Is it only patriotic pride that overwhelms us when hearing this Greek-Hittitian name of a now Turkish place? No, for Ephesus is more than a digging site. This name stands for a whole culture, one of the most important ones in the ancient Ionian and Roman Empires, with its special glamour, a life-style and a world well defined in itself with its eventful and impressive history. This history spans over two thousand years beginning with the Hittite Empire and the Mycenaean civilisation around 1500 BC and ending with the first Turkish settlement around AD 700.
Ephesus is probably most strongly connected with the name Artemis. Starting from 600 BC the Greek goddess of fertility became the main figure of the Ephesian Pantheon. The Artemesium - one of the largest Ionic temples and central pilgrimage site for the entire Hellenic world - was declared one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. With columns 18 m high and a cella flanked by two rows of columns, the Artemesium is one of the few still existing Ionic temples of Asia Minor although little is still visible today.To the antique admirer the edifice offered the experience of the merge of two worlds: classic Greece, with its ideals of beauty and balance, and Asia, with monumentality and richness. One can say that this Ionic architecture exhibits in the best way the "double" position of Ephesus (between two cultures - the Mediterranean and the Asian).
Important in the history of thought, but less known in relation with Ephesus is Heraclitus "the dark" Contemporary with the construction of Artemesium, the philosophy of Heraclitus with its panta rhei
is a milestone of classic philosophy. He was the first philosopher to contradict Parmenides` theory of impossible motion. The Greek ontology and gnoseology is unthinkable without him. Is it only a coincidence that it was in Ephesus that the constant change of all things was recognized?
Famous personalities of Greek and Roman history have connected their names time and again with Ephesus: Alexander The Great left his mark upon Ephesus during his campaign against Persia; Julius Caesar and later Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra - well known from Shakespeare’s drama - stayed in Ephesus.
The city of Ephesus reaches its absolute peak in culture, architecture and economy in the Hellenic period and later as Roman province (included in Asia). During the 3rd
century BC the city is extended by a settlement built after a Hippodamian plan (Arsinoe - in the time of Emperor Lysimachus); under Augustus is being got renovated in Roman-Hellenistic style. During the 2nd
century BC Ephesus becomes the fourth largest city of the Eastern Roman Empire, after Alexandria, Antiochia and Athens. This is the time when the city is famous for its Artemesium, the library of Celsus, the Mouseion University and its medical school.
Ephesus is also closely connected to Christian history: the famous letters of Apostle Paul to the "Ephesians" give evidence of his stay in Ephesus; the Christian community of the city, as the one in Antiochia, is considered the oldest of its kind; the Revelation was written in Ephesus; finally, under Constantine II, the son of Constantine, Ephesus becomes a Christian city. The cult of the Virgin Mary, as it is known today, has its origin in Ephesus in the year AD 431. The Third Ecumenical Council decided there that Mary should be regarded as God-Bearer
and not only Christ-Bearer
The rich and mutable history of Ephesus becomes built architecture. Except for written evidence, almost everything in archaeology is architecture. The present ruins are thus in close interaction with the rich history of Ephesus. Their overlappings, destructions, and changes point to the succession of glamorous and dramatic periods.