History of Ephesus

The History of Ephesus

Ephesus is within the borders of Selcuk County in the Province of Izmir and was one of the most famous cities of antiquity. It was founded on the shore of the bay into which the river Cayster (Kucuk Menderes) drains and on the adjacent hillside of Mount Pion (Panayir Dagi). The beginning of human settlement at Ephesus occurred during the Neolithic Period, c. 6000 B.C. The Mycenaean Ceramics found on Ayasuluk Hill in excavations carried out in recent years provide evidence that there was a Mycenaean settlement in the area, like other Mycenaean settlements located along the Agean Coastline. It is stated that the location of the settlements belonging to the Bronze Age and Hittite Period were on the mounds around Ephesus and upon Ayasuluk Hill, where the Castle stands today. The name of the city during Hittite Period was Apasas. With the wave of migrations that began from Central Europe 1200 B.C. , the Dorians moved southwards, and the Aeolians and Ionians, who were escaping from the Dorians, moved to the areas south and the north of the river Gediz. The Dorians later settled in the area of Caria in the southwestern corner of Anatolia. The geographer Strabo recorded that both the Carians and the Leleges, the native inhabitants of the area were in Ephesus before the colonists arrived.

According to the mythology, the oracle of Delphi made a prophecy concerning Androklos, son the Athenian King Kadros, who wanted to establish new cities. “The fish will jump, the Boar will flee and there you will establish a city having a bright future.” After Androklos left for Anatolia, he wandered through many places and finally when he was in this region, the oil in the pan spluttered while the fish was being fried, the fish jumped from the pan and with it went the flames which ignited the surrounding bushes. The Boar which was hiding in the bushes that now caught fire began to run away from the flames and Androklos, the leader of the colonists, mounted his horse, pursued the Boar and killed it. The prophecy was fulfilled when he killed the Boar and there Androklos established the Ionian city of Ephesus. Androklos ruled the city as the first Basilid. His rule was successively followed by rule by an oligarchy, by tyranny and than by democracy. The first information about Ephesus dates from 7th century B.C. and Ephesus as a member of the Panionion, the Ionian League, fought with the neighboring cities of Melie and Magnesia in order to increase its power in the area. In 645 B.C. , the city was defended against the assaults of the Cimmerians, who came from Russia under the leadership of Lygdamis. In 545, the Lydian King Croesus laid siege to the city and he captured it. King Croesus gave money to the city for the construction of a temple dedicated to Artemis and he forced the Ionians, who had settled on the hillside of Mount Pion, and the native population, who had settled around the temple, to reside together in the city. In 546 B.C. , following the defeat of King Croesus by the Persians, Ephesus was conquered by the Persian Satrap (Governor) of Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great). In the first years of the Ionian revolts between 499 and 493 B.C. the Persians used the city of Ephesus as a military base during their siege of the city of Sardis. In 494 B.C. the Ephesians killed all the people of Chios who had survived the battle of Lade, because the seaport cities of Chios and Miletus, leaders in the Ionia upheavals, were the largest trade rivals of Ephesus. After his defeat in Greece in 479 B.C. , Xerxes plundered all the temples on the route of his return journey to Persia but he didn’t touch the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.

Ephesus joined the Attic-Delos maritime league under the leadership of Athens and was under the guardianship of Athens from 454 B.C.. Than Ephesus supported Sparta in Peloponnesian War between 431 and 404 B.C. and joined the rebellion against Athens in 412 B.C.. In return for this military support, Ephesus was transformed into a military headquarters by the Spartan King Agesilaus during the period of threats made by Persians after 403 B.C.. In 394 B.C. the Ephesians joined the maritime league of Conon against Sparta. In 387 B.C. the city, which had been captured by the Spartans, was given back to the Persians by Antalcidas and this was followed by the dictatorship of Syrphax and his family. Syrphax was killed when Alexander the Great conquered the city in 334 B.C. and from this date a period of prosperity for Ephesus began which lasted for about 50 years. Alexander offered to help in the reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis, which had been burned down but his offer of assistance politely rejected by the Ephesians, who flatteringly remarked that, “It wouldn’t be appropriate for one God to build a temple for another God”. After the death of Alexander the Great, the city was dominated by Lysimachus, one of Alexander’s Generals who between 286 and 281 B.C. moved the city to the valley between Mouth Koressos and Mouth Pion. He relocated the inhabitants he brought from the cities of Lebedos and Colophon to this valley and he gave the city his wife’s name, Arsinoe, but this new name was almost immediately forgotten. Ephesus was prosperous during the Hellenistic Period. When the Romans defeated the Syrian King Antiochus in 189 B.C., in his last testament Ephesus was left to Rome. The cities of Western Anatolia rebelled against Roman rule after being in cited to this action by Mithridates II, the King of Pontus. The Romans who attacked the Ephesians, killed even those people who had taken refuge in the Temple of Artemis. Suppressing the rebellion with many violent measures , Lucius Cornelius Sulla than punished the city by levying punitive taxes. However, in the Augustan period Ephesus became one the most important cities of Roman Asia and the public works at Ephesus, which began with constructions such as the Triumphal Arch of 3 B.C. and the Aqueduct built between 4 and 14 A.D. , made the city the largest and the most important city of the Roman Empire in Anatolia. In the meantime Christianity, was spreading rapidly in the city. In 57 A.D., the Roman population who were opposed to what St. Paul taught rioted against this new religion in the theatre of Ephesus. Both the house in which the Virgin Mary spent her last days and the place where John the Evangelist died are in vicinity of Ephesus. Ephesus was also one of the seven churches of Asia mentioned in the Bible and the divine revelations came to the Evangelist John in this city. In 262 A.D. the Goths sacked both Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis and after this disaster the city was unable to return to its former prosperity and glory. However, subsequently the Roman Emperor Constantine I, built a bath house and Emperor Arcadius constructed a street extending from the Grand Theatre to the Harbour. In 431 A.D. the third Equmenical Council gathered at the church of Mary in Ephesus where the council condemned the teachings of Nestorius and accepted the definition of the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God (Theotokos). At the beginning of the middle ages the port of Ephesus has silted up, with alluvium deposited by the river Cayster (Kucuk Menderes), and consequently Ephesus was no longer a seaport and center of international trade, considerably reducing its importance. When Ephesus was conquered by the Seljuks in 1090, it was only a small town and after the short-lived golden days of the Aydinogullari Emirates in the 14th century, Ephesus was abandoned. Ephesus had been homed to people who have been acknowledged as important in the world of science and art, such as the dream interpreter Artemidorus, the poet Callinus and Hipponax, the philosopher Herakleitus, the artist Parrhasius and the grammarian Zenodotus.

Highlights of Ephesus