The City Hall (PRYTANEION)

This is one of the official buildings constructed during the Augustan period in the Government Quarter of the city. There is an entrance to the Prytaneion from the North Stoa. There is a place where food and the sacred altar of fire were located, constructed from ashlar masonry in the center of the main residence which has columns carrying heart shaped relief carvings. Adjacent to the north and west side of this grand hall are smaller chambers, whose particular functions are unknown. The list of the names of the priests (Kuretes) together with religious texts were found, inscribed on the partially raised six Doric columns during the restoration work in front of the Prytaneion. One of the duties of the Kurets was to ensure that the secret fire was kept alight at all times. This eternal flame was understood to symbolize and ensure the cities continued existence. This heart in the Prytaneion is proving that Hestia Bulaia, the goddess of home and the protector of the city, was worshiped in the structure. The other duties of Hestia were to organize the feasts given every year in honor of her twins Artemis and Apollo. On the 6th of May the statue of Artemis was taken from the temple of Artemis by a procession, among which there were the Kurets and, according to specific ceremonial rites. The statue was paraded around the city of Ephesus and then taken back to the temple of Artemis. Attendant by the most important guests of the city and privileged people worthy of this honor, banquets were held related to political – religious events in the grand hall of the Prytaneion and these meetings were financed by the government. In the 2nd century other gods were added to the cult of Hestia, such as Apollo, the god of prophecy and Demeter. Amongst the finds from the 1956 excavation of the Prytaneion, in addition to the inscriptions, which are extremely important for religious history, were the finds of three roman copies of the Artemis Ephesia cult statue, made by emperor Octavianus in the Augustan Period, which were entombed after the 4th century earthquake for religious reasons, to protect the city from future earthquakes (this statues are today displayed in chamber 6 of the Seljuk Museum of Ephesus). After the 4th century earthquake, the columns carrying inscriptions and most of the other construction material from this building were reused in reconstruction work on the Kurets street (the name given to this street comes from this reused columns) and in the scolastikia baths – house.