The Grand Theatre

As in all ancient city theatres, the theatre of Ephesus had its seats on the slope (of Mount Pion). This great city of Anatolia had one of the grand theatres of Anatolia constructed to accommodate 25.000 people after the modifications made to it during the Roman Imperial period. It stands on the sacred route between the Magnesia Gate and the Koresos Gate. Theatres were significant centers in urban life and the assembly places of ancient cities, of great importance to the social structure of the city because the theatres not only displayed presentations and artistic contests, but also varius assembies such as the council of the elders, the youth council, public unions and the meeting of theologians. The date when the theater was first constructed is unknown. However, the presence of the theatre in the Hellenistic period is known from the erection of a small fountain (the Hellenistic Fountain) in the Northwestern corner of the stage structure, dating from around 100 B.C., Further this relates to the orchestra, which used to be a water channel, with a seating bench surrounding this structure. It the Augustan period came the rapid expansion of the city of Ephesus and, parallel to the expansion of the city, the theatre was also increased in size. A richly decorated storey was added to the stage between 87 and 92 A.D., from the inscriptions following the construction boom during the rule of Domitianus and probable date of foundation of the Asian state of Anatolia in 133 B.C. Initially the first structure was a small and simple stage and then of Nero. The orchestra was also expanded by adding a low proskenion (front stage) fort he orchestra and a logeion on the stage of the theatre. In this period a second series of seating benches were constructed on top of the vaulted foundations adjacent to the analemmata (side walls). The sating benches were divided with a cross- wise broad path (diazoma) and the upper seating benches were accessed through the stairs from this diazoma.

The lowest seating benches were divided by narrow stairs into individual seating section called kerkides, forming 11 wedge shaped areas. The number of stairs providing Access was doupled in the second and third seating sections, forming 21 kerkides in each. The seating sections of the first level reached 19, the second level 20 and the third level 23. There were stone seats (prohedria) on the second diazoma, which was wider, for the director of the plays and for the judges of the contests that were held in the theater. We learn from the inscriptions the sections of the theater in which each of the following city bodies sat as a group: the city council (boule) (the municipality assembly), gerousia (the council of the elderly), phyle (the clans), the theologes (the lectures of ceremonies) etc.. According to one of the architrave inscriptions, the third seating section was accessed by the stairs constructed on broad and high vaults and which was finished a litte after 100 A.D. One of the long inscriptions in the theatre records that a person named C. Vibius Salutaris made a generous donation to the religious rites in 104 A.D. and he had made the silver statues of Artemis and Emperor Traianus that were displayed during public assemblies. It is known from the inscriptions that the sunshade, whichwas installed in the theatre in the middle of the 2nd century A.D., was repaired in 205-240 A.D. Above the second seating section there was kind of the tribüne (a sacred area dedicated to Nemesis, the God of Contests), which was on the uppermost level of the theatre and had a line of columns in front and the 3rd seation, which was situated on the in-part higher vaulted structures. A second diazoma separated the second and the third seating section. The third seating section was entered though the stairs from the diazoma and from the stairs, constructed with broad and high vaults, in the analemma wall from outside the theatre known, but it is thought to have been before 262 A.D. It is understood from the murals on the stage wall that after the great earthquake in 262 A.D., most od the theatre was destroyed, the top section of the analemma was never used again and a more popülist approach to public entertainment ensued, such as violet games and gladiatorial fights, instead of the former repertory of classical theatre entertainment. Further, the theatre was again damaged by earthquake in 359 and 366 A.D. and was then altered through being included within the defense system cobstructed in the 8th century. Its current appearance is the result of repairs that were made to it during the Late Antique period. According to the Bible, Demetrios Argued aganist the Christian disciple Paulos (Paul) in this theatre and made the Ephesians chant “Artemis of Ephesians is the greatest”. Sometimes concerts were held in this theatre at night.