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Act 19:1, "Paul having passed thru the upper country, came to Ephesus." His second journey was principally concerned with his work in Corinth. As he was returning to Jerusalem and Antioch he stopped by Ephesus and made a promise to the Christians there that he would return. Return he did, and on his third journey he spent almost 3 years in the city of Ephesus. This great story is told in Acts 19. His farewell address to the elders is found in Acts 20.
We are standing on top of a hill, looking toward the south. Before us is a green valley. This whole area is connected with the history of Ephesus. There have been 4 different sites for Ephesus. The Greeks probably built the first city of Ephesus about 1,000 years before Christ. It was on the lower slopes of the mountains we see on the horizon. That is Mount Pion. On the other side of it are the ruins of Ephesus No. 3. We are interested in those ruins, because that was Ephesus in the time of Paul and the early church. Ephesus No. 2 would have been in the valley, and Ephesus No. 4 was in the area where we are standing.
This is the Gate of Persecution. It is on the hill. It is the entrance for 2 churches. One of these was built to honor the Virgin Mary and the other, the apostle John. According to tradition, Mary was taken to Ephesus, because she was in the care and keeping of the apostle John after the death of Jesus. John was exiled to the isle of Patmos, not far from the coast of Ephesus. If tradition is correct he probably was released and returned to Ephesus. Tradition says he wrote his gospel in Ephesus. Justinian, the Byzantine emperor who reigned from 527 to 565 A.D., and his wife, Theodora, built a large and beautiful church here.
This is typical of the fine stone decorations that came from the church that Justinian built. White marble was one of the building materials.
In 431 AD an gathering of religious leaders, called the Council of Ephesus, was held in this area. The church is not where the debate was held, but the Bishops that were invited were from all over the Roman Empire, and they met here to debate the nature of Jesus Christ. They were concerned with the incarnation of Jesus, whether he was God or man or both, and with the virgin birth. The Bishop of Constantinople wanted the title "Mother of Christ" given to Mary. Cyril of Alexander wanted the title "Mother of God" given to Mary. The vote was taken on the Day of Pentecost in 431 and the resolution was passed that Mary should be known as the Mother of God.
The entrance to the church that Justinian built shows what a magnificent structure it must have been. Later people used much of the original stone in other buildings.
This is more white marble and some of the larger stones that were in this church. During the Byzantine era, churches were built in many places where an important event was thought to have happened. This church was built primarily because the apostle John was thought to have been buried here.
We are looking down at the supposed tomb of the apostle John. People have always been fond of traditions. People in a particular area would like to think that someone important was buried there or lived there or had done something important there, but there is no evidence to support the idea that John died there.
This is a baptistery. These are found in practically all of the early church buildings around the Bible lands. This one is in a good state of repair. You can see the wide area which is where the person doing the baptizing would be standing and the narrow area at the end of the baptistery where the candidate would stand. He would be leaned back, and his head and body would be completely submerged in the water.
This well-preserved mosaic floor is typical of Byzantine architecture. From the 4th century AD to about the 8th century the Greek Church architects decorated floors and walls with beautiful mosaics. A mosaic is made up of cut pieces of stone, sometimes of marble or glass, and the colorful designs make a beautiful pattern on the floors and walls.
From the entrance of the church of Saint John the Divine, we can see the top of a small mountain that is called the Castle Seljuk. The village of Seljuk is built on the site of where Ephesus No. 4 would have been. This castle was probably built around 500 AD, the same time the church was built by Julius Tenenya. This church served as a fortress in the times of the Crusaders while much of the Bible lands were being reclaimed by European fighters who were sent by the Pope to take back the land from the Muslims and the Turks.
The word "Cybele" is also applied to this castle. It is at the very top of this small mountain called "Ayasoluk". The early people called this church "Hagios Theologos". The two Greek words mean “special word of God”. Over the years, it has been corrupted into the Turkish language and has become "Ayasoluk". So this is the hill of Ayasoluk or the castle of Ayasoluk.
We are looking at the southwest corner of the hill of Ayasoluk. You see the green valley stretching before us, and immediately before us is the Mosque of Isabey. This very old and important mosque is a Muslim house of worship, a place of prayer and study and meditation. This is built at the very edge of where the city of Ephesus No. 2 would have been built and it was in this valley, in this large expanse of green, that the Temple of Diana was located.
This great pit is where the excavation for the Temple of Diana was made. We are disappointed that there is nothing left there today. The temple was destroyed by a fire on the night of the birth of Alexander the Great, in 365 BC. A madman by the name of Herostratus burned it to the ground, hoping his name would be recorded in history books for this deed. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was finally destroyed by Augustus I in 160 AD and never rebuilt. It was excavated by the English archaeologist, John Turtle Wood. In 1870 he uncovered its ruins. This area was at that time a marsh. It was here at the foot of Mount Ayasoluk. It was four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens, and it was adorned by beautiful works of art. It contained an image of some kind that the people claimed had fallen from heaven. Luke makes reference to it in Acts 19:35. It could have been a meteorite. When Wood first excavated, he dug 75 trial pits and was unable to find it. While clearing the theater at Ephesus, he came across an inscription that indicated that the images had been carried from the theater to the temple, and that the procession went from the city through the Magnesian Gate. He found the gate and the 35-foot roadway to the temple. He then came to the boundary wall of the temple itself. Exactly 6 years from the day he began; he found what he was looking for. He discovered the temple ruins on December 31, 1869. They were at the depth of 20 feet, and you can still see part of the excavation here. He worked for more than 5 years and took all the relics he had found to the British Museum.
Paul would have seen this same temple in its prime. Many important persons came to the temple. Alexander offered money to the Ephesians in the rebuilding of the temple. It is said that it was destroyed 7 times and rebuilt 7 times.
At the little museum in the town of Seljuk is one of several statues of Diana. This picture would indicate that she was many-breasted. Some say that these are ostrich eggs. Both would have been signs of fertility. Hundreds of priests were connected with the temple. A multitude of priestesses were dedicated to prostitution in this temple service. A festival in the spring was called the Artemision, which was a period of one month that would correspond to our March and April. It was devoted especially to the worship of Artemis. Actually, the word Artemis better translates the name of this goddess, since Diana is Roman for this name. There were athletic events, feasts, drama readings, and musical contests. Ephesus was very proud that she was known throughout the world as the temple keeper of the goddess Diana or Artemis. Acts 19 bears testimony to this.
The only relics of the Temple of Artemis today are found in the British Museum. Let us notice these facts about this great temple. The temple platform was 239 feet wide by 418 feet long. This is longer and wider than a football field. A flight of 10 steps led up to the pavement of the platform on which the temple stood. There was a colonnade around the temple. The temple itself was 180 feet wide and 377 feet long. This is still larger than a football field. The roof was supported by 117 60 foot columns. These were 6 feet in diameter and 36 of them were sculpted at the base with life-size figures. White, yellow, red and blue marble, as well as gold decorations, were used in this great temple.
This is an example of the kind of life-size statues that decorated 36 of the bases of these great columns.
This is one of the capitals. The capital was at the top of a column and was the portion that supported a beam or even the roof itself. These are very beautifully decorated. We are going to find a number of buildings in our study of the ancient Bible lands that show what great architects and artisans and workers of stone they were.
Another one of the capitals displays the variety of decoration of the temple. Artemis was the mother goddess of fertility, and there have been more than 30 places where archaeologists have discovered that she was worshipped. So when we think of the silversmiths who worked together with Demetrius, we can see that they had a very profitable business. People came from all over the world to worship in the Temple of Diana or Artemis.
This close-up of the last capital is further evidence of the magnificence of the Temple of Diana. Ephesus was probably the number 4 city in the Roman Empire. Rome was number 1. Alexandria, Egypt was number 2, Antioch of Syria, number 3, and Ephesus, number 4.
We are looking at the valley again from the hill of Ayasoluk. Ephesus #1 would have been on the slopes before us on Mount Pion. On the other side, we are going to begin our journey to see Ephesus of the time of Paul. The ruins are some of the most magnificent of all the Bible lands. We are looking toward the south, and to our right in ancient times the harbor of Ephesus would have come to this spot. We will begin our journey on the opposite side of this mountain and proceed to the west, and there we will point out where the harbor would have been.
This map was erected at the entrance to the ruins of Ephesus. If you will look at the lower center of the map, you will see a circle that says, “You are here.” From there, we will proceed to the semi-circular spot. That will be the odium. It is a covered theater. Continuing to your left, you will see a dotted area which is a street. It will turn and go directly toward the top of the map almost to the north. You can see the key over to the left. There you can see another amphitheater. We are most interested in this theater. Our journey will begin at this circle and will cover more than a mile as we go down this street to the left. The street will head northwest and then turn a little more north and head toward the theater. Proceeding out of the theater will be another important street. It is a long straight line heading almost west.
This street will take us toward the west. We are going to be passing through some of the most interesting ruins in all the Bible lands. Ruins have been reconstructed over a period of about 70 years. Excavations are still being made in these ruins of Ephesus.
Toward the right side of this street are the Roman baths. The Romans were very fond of this type of recreation. They built large rooms and filled them with hot and cold water, much like our sauna rooms today. This was a form of relaxation for them. They considered it to have health giving benefits.
The Roman baths have not been completely excavated. Behind the large columns excavations will probably uncover even large baths.
This excavation indicates that this portion of the Roman baths had water pipes coming into it. Several of them are visible, but if you will look in the center of the picture, you will see a clay pipe sticking out of the excavation. It amazes us that those ancient people were able to make clay pipes very much like what we have today.
We begin our journey on this wide roadway. We are on the eastern side of Ephesus. Most of our journey will be toward the west. We will come to the end of this great street and turn right toward the theater. We will come to a junction which will be the center of the city.
When the Greeks built a road for horses and chariots, they usually added colonnades, which were covered walkways on each side of the road, where people could have shelter from sun and rain. Shops and houses and other buildings would have been outside the colonnade.
When we look at ruins, we often wonder how much of it has been reconstructed. Most archaeologist are very honest in leaving what they find without reconstruction If an area has been reconstructed, they will tell you, or sometimes it is very obvious that a portion has been reconstructed. What we are looking at here are ruins that have been stacked right back where they have been excavated. Behind this you can see how much more can be excavated. No doubt there are buildings in the mountains immediately behind this.
The 2 columns standing in the distance form a portion of a building called the prytaneion. This was the city hall, the town hall, the meeting place for the city officials. This area was first built in the 3rd century BC. It was destroyed during war and rebuilt during the period when Augustus was Caesar. You will recall that Augustus was on the throne when Jesus was born.
The prytaneion contained the holy fire for the city of Ephesus. It was called in Greek, "hestia". It burned continually here. In those days there were no matches or lighters to be used, so when a fire was started, it was carefully watched and cared for. Citizens would come here to get fire for their homes. Daughters of well-known families were given the task of protecting "hestia". They were called the "curetiae". This Greek word means "virgins of Hestia". This street that we are on, beginning at this point and ending at the Library of Celsus, was called the "Curetiae street". It was the most important of all the streets of Ephesus.
The prytaneion, the city hall, was standing in the time of Paul. The city official probably came from this building to try to save Paul when the riot or mob that was incited by Demetrius would have taken Paul’s life if they could have found him.
We are standing in one of the houses. Many homes were built in the same place as their businesses. It is done even today in some of the larger cities and it was true during the time of Paul in the city of Ephesus.
These ruins are called the "Bouleuterion". This is near the city council or meeting hall. The ruins to the right are the council halls or meeting rooms for the city council.
The King James Bible, in Acts 19:35 refers to the “town clerk”, but the Greek word used by Luke in his account is "grammateus", which is the Greek word for “scribe” or “secretary”. He was more than a town clerk. He was the leading city official, and he was directly responsible to Rome for his orders. Acts 19:40 says, “For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, there being no cause that we can give to justify this commotion. And when he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.” It may be that the city official was in the Bouleuterion area. He was not far from the theater when he heard the noise of this shouting for over 2 hours and made his way over to the theater.
We now come to the "odeum". The first view gives the impression of an amphitheater. The only difference between odeum and an amphitheater is that the odeum was covered. The roof would have protected the spectators from the elements, such as rain or the sun or heat. It was used for poetry reading, musical programs, and prize awarding ceremonies. This little odeum had 23 rows and probably seated more than 200 people. It was built by Vedius Antonius. The front of the odeum had a portico and a 40 foot gallery. The odeum was built in the time of Augustus. These ionic columns were decorated with bullheaded capitals. You will see those in just a moment.
The Greek word "ode" meant “song” or a "poem" and that is where we get our word “ode”. One account states that this odeum would have seated 1,500 people but this was an exaggeration. We are also led to believe that since this is so close to city hall, council meetings were held here.
These are the bullheaded capitals. These stood at the top of the columns and were erected in the time of Augustus. There is no doubt that Paul would have seen them. He probably walked in this area many times.
We are going west on this street. We see again the colonnaded area that would separate the street from the walkway.
These ruins are what was called the "hydrion". The word "hydrant" means "water faucet", and it comes very close to a description of what we are seeing here. This was a Roman fountain, a water supply for the people. It was two stories high. Gaius Memenus, who was the nephew of the Roman General Sula, erected this public water supply.
Four Corinthian columns are still standing at the hydrion. The people of this city would have gone to the City Hall for the fire of Hestia, and they would have taken it home to start fires in their own homes. They would have come to this place for their water supply. We are going to see several fountains that were erected for the public supply of the people.
The hydrion had a basin the front of it. Water poured into it from the lion’s mouth. Animals could get water from a lower part, and people could draw their water from the upper part.
The hydrion must have been a beautiful place where people came to get their water and to visit with each other.
This is a reconstruction of Trajan’s Fountain. Trajan was one of the Roman emperors who reigned from 98 to 117 AD. Many of the stones are missing from this fountain. It is difficult to imagine how beautiful and how large it must have been. It was 1 meter by 12 meters long, and had 12 statues around it, and there was a large statue in the center of Trajan himself. A portion of the foot can be seen in the center of the picture. The archaeologists have simply stacked those stones they found the best they could. They are the only remaining stones in this beautiful fountain.
In the distance is a headless statue. This statue was a woman named Scolastica. These were the Baths of Scolastica. A stairway on the right of Hadrian’s Temple led up the mountain to this bath. This bath was built in the 2nd century, so Paul would not have seen it, but other Christians still living in Ephesus would no doubt be acquainted with it. It was 3 stories high and was a large bath condominium. It contained 3 different sections Th first was called a "frigidarium", which could have been the cold bath. Next was called the "tepidarium", the lukewarm one, and the other, the "caldarium", the hot bath.
From this bath, we continue on Curetiae Street, and we can see the headless statue of some prominent person. People often ask when they visit the Bible lands why so many statues are headless. The explanation is simple. When wars came or when there was an earthquake, the statue toppled over. The neck being the smallest and weakest portion of the statue was broken. The head was lost, and the heavier portion of the statue remained. We are told that prominent persons of Ephesus had statues made of themselves that decorated the streets of Ephesus.
We are taking a long look down this important street Curetiae. It was paved with white pieces of marble, as all the streets of Ephesus were. What a beautiful thing it must have been in the time of Paul. We have just passed the Baths of Scolastica, and we are going to turn toward the theater. To our right is Mount Pion. We saw that in our first picture. We are proceeding on the southern side of the mountain and will make our turn to the north and a little to the west.
On both sides of this street we see many magnificent buildings. Many are not identified for us, but this Corinthian column and capital will give us some idea of how beautiful some of them must have been.
We have now come to Hadrian’s Temple. He was the Roman emperor from 117 to 138 AD. Inside his temple stood a magnificent statue of Diana.
Original text and slides from "Bible Cities and Geography", ©1974 Star Bible Publications. Unlawful to duplicate or reproduce in any form or manner. Used by permission. Various edits and new audio recordings by the Bible Study Center 2006-2014.
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