This is another look at the Temple of Hadrian. Hadrian, the Roman emperor, was fond of the Roman arch. We are going to see many of them in ruins of New Testament times. The Romans were probably the first of the ancients to perfect the building of the arch. We can imagine how difficult it must have been to have fashioned the stones in such a way that they would fit together to form an arch.
As we look at this arch, we see what archaeologists have done to complete the arch by supplying the missing stones. On the right side of the arch it is obvious that there is one stone that is not a part of the original arch. At the center and at the top you’ll see the head of a woman.
This is the head of Cybele. She was a mother goddess of Roman worshippers. As we look through the arch to the inside, we see more stonework of bas relief. Carved upon it is a woman from Greek mythology called "Medusa". According to the Greeks, her hair was made of snakes, and anyone who looked upon her head was immediately turned to stone.
In this same area a Roman gambling board would indicate that some kind of game of chance was played so the participants could gamble. Much evidence of the ancient times indicates the people were fond of gambling.
Across the marble street from Hadrian’s Temple, we have one of the most magnificent buildings in all the ruins of Ephesus. We do not know who lived here. It is often referred to as “The Palace”. It was 5 stories high and was built in the side of Mount Pion. Many rooms were contained in this magnificent building.
The Roman bricks that we use today are patterned after the bricks that were used in the 1st century. We find Roman bricks in this archway and in the 5 story palace.
In this same section, there were many houses. We are looking into one of the rooms of these private houses. Some come from the 1st century and would have been one of the homes that lined this great marble street.
In Ephesus many wine cellars that have been found. There were bottles of wine and evidence of other containers that contained wine from the 1st century. One of the wine cellars was built in the lower part of this same house. The room here was sealed off so that it would have been cool for storing wine.
These steps are near “The Palace” and wind up toward the top. Since this has not been excavated, we do not know what will be found there, but I think with a little imagination we can see how beautiful this city must have been with stairways between the houses and buildings in this residential section.
This is a view of the public toilets. Several of these have been found throughout Ephesus. Restrooms were built in many of the Roman cities. They must have been beautiful. The seats were made of slabs of white marble about 4 inches thick. Beneath the seats there was a canal constantly filled with water that ran in and out of the toilet area. Many of the Roman officials met and even discussed business while they were in the toilet area. This one contained more than thirty seats.
We return now to the street that we have been following, the Curetiae Street. In the paving we find a socket, a large hole cut in the marble. A light pole was placed in this, and at night the streets of Ephesus were lighted. At the top of the pole an oil lamp would have been placed as a torch made of rags dipped in oil. You will notice 4 holes, or sockets, at the 4 corners. Wires or ropes were connected to support the poles so that they would stand upright.
The ring that is recessed into the marble stone paving was used for tying guide ropes or guide wires. The rings were recessed into the street so the people could walk over them without any difficulty.
We are coming now to the area of Celsus Library. The Curetiae and Marble streets join at this corner. We are going to turn to the right and continue to the section on Mount Pion. We will come eventually to the great theater where it will be most interesting to see what as been excavated.
We have turned around and are looking back toward the east. All of the things that we have seen are on this Curetiae Street. We are going to turn down what will be the left side of your picture and proceed north.
We have made our turn now and are walking very close to the wall of Marble Street. If you will look down, you will see a gutter. This street, like the other street, Curetiae, was curved. It was sloped from the center so water would drain off into this gutter. The Arcadian Way is another street that had a sewer system under it. It ran from the street to the sea. Other streets may also have had a sewer system under them.
We are looking down the Marble Street. The theater is on the right, where you can see a projection.
A brothel was on the right side of this street. It was unearthed in 1955. Tablets found inside the building indicated its use. The entrance hall was paved with mosaics, and there was a basin for washing the feet of the visitors. They then retired to small rooms. There was a wine press and a vault for wine storage. On the eastern side were baths.
A little farther up the Marble street is a sign that had been cut into the marble. This sign points to the brothel. You can see a head of a woman and a footprint by her face, pointing in the direction of the brothel. It is said by some that this was the first form of advertising.
Where these 2 streets intersect was the great library of Celsus. It was built in 135 AD by Julius Aquilla in memory of his Father, Celsus Prolemeus of Sardis. He was a senator and Roman governor of the Roman province of Asia. This library contained many, many volumes. When paper became scarce, the ancient people began to use animal skins, such as antelope or sheep. So the library contained both scrolls of paper and animal skins called "parchment".
Just to the right of the Celsus Library of the southeast corner is the agora. The Greek word "agora" is "market place". It would be much like our town square. The Romans called it a forum. If you look closely you can see that there is an entrance from the corner of the library to the agora. This is the back side of 3 ornamental arches. The south gate, or at least a portion of it, was built by 2 freed slaves. One was named Mazeus and the other was Mithridates. On this arch is the name of Augustus. The archway and the entrance to the agora are dated about 4 BC.
This is a wide angle view of the whole agora. This is one of the largest in the Roman Empire. This is not the only agora in Ephesus. There is another one on the eastern side of Mount Pion. This is the larger of the two.
We are standing at the northeast corner of the agora and looking west. The columns you see at the center separate the walkway to your right from the shops behind it. We are following the Marble Street along the left side of the picture. The agora is built in a 370 foot square. It was surrounded by a double partition gallery with shops behind it. The gallery was made of Doric columns.
As we draw near the theater you can see the reconstruction. We are on the west side of Mount Pion. The Marble Street has come all the way to the theater. It is the theater that we are interested in, because so much happened here. A direct mention is made of it in the Acts of the Apostles concerning Paul, whom Demetrius and the other silversmiths hated, because of the harm he had done to their trade in the making of idols of Diana.
The stage area of the theater had a small arena in front. The orchestra section that is immediately before us was 80 feet long and 20 feet wide. It had 26 round pillars and 10 square ones. Theaters were very important to both the Greeks and the Romans. Nearly every city of any size in the 1st century had a theater. We will see ruins of them in Corinth and Pergamum.
Some of these seats have been reconstructed. Besides those that have been replaced, there are some that have been excavated and put back as best they could in their original places. They were all built of stone, which lasts and lasts. Look carefully and you can see the separation in the rows of seats. There were 3 bands of rows, with 22 seats in each band, and there were 12 stairways. It would have been easy to enter and exit from this theater.
Archaeologists sometimes determine the size of a city by the size of the theater. Baylock’s estimate of Ephesus’ population was 225,000. T.R.S. Brolton said that this was too low, that the population was as high as half a million. It was probably somewhere in between, perhaps a third of a million. Ephesus was an important crossroad between the north and south of Asia Minor. Smyrna was to the north and Pergamum still a little farther to the north. So Ephesus was the trade center for people coming and going in all directions.
It was in this theater that Paul wanted to speak to the mob. We read of this in Acts 19. The theater was rebuilt during the reign of Caligula from 34 to 41 AD. It was enlarged and rebuilt during the reign of Trajan from 98 to 117 AD. Paul was probably here in 52 or 53 or perhaps as late as 54 AD. He would have seen this theater. It would have been a common sight as he passed through the city day by day.
We are climbing now and will gradually make our way to the top. This theater is on the western slope of Mount Pion. It was connected to the harbor by a marble paved street. This street is in the upper right hand corner of our picture. It is called the Arcadian Way. It was 36 feet wide and 1,735 feet long. It was bordered on either side with a colonnade and shops, and was, in other words, like any other ancient street that we have seen.
We are now two-thirds of the way up and standing at the 2nd band. This theater seated between 25,000 and 50,000. The circle of it is 490 feet.
This picture was taken from the top and we can see the excavation work that is to be done here. You can see how the mountain has fallen in upon it. In time, the ruins are usually covered with sand which the winds cause to drift and cover them.
We are at the top and are looking back. What a climb it has been! This wide-angle view gives us some idea of the immense size of this theater. Just think what it would have been in the days of Paul. While standing here on the top, it is still possible to hear people talking in normal voices down at the bottom. It is amazing how an amphitheater can carry sound so well. The circular design holds and amplifies the sound.
We are looking toward the south now. If we looked over the edge of the theater, we would see the Marble Street. You can clearly see the 3 divisions of the seating area. The theater is about 1 ½ miles from the Temple of Diana. In our next picture we will be looking in that direction.
Toward the south is the Arcadian Way on our left. The Temple of Diana would have been in the valley that we saw when we first started our study of the city of Ephesus. The roadway on the left, the Arcadian Way, joined the harbor to the city of Ephesus. The harbor would have been easily visible from this theater. Over the years it silted up. In fact, one of the problems in the 1st century was keeping this harbor free of silt. The sea is now 4 miles from the theater, so the ancient harbor is no longer there.
We are looking down one of the aisles toward the arena, and we remember what happened here in the 1st century. The people of Ephesus were enraged by Paul’s preaching, and they, led by Demetrius, became a mob. “So the city was filled with confusion; and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. Paul wished to go in among the crowd, but the disciples would not let him; some of the Asiarchs also, who were friends of his sent to him and begged him not to venture into the theater.” (Acts 19:29-1) Paul’s friends had better judgment in this case than he did. Paul later wrote, “I fought with lions.” (1 Corinthians 15:32) (I wonder if he had reference to this very occasion). Ephesus is gone and what Demetrius and the other silversmiths worked for is also gone, but what Paul preached endures forever.
We have left the theater and are walking on the Arcadian Way toward the west. This is the street that was seen from the top of the theater. These beautiful columns were originally on both sides of the street. The walkway would have been to the right of them and would have been covered, such as the one you saw on the Curetiae Street. This street is also paved with marble. The shops that would have been further to the right have not yet been completely excavated. There are traces of a sewer system beneath the Arcadian Way, and it connected with the harbor.
Many of the ancient cities had theaters, but very few were as magnificent as this one. The harbor of Ephesus was about 1,800 feet away. What a sight this must have been for a person sailing into the harbor! He would have seen the theater filled with people. Imagine what it would have been like to be here when the silver smiths wanted Paul, and the theater was filled with the mob, shouting, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” for two hours.
Farther down the Arcadian Way on the right side of the trees were the Twin Churches. This is where the Council of Ephesus was held in 431 AD. This was an important event in church history. Even today there are those who argue over the nature of Jesus Christ: Is He all God? Is He all Man? Or is He a combination of both, half-God, half-man? This is the place where the first council was held to discuss the nature of Christ and, of necessity, the nature of Mary.
We are still on the Arcadian Way. The area to the left of us has not yet been excavated. We wonder what it will hold for us. As we look at this city, we think of Paul and the events that occurred here. Paul spent almost 3 years in Ephesus. What an impact he had upon it. The city was not the same after he visited it.
Others came to Ephesus also: Ephesians 6:21-22 indicates that Tychichus was here. 1 Timothy 1:3 tells us that Timothy was here. 1 Peter 5:13 hints that John Mark might have come to Ephesus. Tradition strongly suggests that John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, was here, and that Mary, the mother of Jesus was in his care. John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, and it is thought that he was allowed to return to Ephesus in his old age.
In Revelation 2 and 3, John wrote letters to the 7 churches of Asia. The first of these letters was addressed to the church in Ephesus. It is sad to think that the church in Ephesus had such a glorious start, but by the time this letter was written, Paul’s words from Acts 20:29-30 had been fulfilled. “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” In Revelation 2:5, Jesus tells the Ephesians to “remember, then, from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first.”
We are passing through a field where pieces of ruins are partly exposed. Much is left to be excavated. We are told by archaeologists that only one-eighth of this city has been excavated. Just think what treasures might still be lying in the ruins! This was a magnificent city, and the ruins that we have seen have been quite impressive.
We now leave the ruins of Ephesus. It was once a mighty center for Christianity. First the temple keeper for the goddess Diana, Ephesus became a center for Christ. Act. 19:10 says, “So all Asia heard the Word.” It is said of Paul’s preaching in Acts 19:20, that “the Word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily.”
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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