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Chapter 16 | Table of Contents | Chapter 18

The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia
W. M. Ramsay

Chapter 17: Ephesus: The City of Change

The subject of the present chapter is the early Roman city, the Ephesus of St. John and St. Paul. But as soon as we begin to examine its character and make even a superficial survey of its history, it stands out as the place that had experienced more vicissitudes than any other city of Asia. In most places the great features of nature and the relations of sea and land remain permanent amid the mutations of human institutions: but in Ephesus even nature has changed in a surprising degree. To appreciate its character as the city of change, we must observe its history more minutely than is needed in the other cities.

At the present day Ephesus has all the appearance of an inland city. The traveller who wanders among its ruins may be at first unconscious of the neighbourhood of the sea. He beholds only a plain stretching east and west, closed in on the north and south by long lines of mountain, Gallesion and Koressos. As he looks to the east he sees only ranges of mountains rising one behind another. As he looks to the west his view from most part of the city is bounded by a ridge which projects northwards from the long ridge of Koressos into the plain. This little ridge is crowned by a bold fort, called in the modern local tradition, St. Paul's Prison: the fort stands on the hill of Astyages (according to the ancient name), and the ridge contains also another peak on the west, called the Hermaion. The ridge and fort constitute the extreme western defences of the Greek city, which was built about 287 BC. That old Greek tower, owing to its distance and isolation, has escaped intentional destruction, and is one of the best preserved parts of the old fortification. From its elevation of 450 feet it dominates the view, the most striking and picturesque feature of the Greek Ephesus.

The historian of Greece, Professor Ernst Curtius, was misled by the appearance of the city, and has described the fortunes of Ephesus as a city separated from the sea by the ridge of Astyages. This misapprehension partially distorted his view of Ephesian history and coloured his picture, which is otherwise marked by sympathetic insight and charm of expression. It is the merit of Professor Benndorf to have placed the subject in its true light, and to have shown that the history of Ephesus was determined by its original situation on the seashore and its eagerness to retain its character as a harbour in spite of the changes of nature, which left it far from the sea. The brief sketch, which follows, of the history of Ephesus is founded on Benndorf's first topographical sketch, and on the map prepared for his promised fuller study of the subject. The present writer is indebted to his kindness for a copy of the map in proof not finally corrected, and can only regret that this sketch has to be printed without access to the historical study which is to accompany it.

The most impressive view of modern Ephesus is from the western side of Mount Pion, either from the upper seats of the Great Theatre or from a point a little higher. The eye ranges westwards over the streets and buildings of the Greek and Roman city (recently uncovered by the Austrian Archaeological Institute in excavations extending over many years and conducted with admirable skill), and across the harbour to the hill of Astyages: southwest the view is bounded by the long ridge of Koressos, along the front crest of which runs the south wall of the Greek city: northwest one looks across the level plain to the sea, full six miles away, and to the rocky ridge that projects from Mount Gallesion and narrows the sea-gates of the valley: northward lie the level plain and the steep slopes of Gallesion. The mouth of the river is hidden from sight behind the hill of Astyages.

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Figure 11: Conjectural map of the gulf of Ephesus, to show changes in the coastline. The line of the walls of the Hellenic (and Roman) city is marked. The history of Ephesus takes place between the hill of St. John (Ayasoluk) and the hill of St. Paul (Astyages). The sea in A.D. 100-200 probably came up to about the valley opening down from Ortygia.

But a large and important part of ancient Ephesus is excluded from that view, and can be seen only by ascending to the top of the twin-peaked Pion, which commands the view on all sides. The view from the upper seats of the Theatre may be supplemented by looking east from the northern edge of Pion, beside the Stadium, or still better from the prominent rock (cut into an octagonal form, probably to serve a religious purpose) which stands in the plain about fifty yards in front of the northwest corner of Pion and of the Stadium. From either of these points one looks northeast and east over the valley and the site of the great Temple of Artemis to the Holy Hill of Ayassoluk, which overhung the Temple, and to the piled-up ranges of mountains beyond.

The modern visitor to Ephesus rarely finds time or has inclination to visit St. Paul's Prison: the name is traditional in the locality, but though the tower was certainly in existence at the time of St. Paul's residence in the city, there is no reason to think that he was ever imprisoned in Ephesus. It is, however, quite probable that in the Byzantine time the Apostle's name was attached to the hill and fort in place of the older name Astyages. Not merely does this western hill permit a survey over the city and valley almost equal in completeness to the view from Pion: there is also a remarkable phenomenon observable here and nowhere else in Ephesus. At the foot of the hill lies the ancient harbour, now a marsh dense with reeds. When a wind blows across the reeds, there rises to the hilltop a strange vast volume of sound of a wonderfully impressive kind; the present writer has sat for several hours alone on the summit, spellbound by that unearthly sound, until the approach of sunset and the prospect of a three hours' ride home compelled departure.

In ancient times by far the most impressive view of Ephesus was that which unfolded itself before the eyes of the voyager from the west. But the changes that time has wrought have robbed the modern traveller of that view. The ancient traveller, official or scholar, trader or tourist, coming across the Aegean Sea from the west, between Chios and Samos, sailed into Ephesus. The modern shore is a harbourless line of sandy beach, unapproachable by a ship.

The plain of Ephesus is distinctly broader near the city than it is at the present seacoast. The narrowness of the entrance, what may be called the sea-gate of the valley, has been an important factor in determining its history. Some miles above the city the valley is again narrowed by ridges projecting from the mountains of Gallesion and Koressos. In this narrow gap are the bridges by which the railway and the road from Smyrna cross the Cayster, whose banks here are now only ten feet above sea level, though the direct distance to the sea is ten kilometres and the river course is fully sixteen or twenty kilometres. Between these upper or eastern narrows and the modern seacoast lies the picturesque Ephesian plain, once the Gulf of Ephesus. The river Cayster has gradually silted up the gulf to the outer coastline beyond the ends of the mountains, and has made Ephesus seem like an inland city, whereas Strabo in AD 20 describes it as a city of the coast.

But about 1100 BC the sea extended right up to the narrows above Ephesus. Greek tradition in the valley, which can hardly have reached back farther than 1200 BC, remembered that state of things, when the large rocky hill, two kilometres north of the Roman city, across the Cayster, was an island named Syria, and the whole Ephesian valley was an arm of the sea, dotted with rocky islets, and bordered by picturesque mountains and wooded promontories. near the southeastern end of the gulf, on the seashore, stood the shrine of the Great Goddess, the Mother, protector, teacher, and mistress of a simple and obedient people. There was no city at that time; but the people, Lelegians and Carians, dwelt after the Anatolian fashion in villages, and all looked for direction and government to the Goddess and to the priests who declared her will. Ephesus even then had some maritime interests, directed, like everything else, by the Goddess herself through her priests. Hence, even when the Temple was far distant from the receding seashore, a certain body of shipment was attached to its service, through the conservatism of a religion which let no hieratic institution die. The hill of Ayassoluk, between the Temple and the railway station, was a defensive centre close at hand for the servants of the Goddess. History shows that it was the Holy Hill, though that title is never recorded in our scanty authorities.

The sense of the holiness of this hill, and of the low ground beneath its western slope, was never wholly lost amid all the changes of religion that occurred in ancient and medieval times. On the hill Justinian's great Church of St. John Theologos was built; the medieval town was called Agios Theologos or Ayo-Thologo, the Turkish Ayassoluk; and the coins of a Seljuk principality, whose centre was at this town, bear the legend in medieval Latin Moneta Que Fit In Theologo. Between the church and the old temple of the goddess stands the splendid mosque of Isa Bey. The modern traveller, standing on the southern edge of the large hole, at the bottom of which Mr. Wood found the temple buried thirty feet deep, looks over temple and mosque to the Holy Hill and Church of Ayassoluk. All the sacred places of all the religions are close together.

The site of the temple was only found after many years of search. Those who know the spirit of Anatolian religion, and the marvellous persistence with which it clings to definite localities, would have looked for it beside the mosque, the hill and the church. But it was sought everywhere except in the right place. Professor Kiepert marked it conjecturally on his plan of Ephesus out in the open plain near the Cayster, two kilometres west of Ayassoluk; and Mr. Wood spent several years and great sums of money digging pits all over the plain. Afterwards, he went to the city, searching the public buildings for inscriptions which might by some chance allude to the temple, and at last found in the Great Theatre a long inscription which mentioned a procession going out from the Magnesian Gate to the temple. He went to the gate, and followed up the road, which lay deep beneath the ground, till he found the sacred precinct and finally the temple.

Yet this was not the earliest Ephesian sanctuary and home of the goddess. In her oldest form she was a goddess of the free wild life of nature, and her first home was in the southern mountains near Ortygia. Thence she migrated to dwell near her people in their more civilised homes on the plain, or rather she, as the Mother and the Queen-bee, guided her swarming people to their new abodes, and taught them how to adapt themselves to new conditions. But her love for her favourite wild animals, who had lived round her old home among the hills, always continued; and two stags often accompany her idol, standing one on each side of it: see Figure 10 chapter 14, Figure 26 chapter 25, and Figure 17 in this chapter; also chapter 19.

But her old home among the mountains was always sacred. There were there a number of temples, ancient and recent; an annual Panegyris was held there, at which there was much competition among the young nobles of Ephesus in splendour of equipment; and Mysteries and sacred banquets were celebrated by an association or religious club of Kouretes. The myth connected the birth of Artemis with this place; and in a sense it was the birthplace of the goddess and her first Ephesian home.

In Christian times the holiness of this locality was maintained. The Mother of God was still associated with it, though the birth of God could no longer be placed there. The legend grew that she had come to Ephesus and died there; and her home and grave were known. This legend is at least as old as the Council held in Ephesus AD 431. After the Greek Christians of Ephesus had fled to the eastern mountains and settled in the village of Kirkindji they celebrated an annual pilgrimage and festival at the shrine of the Mother of God, the Virgin of the Gate, Panagia Kapulu. The Christian shrine was at a little distance from Ortygia; both were under the peak of Solmissos (Ala-Dagh), but Ortygia was on the west side, while the Panagia was on the north side higher up the mountain; both peak and Panagia lie outside our map, and even Ortygia is strictly outside the southern limit, though the name has been squeezed in.

The home and grave of the Mother of God have been recently discovered by the Roman Catholics of Smyrna, aided by visions, prayers and faith; and the attempt has been made in the last ten years to restore the Ephesian myth to its proper place in the veneration of the Catholic Church. The story is interesting, but lies beyond our subject. What concerns us is to observe the strong vitality of local religion in Asia Minor amid all changes of outward form. The religious centre is moved a little to and fro, but always clings to a comparatively narrow circle of ground.

The date and even the order of the successive stages in the history of the Ephesian valley cannot as yet be fully determined--though Professor Benndorf's expected memoir will doubtless throw much light on them. About 1100 BC the first Greek colonists, coming from Athens, expelled most of the older population and founded a joint city of Greeks and the native remnant beside the shrine of their own Athena, including in their city also a tract along the skirts of Koressos. Its exact situation has not been determined; but it was probably identical with a district called Smyrna, which lay between Koressos and Pion, partly inside, partly southeast from, the Hellenic Ephesus.

For four centuries this was the situation of Ephesus. There was an Ionian city bearing that name on the slopes of Mount Koressos, and above a mile north was the Temple of the Great Goddess Artemis. The Greek colonists in their new land naturally worshipped the deity who presided over the land. Gradually they came to pay more respect to her than to their own patroness and guardian deity Athena, who had led them across the sea from Athens. The holy village around the Hieron of Artemis can hardly have existed in this period: Ephesus was moved to the southern position and transformed into a Greek city. The population of the city was at first divided into three Tribes, of which Epheseis the first was evidently the Anatolian division, while Euonymoi, containing the Athenian colonists, was only the second.

The sea gradually retreated towards the west during this period; and the Temple of Artemis was now a sanctuary within a large sacred precinct in the plain. But the goddess, though worshipped by the Greeks, was not transformed into a Greek deity. She remained an Anatolian deity in character and in ritual. The Divine nature does not change.

A new era began after 560 BC, when Ephesus was conquered by Croesus. The city was now attached to the Temple of Artemis; and the population was moved back from the higher ground and dwelt once more beside the Temple. Smyrna, the deserted site of the Ionian Ephesus, was now behind the city (as Hipponax says).

The change marked the entire triumph of the Asiatic or Anatolian element over the Greek in the Ephesian population. The Anatolian element had always been strong in the population of the Greek city; the Ephesian Goddess was henceforth the national deity of the city, the patroness of the family and municipal life. Thus, the change of situation about 550 BC accompanied a change in spirit and character.

Ephesus was not, however, reduced entirely to the pure Anatolian village system. It was not a mere union of villages with the Temple as the only centre; it was a city with a certain organisation and a certain form of municipal government. Power was apportioned to the different sections of the population by the usual Greek device of a division into Tribes: each Tribe had one vote, and a more numerous body in one Tribe had no more power than a small number of citizens in another. It had its own acropolis, probably the hill of Ayassoluk, overhanging the Temple on the northeast. It struck its own coins in silver and electrum (the sure proof of administrative independence as a city); but they were entirely hieratic in character and types, and for nearly three centuries after 560 it must be ranked rather as an Anatolian town than as a Greek city.

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Figure 12: A, B. Coin of the Anatolian Ephesus

It was, indeed, forced, after 479, to join the union of Greek States which was called the Delian Confederacy; but it seceded at the earliest opportunity; and the goddess was always inclined to side with the Persians against the Greeks, and with oligarchic Sparta against democratic Athens.

With the conquest of Asia by Alexander the Great, after 335, the Greek spirit began to strengthen itself in Ephesus and in general throughout the country. This is first perceptible in the coinage. The bee, the sacred insect and the symbol of the Great Goddess, had hitherto always been the principal type on Ephesian coins. Now about 295 BC a purely Greek type, the head of the Greek Artemis, the Virgin "Queen and Huntress chaste and fair," was substituted for the bee on the silver coins, while the less honourable copper coinage retained the old hieratic types.

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Figure 13: A, B. Coin of the Hellenic Ephesus

The importance of this change of type arises from the character of the Great Goddess. She is the expression of a religious belief, which regarded the life of God as embodying and representing the life of nature, and proceeding according to the analogy of the natural world, so that in the drama of Divine life there is a God-Father, a Goddess-Mother, and a Son or a Daughter (the Maiden Kora or other various ideas), born again and again in the annual cycle (or sometimes in longer cycles) of existence. The mutual relations of those beings were often pictured in the Divine drama according to the analogy of some kind of earthly life. In the Ephesian ceremonial the life of the bee was the model: the Great Goddess was the queen-bee, the mother of her people, and her image was in outline not unlike the bee, with a grotesque mixture of the human form: her priestesses were called Melissai (working-bees), and a body of priests attached to the Temple was called Essenes (the drones). The shape of the idol is seen in Figure 10 chapter 14; Figure 26 chapter 25. The life-history of the bee, about which the Greek naturalists held erroneous views (taking the queen-bee as male, and king of the hive), was correctly understood in the primitive Ephesian cultus; and it is highly probable that the employment for human use of the bee and of various domesticated animals was either originated or carried to remarkable perfection in ancient Asia Minor; while it is certain that the whole doctrine and rules of tending those animals had a religious character and were in close relation to the worship of the Divine power in its various and varying local embodiments.

The reverse of the coins tells the same tale as the obverse. The Anatolian coin shows the palm-tree under which the goddess was born among the southern mountains at Ortygia, and her sacred animal, the stag, cut in half in truly barbaric style. The Hellenic coin shows the bow and quiver of the huntress-maiden, and acknowledges the Anatolian goddess by the small figure of a bee: even in its most completely Hellenised form Ephesus must still do homage to the native goddess.

On the other hand Greek religion was strongly anthropomorphic, and the Hellenic spirit, as it developed and attained fuller consciousness of its own nature, rejected more and more decisively the animal forms and animal analogies in which the Anatolian religion delighted.

Where Greece adopted an Anatolian cult, it tried to free itself from animal associations, and to transform the Divine impersonation after the purely human beautiful Hellenic idea. Thus to substitute the head of the huntress Virgin Artemis for the bee on the coins was to transform an Anatolian conception into a Greek figure, and to blazon the triumph of the Greek spirit over the Oriental.

There followed once more a change in the situation of Ephesus, accompanying the change in spirit that was being wrought in the aims and outlook of the city. Ephesus was moved away from the neighbourhood of the Temple to a situation not far removed from that of the old Greek city. The change, naturally, was strenuously resisted by the priests and the large section of the people that was under their domination. But the will of King Lysimachus, the master of the northwest regions of Asia Minor, who carried on the Hellenising tradition of Alexander, was too strong; and he cleverly overcame the unwillingness of the Anatolian party in the town. The Ephesus of 560-287 BC was in a low-lying situation, surrounded on three sides by higher ground, and in time of rain a great amount of water poured down through the town. Lysimachus took advantage of a heavy rain, and stopped the channels which carried off the water into the gulf, or the river: the town was flooded, and the people were glad to leave it.

The new situation was admirably strong and convenient; and the Hellenic Ephesus of this new foundation lasted for more than a thousand years. Its shape was like a bent bow, the two ends being Pion on the east and the Hill of Astyages on the west; while the sea washed up into the space between, forming an inner harbour, whose quays bordered by stately colonnades and public buildings can still be traced amid the ruins. The outer harbour was part of the land-locked gulf.

A great street ran from the inner harbour right up to the base of Pion. The visitor to Ephesus, after landing at the harbour, would traverse this long straight street, edged by porticoes, with a series of magnificent buildings on either hand, until he reached the left front of the Great Theatre and the beginning of the steep ascent of Pion. The street, as it has been disclosed by the Austrian excavations, is the result of a late reconstruction and bears the name of the Emperor Arcadius, AD 395-408; but the reconstruction was only partial, and there can be little doubt that the general plan of the city in this quarter dates from the foundation about 287 BC, and that this great street is the one which is mentioned in the Bezan text of Acts 19:28. A riot was roused by a speech of Demetrius, delivered probably in a building belonging to a guild of some of the associated trades. After the passions of the mob and their apprehension of financial disaster were inflamed, they rushed forth "into the street," and ran along it shouting and invoking the goddess, until at last they found themselves in front of the Great Theatre. That vast empty building offered a convenient place for a hasty assembly. Even this excited mob still retained some idea of method in conducting business. It was quite in the old Greek style that they should at once constitute themselves into a meeting of the Ephesian People, and proceed to discuss business and pass resolutions. Many a meeting convened in an equally irregular way, simply through a strong common feeling without any formal notice had been held in the great Greek cities, and passed important resolutions. But this meeting was not conducted by persons used to business and possessing authority with the crowd. It was a mere pandemonium, in which for more than an hour the mob howled like Dervishes, shouting their prayers and invocations. Then the Secretary addressed the assembly, and pointed out that such an irregular meeting was not permitted by the Imperial government, which would regard this as a mere riot and punish it with the severity which it always showed to illegal assumption of power.

The death of Lysimachus in 281 BC interrupted and impeded for a moment the development of the new city, which he had planned on a great scale. But the position was favourable; and it soon became one of the greatest cities of Asia. Miletus had once been the great seaport of the west coast of Asia Minor; and the main route for the trade between the interior and the countries of the West came down the Meander Valley to Miletus, at the southern entrance to a great gulf extending fully twenty miles into the land. But Miletus had suffered greatly when the Ionian revolt was crushed by the Persians about 500 BC; and Ephesus then gained an advantage through Persian favour. Moreover, Ephesus was really a nearer harbour than Miletus even for trade coming down the Meander Valley. Finally, the river Meander was rapidly silting up its gulf, and the harbour of Miletus was probably requiring attention to keep the entrance open; both the gulf of Miletus, then so large, and the harbour have in modern times entirely disappeared, owing to the action of the Meander. Thus Ephesus was heir to much of the trade and prosperity which had belonged to Miletus; though it was destined in its turn, from a similar cause, to see its harbour ruined, and its trade and importance inherited by its rival Smyrna.

Lysimachus had called the new city Arsinoe after his wife, thus breaking definitely with the old tradition as to name and the old Ephesian religious connection; and he indicated the break by making the bust of Arsinoe the principal type on the city coins. The tradition, however, was too strong; and another change of name soon occurred, probably at his death in 281 BC. The coins of the city began once more to bear the old name of Ephesus. But the Greek huntress virgin still had the place of honour on the silver coins, while the bee was the principal type on the copper coins. The spirit prevalent in the city expresses itself always on the coins.

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Figure 14: A, B. Coin of Ephesus under the name Arsinoe

Another change took place about 196. Ephesus was captured by Antiochus the Great; and the Asiatic spirit again became dominant through the influence of the Syrian monarch. The bee regained its place as the characteristic type on the silver coinage. A period of greater freedom under the Pergamenian influence, 189-133, was marked by an increase in prosperity, and by a great variety in the classes and types of Ephesian coinage.

Ephesus formed part of the Roman Province of Asia, which was organised in 133 BC. The Roman possession of the city was temporarily interrupted by the invasion of King Mithridates in 88 BC. It was from Ephesus that he issued orders for the great massacre, in which 80,000 Romans (according to Appian, 150,000 according to Plutarch) were put to death in the Province of Asia. The Ephesians did not spare even the Roman suppliants at the altar of the goddess, disregarding the right of asylum which had hitherto been universally respected, even by invaders. But Sulla soon reconquered Asia; and Ephesus remained undisturbed in Roman possession for many centuries, though sacked by the Goths in AD 263.

In the Roman Province of Asia, Pergamum, the old capital of the Kings, continued to be the titular capital; but Ephesus, as the chief harbour of Asia looking towards the west, was far more important than an ordinary city of the Province. It was the gate of the Province, both on the sea-way to Rome, and also on the great central highway leading from Syria by Corinth and Brundisium to Rome. The Roman governors naturally fell into the habit of entering the Province by way of Ephesus, for there was, one might almost say, no other way at first; and this custom soon became a binding rule, with uninterrupted precedents to guarantee it. After the harbour of Ephesus had grown more difficult of access in the second century, and other harbours (probably Smyrna in particular) began to contest its right to be the official port of entrance, the Emperor Caracalla confirmed the custom of "First Landing" at Ephesus by an Imperial rescript.

The drawing in Figure 15 expresses the Ephesian pride in this right. It shows a Roman war-vessel, propelled by oars, not sails, lightly built, active and independent of winds. The legend "First Landing" marks it as the ship that conveys the Proconsul to his landing-place in Ephesus. The coin was struck under Philip, AD 244-8; but the right was of great antiquity.

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Figure 15: Ephesus--the first landing place

The type of a ship occurs in another form with a different meaning on Ephesian coins. A ship under sail, which is shown in Figure 16, is a merchant vessel; and indicates the maritime trade that frequented the harbour of Ephesus. Even if no other evidence were known, this type would furnish sufficient proof that Ephesus possessed a harbour. The same type occurs on coins of Smyrna, but not of any other of the Seven Cities; because none of the others had harbours.

Not only was Ephesus the greatest trading city of the Province Asia, and also of all Asia north of Taurus (as Strabo says); it derived further a certain religious authority in the whole Province from the Great Goddess Artemis. The Ephesian Artemis was recognised, even in the first century after Christ, as in some sense a deity of the whole Province Asia. This belief was probably a creation of the Roman period and the Roman unity; and it deserves fuller notice as an instructive instance of the effect produced by a Roman idea working itself out in Greek forms.

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Figure 16: The sea-borne commerce of Ephesus

The Roman administrative idea "Province" was expressed by the Greek word "Nation": in Strabo "the Nation Asia" corresponds to the Latin Asia Provincia. This Greek rendering shows a truly creative instinct: in place of a mere external unity produced by conquest and compulsion it substitutes an internal and organic unity springing from national feeling. But the "Nation" must necessarily have a national religion: without the common bond of religion no real national unity was possible or conceivable to the Greek and the Anatolian mind. As the bond the Imperial policy set up the State religion, the worship of the Majesty of Rome and of the reigning Emperor as the incarnate God in human form on earth (praesens divus) and of the deceased Emperors who had returned to Heaven--after the fashion described in chapter 10. But while the Province loyally accepted this religion, it was not satisfied with it. There was a craving after a native Asian deity, a more real Divine ideal: the Imperial religion was after all a sham religion, and no amount of shows and festivals and pretended religious form could give it religious reality or satisfy the deep-seated religious cravings of the Asian mind. A deity who had been a power from of old in the land was wanted, and not a deity who was invented for the purpose and the occasion.

In the circumstances of the country, and in conformity with the ideas of the time, such a deity could be found only in the tutelary divinity of some great, leading city; and practically only two cities were of national Asian standing, Pergamum and Ephesus. As we have seen in chapter 10, the Pergamenian gods, Dionysos the Leader (Kathegemon) and Asklepios the Saviour (Soter), were being pushed towards that position, and the towns of Asia were encouraged to adopt the worship of these two deities alongside of their own native gods. But the Ephesian goddess had a stronger influence than the deities of Pergamum, for every city of Asia was brought into trading and financial relations with Ephesus, and thus learned to appreciate the power of the goddess. Every city became familiarised with transactions in which the gods of the two parties were named, the Ephesian Artemis and the god or goddess of the city to which the other contracting party belonged. In this way Artemis of Ephesus was in AD 55 the deity "whom all Asia and the civilised world worshipped." A commentary on these words of Acts 19:27 is furnished by an inscription of Akmonia in Phrygia, dated 85 AD, recording the terms of a will, in which the testator invokes as overseers and witnesses a series of deities, the Divine Emperors and the gods of his country, Zeus and Asklepios the Saviour and Artemis of Ephesus: here Zeus is the native Acmonian god, and Asklepios and Artemis are the two provincial gods belonging to the two capitals, the official and the virtual.

While Ephesus was ranked in the estimation of the world by her goddess Artemis, the Imperial worship was not neglected. A shrine and a great altar of Augustus was placed in the sacred precinct of the goddess in the earlier years of his reign: it is taken as a type on coins of the Commune (Figure 17), where the two sacred stags (compare Figure 26, chapter 25ff) mark the close connection between the Imperial and the Ephesian religion even at that early time (see chapter 10).

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Figure 17: The Altar of Augustus in the precinct of Artemis

This was a purely municipal, not a Provincial, cult of Augustus; and in the competition among the cities of Asia in AD 26 for the honour of the temple to Tiberius (chapter 19) Ephesus was passed over by the Senate on the ground that it was devoted to the worship of Artemis. But Provincial temples of the Imperial religion were built in Ephesus, one under Claudius or Nero, one under Hadrian, and a third under Severus; and the city boasted that it was Temple-Warden or Neokoros of three Emperors.

Sometimes it styles itself "four times Neokoros"; but the fourth Temple-Wardenship seems to be of Artemis, not of a fourth Emperor; though the fact that the title (which ordinarily was restricted to Imperial temples) was allowed in respect of the temple of Artemis shows that a very close relation was formed between the Imperial religion and the worship of Artemis as a goddess of the whole Province. A coin shows the four temples, containing the statues of Artemis and three Emperors, and marks the closeness of the connection between the cults (Figure 18).

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Figure 18: The four Temple Wardenships of Ephesus

Two subjects still claim some notice, the changes in the relation of sea and land, and the changes in the constitution of the city.

The stages of the former cannot be precisely dated; but the Gulf of Ephesus was gradually filled up as the centuries passed by, and navigation was after a time rendered difficult by shallows and changes of depth, caused by the silting action of the Cayster. The entrance to the gulf grew narrower; and a channel was not easily kept safe for ships. Engineering operations, intended to improve the water-way, were carried out by the Pergamenian kings of the second century BC and by the Romans in the first century after Christ; these show the time when the evil was becoming serious. When the ship in which St. Paul travelled from Troas to Jerusalem in AD 57 sailed past Ephesus without entering the harbour, this may probably be taken as a sign that ships were beginning to avoid Ephesus unless it was necessary to take or discharge cargo and passengers.

The state of the coast during the second century after Christ is shown by the following incident. Apollonius of Tyana, defending himself before Domitian, spoke of Ephesus as having now outgrown the site on which it had been placed and extended to the sea. This furnishes a conclusive proof both that the sea no longer reached up to Ephesus when the speech was composed, and that it was not so distant from the city as the modern seashore, for it is impossible to suppose that the city ever reached to the present coastline. The words probably imply that the seashore was near the lower (i.e. western) end of the Hermaion, and that Ephesus extended into the valley of the stream which flows from Ortygia to join the Cayster now, but at that time fell into the sea. It remains uncertain whether Philostratus composed the speech about 210 or found it in his authorities. The difference however is not serious. There is no reason to think that the words are as old as Apollonius' supposed trial about AD 90. They represent the ideas that were floating in the Asian world, AD 100-200; and even a century would not produce much difference in the coast line.

But even in the second and third centuries after Christ Ephesus was still a great trading city, and therefore must have still had a harbour open, though not easy of access. It is certain that only energetic engineering work kept an open channel. The last kilometre of the modern river course is straight, in contrast with the winding course immediately above; the channel is embanked with a carefully built wall, in order to increase the scour of the water; and this part of the course is evidently the result of a great and well-designed scheme for improving the bed of the river. Probably, this was a new channel, cut specially in order to avoid the shallows of the entrance to the gulf.

The ultimate result, however, is certain. Ephesus ceased to be accessible for shipping, and the city harbour became an inland marsh. It is probable that this result had been accomplished before the time of Justinian, 527-563 AD; he chose Ayassoluk for the site of his great Church of St. John Theologos, and this site implies that all thought of maritime relations had ceased.

The constitution of Ephesus sought to maintain by a division into Tribes an equipoise between the diverse elements which were united in the city. Apparently there were originally three, Epheseis, including the native population, Euonymoi, the Athenian colonists, and Bembinaioi (Bembineis), possibly the colonists of other Greek regions (taking name from Bembina, a village of Argolis, beside Nemea). Two more Tribes, Teioi and Karenaioi, were introduced to accommodate new bodies of settlers from the Ionian city Teos and, presumably, from Mysia (where the town Karene was situated). Ephorus, who wrote in the middle of the fourth century, describes these as the five Ephesian Tribes.

A sixth Tribe was introduced at some later time; but the date of its formation is uncertain. It is mentioned under the name Sebaste, i.e. Augustan, a name given to it in honour of Augustus; but the Tribe was not first instituted then, for, had that been so, its divisions (Chiliastyes) would have naturally been called by names characteristic of the period; but they bear names which point to an earlier origin. It would therefore appear that the new name Sebaste was given to one of the existing Tribes; and the latest formed Tribe was chosen for the purpose. As to the origin of the sixth Tribe, nothing is known except that it was later than about 340 BC, and older than the time of Augustus. The only two occasions on which the formation of a new Tribe seems reasonably probable were the refoundation by Lysimachus about 287 BC, and the remodelling of the constitution by Antiochus II, 261-246 BC. Lysimachus introduced bodies of new citizens from the Ionian cities of Lebedos and Colophon; but he did not form a new Tribe to hold them. He classed the Lebedians as a special division (Chiliastys) of the Tribe Epheseis, which he evidently instituted under the name Lebedioi; and if a complete list of the Chiliastyes were preserved, we might find another called Colophonioi. Apparently Lysimachus was anxious to avoid a too marked break with the past, and left the old Tribes unchanged in names and number. It remains that the sixth Tribe must have been formed by Antiochus II. Now it has been shown in chapter 12 that Antiochus placed in Ephesus a body of Jews as citizens, and it is expressly recorded that he settled the constitution on a lasting basis, which remained unchanged at least until 15 BC. It has also been shown in that chapter that a body of Jewish citizens could be introduced into a Hellenic city only by placing them in a special Tribe. The old five Tribes had their own long-established religious rites, which could not be avoided by any member, and were impossible for Jews. A new Tribe was required whose bond of unity should not be of a kind to exclude the Jews. Antiochus formed a sixth Tribe and placed all his new citizens in it. The original name of this Tribe is unknown; but it was probably such as to give an appearance of Hellenic character (as the Jewish Tribe in Alexandria was called Macedones). The only known Chiliastyes of this Tribe were Labandeos (which seems Carian, and may mark a body of Carian colonists) and Sieus (from the name of an aquatic plant like parsley, that grew in the marshes near Ephesus): the latter seems intended to give a native appearance to this latest and most foreign of classes in the State.

It is not necessary to suppose that the new Tribe consisted exclusively of Jews. It would be sufficient to make two provisions: first, one of the Chiliastyes of the new Tribe must have been reserved for the Jews; secondly, the bond of unity in the whole Tribe must not be a pagan ritual. It must be observed that, while it was hardly possible for the king to tamper with the religion of any of the old Tribes, the character of the new one was entirely within his control.

Chapter 16 | Table of Contents | Chapter 18


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