By J. M. Bellew
The greatest, the most imposing, and by far the most interesting of the “seven churches” was Ephesus. Great was its greatness; utter has been its desolation. What may be its future history it would be hard to guess, since the power that is now transforming the face of the civilized world, and penetrating into the uncivilized, has touched Ephesus with its iron hand of enchantment. The railway has reached it, and the traveler may take a morning’s run from Smyrna to Ephesus, see the ruins, spend the day upon the hills, and return at evening time to the former city, just as a pleasure party from London would go to spend the day at Richmond or at Windsor. For the convenience of the European traveler who loves his ease, this may be a consideration, but to the writer, and to all those who think that the iron horse and the metal road are painful intruders among the remains of hoar antiquity, the presence of a railway at Ephesus, the ear-splitting shriek of the engine whistle, the smoke, and rattle, and bustle of life which the trains bring with them, are quite out of place, and destroy the charms of association. We would rather contemplate St. Paul as he “fought with beasts at Ephesus,” or St. John as he conferred his apostolic blessings upon the infant Church, “Little children love one another”–we would rather dwell upon the hopes and confidence which the scene in the amphitheatre of Ephesus awakened in the apostle’s mind, without the interruption of the railway whistles, and the perpetual reminder, as the pasha in “Eöthen” says, that the world is now all “Wheels, wheels, wheels; whirl, whirl, whirl; and whiz, whiz, whiz.” Until the other day, when steam first intruded into the plain, Ephesus was reckoned thirteen or fourteen hours’ journey from Smyrna, of which city it lies directly south, being distant about forty miles.
The origin of the city is difficult to trace. Justin and Pliny ascribe it to the Amazons, in the same way that Smyrna was said to be founded by them. Into the region of fiction it would be useless to try and penetrate. We may assume as fact the statement that the shores of Asia Minor, skirting the district amidst which Ephesus is situated, were held by Phoenician colonies, first heard of in history as Carian, or Leleges, and alluded to by Homer (Iliad 21.5.86). It is to Androclus, the son of Codrus, last king of Athens, that the foundation of Ephesus is commonly attributed. Under him the Ionians are said to have sailed from the shores of Attica, and to have established themselves upon the seaboard of Asia. Thus Androclus is by ordinary consent called the founder of Ephesus. According to this statement, Ephesus was founded about the time when David reigned in Jerusalem At a much later period it was possessed by Croesus, King of Sardis. Later again it formed part of the dominions of Lysimachus, nearly three hundred years before Christ; and still later it was possessed by the kings of Pergamos. Subsequently, like the surrounding countries, it bent the knee before the power of Rome, and became the metropolis of Proconsular Asia. It seems to be agreed on all hands that from remotest antiquity Ephesus was a sacred city. Thucydides, in speaking of the sacred festivals at Delos, says that the Tones congregated at Ephesia. The Great Temple of Diana, which became the glory of Ephesus in the clays of its wealth and splendor, would seem to have taken the place of a much more ancient shrine–-the original place of worship for the Ionians, and attracting the, people of the surrounding plains to its festivals. We know that when Croesus attacked the city, with the probable intention of making it a port to his own royal residence at Sardis, there was a Temple of Artemis then existing, in which the king offered sacrifices. It was around this temple that the ancient city of Androclus had grown up, and upon its site it is almost certain the later and greater one was constructed.
So remote is the period when sacred worship first brought Ephesus into notice, that tradition asserts the Amazons, in the time of Theseus, sacrificed here to Diana, on their way to Attica; and it further affirms that her image was first set up by them under a tree. This was the image which the people of Ephesus, in the time of St. Paul, believed had fallen down from Jupiter, and to the honor of which the temple that held its shrine was seven times restored, before the final and stupendous edifice was erected of which the Christian reads in the Acts of the Apostles. Wherever the image was brought from, there can be no doubt that it was one of the rudest objects of primeval worship, and might have been far more appropriately enshrined in an Indian than in a Grecian temple. When the Ionians arrived, Androclus protected the mixed community which had gradually settled here for purposes of devotion. Having founded a Temple of Diana, the city grew up around it, and a fixed population became settled in the place. Androclus, fighting against the Carians, was killed in battle. His body was removed and buried by the Ephesians, and his monument surmounted by the figure of a man armed, was shown in Ephesus as late as the second century of the Christian era.
But, before we trace the subsequent history of the city, it is necessary to be clear about its geographical position, and the locality itself, upon a right understanding of which, a correct conception of the appearance of the plains and ruins of Ephesus must depend.
By reference to the map of Asia Minor, it will be seen that along its western seaboard there are only two rivers of any importance, flowing from the interior mountains to the Mediterranean. These are the streams so often alluded to in previous articles–-the Hermus to the north, and the Meander to the south. But almost midway between them there is another river, much smaller in volume, which seeks the ocean behind the island of Samos, in the gulf Scala Nuova. This is the Caystrus of the ancient, commonly called the river Cayster.
The well protected harborage which this gulf afforded for shipping, and the convenience of the navigable river, created, without a doubt, the ultimate importance of Ephesus; for, though it always preserved the character of a sacred city, the peculiar business of which was the worship of Diana, nevertheless the influx of visitors which the attractions of the sacred shrine created, necessarily promoted commerce in the city, and gradually developed the mercantile importance of Ephesus, until in later ages it became the metropolis of Proconsular Asia.
In sailing along the coast, and skirting the shores of the Scala Nuova, the site of Ephesus may be clearly traced. It stands in a small plain, running inland, eastward from the sea, to the distance of about six miles. The extreme eastern horizon is bounded by the peaks of the lofty chain of Messogis. Around the plains of Ephesus ranges of hills are gathered, enclosing it north, east, and south. To the north the heights of Gallenus, which form a natural rampart, and follow a course northeast, being met towards the east by the loftier branches of Mount Pactyas, which is the foreground to the distant Messogis. On the south of the plain the steep hills of the Corissus closely shut it in, and are, indeed, so contiguous to the site of the ancient city, that the dwelling places of citizens were at one period seated upon its slopes, as the city wall still continues to run along its crest.
Through the midst of this plain flowed, and still flows, the river Cayster. There were two geographical features of the plain that contributed greatly to enhance the importance of Ephesus. The first was a lake, adjoining the Cayster and communicating with it, which formed what was called the “Sacred Harbor.” The quays of the city were built upon the margin of this basin, and being removed from the sea, it enabled vessels not only to be brought up to the city itself, but to ride in safety in the harbor, removed from all dangers either of wind or wave. At some point close to the edge of this lake, or harbor, the Great Temple of Diana was erected. The other peculiar feature of the plain was a hill at the east end, in front of the slopes of Pactyas–-a high, circular, solitary hill, called Prion. It was to Prion that Ephesus was indebted for all its splendor. It served as an inexhaustible resource for the provision of marble, and was regarded by Pausanias as one of the curiosities of Ionia. Story tells how the Ephesians, when they had resolved to build a temple worthy of their goddess, were at a loss from whence they should import the stone necessary for the purpose.
While the people were beset with difficulties, it happened that a shepherd feeding his flocks on Mount Prion saw two rams fighting. One missed his antagonist, and butting against a piece of rock with his horn, broke a fragment, which the shepherd, picking up, found to be white marble. Running with the marble into the city, and announcing its discovery, he was received with universal joy. His name was changed to “Evangelus,” the good messenger; and sacrifices were offered to him subsequently, upon the spot where the discovery had been made. Whether the legend be true or not, it is certain that the discovery of marble quarries in Mount Prion was the direct cause of the splendor which the city subsequently exhibited.
The reader, carrying these features of the plain of the Cayster in memory, will be easily able to conjure up before the imagination both the situations of the buildings to which we shall have to refer, and also the present aspect of the desolated city.
Assuming that Ephesus was founded by Androclus, the son of Codrus, the last Athenian king, we must date the rise of the city somewhere about one thousand years before Christ. For hundreds of years history is so scanty regarding it, that all we have to tell is, that it fell successively under the Lydian and Persian kings, and that Croesus (who died B.C. 546) tool, possession of it. From Androclus, therefore, to the time of Croesus, four hundred years had elapsed. What Ephesus was during that time, or what the Ephesians did, we know not. When Croesus took the city he found a Temple to Artemis in it; and on this occasion the people (seeking protection from the goddess) dedicated their city to her, by stretching a cord round the city and attaching it to the temple, which thereby became dedicated. Ephesus had in reality been subjected to a succession of Ionian tyrants, from whose yoke the Lydian king, Croesus, relieved the city, and overthrew Pindarus, who held it in thraldom
When Croesus was overthrown by Cyrus, Ephesus became subject to him, and paid tribute to the Persians. To the Persians Ephesus continued tributary, with very few intervals, from the downfall of the Lydian empire until Persia, stooped before the conquering progress of Alexander. But during this period it was continually subject to petty despots, who simply paid tribute to the imperial treasury. It is not until we come down to the time of Alexander that Ephesus can be said to possess a history. We know that when the Athenians went against Sardis they left their ships in the port of Ephesus, and that some of the Ephesii guided them over Mount Tmolus, in their descent upon Sardis (as narrated in our article on that city). We know that Xerxes spared the Temple of Diana at Ephesus. We know that the original city, founded by Androclus, was upon the slopes of the Corissus, or the Prion. We also know that when the Temple of Diana came to be erected in the plain, and near the lake, or “Sacred Harbor” (because, as Pliny says, it was thought that on marshy soil or near water there was less fear of earthquake). The inhabitants gradually descended from the neighboring slopes and settled in the plain. A few disjointed facts of this description have kept their place in ancient record, but they are entirely inadequate as material for a history of the city. Of one building alone do we know anything positive, previous to the time of Alexander, and that is the Great Temple. It existed before his time, and of it we shall have to speak fully presently From the days of Cyrus when Ephesusbecame subject to the Persian (B.C. 546), to the days of Alexander (B.C. 334), when the Persian retreated before the conquering Macedonian, we only know of Ephesus that its citizens were busy during the whole of that period, nearly two hundred years, in erecting their famous temple. Further than this, there is no incident in the history of Ephesus that is of sufficient import to arrest our attention. As regards Alexander’s impressions on seeing the temple we shall have to speak hereafter. It was not until his death, when the kingdom came to be partitioned among his generals, that Ephesus rose into magnificence. In a former article on Pergamos, it has been shown how Lysimachus, one of Alexander’s generals, founded the capitol of that city as a storehouse for his treasures. This same Lysimachus was the founder of commercial prosperity and the civic splendor of the town that became a part of his dominions.
The reign of Lysimachus lasted until the year B.C. 281. In the great wall which extends along the Corissus (already alluded to), we have still preserved to us a remain which tells of the power of Lysimachus. In many parts its towers, and walls, and posterns continue as perfect today as they were when originally built. From this period we must date the rise of the city. Lysimachus, finding the citizens living upon the plain and around the temple, vainly endeavored for a length of time to persuade them to remove and dwell upon the higher ground around Prion. The people of Ephesus were unwilling to obey, particularly as the new city was to be built under the patronage of the king’s licentious wife Arsinoe, and to receive her name. Lysimachus, determined to be obeyed, took advantage of the flooding of the Cayster, and all the sewers and outlets for the water being stopped up by the soldiers, the inhabitants of the lowlands near the harbor were washed out of their homes, or drowned, as tradition says, by the thousands. The result was what Lysimachus desired, and although the city in a very short period returned to its old name of Ephesus, the return found it a new city in all respects. Then began to be built the palaces, and theatres, and marketplaces, which, added to in later days by the Romans, raised Ephesus to the magnificence with which we associate it in the apostolic age.
Subsequent to the time of Lysimachus, Ephesus became subject to the kings of Pergamus, whose history has been already traced in the article on Pergamos. When the last Attallus of the Pergamenean line died and left his states to the Romans (B.C. 133), Ephesus passed into the possession of Rome, and it became the chief place of Roman territory in Asia, as well as the ordinary residence of the Roman governor. The gulf and harbor were so safe and convenient to the Roman merchants, that Ephesus became the port to which the Italian vessels commonly came in Asia. Cicero was received here with great distinction (B.C. 51) when he was going to his province of Cilicia. Scipio was at Ephesus a very short time previous to the battle of Pharsalia. After the defeat of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, Anthony visited Ephesus, and offered splendid sacrifices in its temple to Diana. Before the battle of Actium, the fleet of Anthony and Cleopatra collected at Ephesus, and after the battle, Caesar Octavianus permitted the people to erect a temple to the deified dictator, Caesar, the ruins of which remain, and of which we shall have to speak.
Having given a hasty outline of the history of Ephesus from its foundation to the Christian era, we may now proceed to speak of the city itself. Our consideration must necessarily be turned, in the first instance, to the Temple of Diana. It has been already stated that the temple, of which alone the modern world knows anything, was the last of seven, The probability is, that all these successive temples had occupied the same site, and that in the remotest times, the earlier ones, like many edifices at Persepolis and elsewhere throughout the East, had been built of wood. How it happened that six temples were destroyed, there is no evidence to show, but that the last–-the Great Temple–-should have been founded very shortly after the overthrow of the Lycian dominion and the establishment of Cyrus and his dynasty, seems to imply that in the Persian invasion, the temple in which Croesus had formerly worshipped, and which had been bound with the cord of dedication, must have perished, probably by fire. This much at least is certain, that Croesus perished in B.C. 546, and Ephesus became subject to Cyrus; and in 541, five years later, a new temple began to be erected. It is of this temple that history speaks as one of the seven wonders of the world. It was founded B.C. 541, and as the foundations had to be laid in a marshy and unsafe soil, a concrete (if it may be so termed) formed of charcoal, well rammed down with fleeces of wool, was formed, which proved to be a safe bedding for the substructure. In getting a firmly fixed souterrain, immense quantities of marble were used. The temple itself rested upon this basement, which was raised to such a height, that it had to be approached by flights of ten steps. The original architect was Ctesiphon, of Crete, assisted by his son Metagenes. Their plans were subsequently carried on by Demetrius, one of the priests of Diana. The structure was eventually completed, after two hundred and twenty years of building, by Daphnis, a citizen of Ephesus.
The Temple measured–Length, 425 feet; Width, 220 feet; Height, 60 feet. It was surrounded, as is stated by Pliny, with one hundred and twenty seven columns, which it is evident must be a mistake, as there could not possibly have been an uneven number of pillars. It is believed that on each side of the temple there was a double row of twentyone columns, and a triple row of ten columns at each end. This calculation will give its one hundred and twenty columns, because the twentyfour columns at the corners must only be counted once. By adding four columns in front of the antis at each end of the building, we make up the one hundred and twentyeight, which is most probably the number that Pliny intended to indicate.
In order to convey to the reader’s mind some conception of the vastness of the temple at Ephesus, it may be mentioned that the Parthenon at Athens was not one fourth its size; and that in comparison with (for instance) the area of St. Paul’s Cathedral, while that building is only seventyfive feet longer than Diana’s Temple, the temple was in breadth more than double the size of Ephesus’s.
The order of architecture adopted at Ephesus was Ionic, and the Temple was remarkable as being the first in which fluted columns and capitals with volutes were introduced. The columns were said to be presents from various kings, and were cut out of Parian marble each shaft being sixty feet high. It is said that each shaft was a single stone; and we know that this is not impossible, when we look at the three great stones in the foundations of the temple at Baalbec; but that one hundred and twentyeight shafts of single cut stones should be erected around one building does seem extremely improbable. Thirtysix of these pillars were carved, and one of them, it is asserted, by the famous Scopas. The gates were of cypress, the roof of cedar. The works of Praxiteles adorned the shrine; Scopas contributed a statue; Timareto, the greatest of ancient female artists, gave a picture of the goddess; while Apelles and Parrhasius lavished their talent upon the panels of the walls. A picture of Alexander grasping a thunderbolt, by Apelles, was ultimately added to the decorations of the temple.
We are indebted to Strabo and to Pliny for the documentary evidence we possess regarding this glorious temple, which justly deserved the celebrity it acquired among the ancients. By many writers it is supposed that the temple was utterly destroyed on the birthday of Alexander, when one Herostratus, a philosopher of Ephesus, determining to obtain notoriety, if he could not fame, set fire to the building. It was subsequently remarked as a singular fact, that the date of the firing of the temple was the natal day of Alexander. Drawing our conclusions from a comparison of the best authorities, it seems certain that the edifice of the temple which Alexander saw some years subsequently was the same that was erected in the time of Cyrus, and that the work going on was a work of restoration, and not of reconstruction. In fact, Diana’s shrine had suffered from the mad folly of Herostratus, much as York Minster did some years ago from the parallel insanity of Martin, the incendiary. During the fire, the Temple of Diana had, no doubt, suffered terribly, but the carcass of the building remained in Alexander’s time, the same as before. If the statement of historians be true that the temple took two hundred and twenty years to complete, it could hardly have been complete when the great fire took place. From the manner in which artists are particularly spoken of, as combining to embellish the building, and the Ephesian ladies as giving their jewellery and ornaments to pay for the decorations, it seems almost certain that when the fire was extinguished, the fabric itself was preserved, and that the “rebuilding,” as it has been called, was, in reality, the restoration of the shrine, the replacing of the cedarwood ceiling, and the redecoration of the interior. Two facts are remarkable. First, the image of Diana of the Ephesians was certainly not destroyed; and, second, the elaborate work of Praxiteles was also saved.
Alexander seems to have visited Ephesus at the period when the temple was being restored to its pristine splendor. He was so impressed with its magnificence, that he offered to dedicate his accumulated wealth to the completion of the decorations, if the Ephesians would allow him to record the fact upon the entablature. This the people of Ephesus declined. It was their pride that the temple should be completed and decorated by the resources of the city people themselves, without any foreign aid. This historical incident proves that they were engaged upon nothing more than a work of restoration (costly though that work might be), for it would be impossible to have rebuilt in a few years (so as to have approached completion), a building which it had previously taken two centuries to erect and decorate.
When Alexander gazed with admiration upon this mighty structure, and coveted the honor of seeing his own name carved upon its stones, we know that his eyes rested upon the most magnificent edifice he had ever beheld. Where is it now? Where are the remains of the temple whose foundations must have been laid at an immense depth beneath the surface of the plain, in order to obtain a secure substructure to carry the enormous superincumbent weight imposed upon it? Every visitor to the ruins of Ephesus asks this question, and every one is doomed disappointment in attempting to answer it.