Monday, July 9, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 5b - St. Paul's Ephesus (ca. 55-57 CE)

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According to Paul Trebilco*, excavated buildings that would have been standing in Paul's day include the State Agora: the Temple of Divus Julius and Dea Roma (but not the cross to the left of the picture):
the monument of Caius Memmius:
the Prytaneion:
the Heröon, the temple of Isis, the temple of Apollo, the stadium, the residence of the Roman governor (?), the Magnesian Gate, the monument of Sextilius Pollio, and last, but not least, the theatre--the only surviving building in Ephesus mentioned in the New Testament:
(In case you are wondering, the great temple of Artemis was located outside the city.)

The commercial agora would also have been around in the first century A.D., although much of what you see below apparently dates from renovations in the 4th century:
Of course, to breathe life into these skeletons of a dead city, you will need to use your imagination.
  • Imagine bright colours instead of white marble. If we had been willing to shell out an additional 10 YTL, we would have had a guided tour of private houses in Ephesus whose walls were adorned with colourful paintings. We didn't, so the following picture comes to you courtesy of Todd Bolen at

  • Imagine crowds of people. Imagine animals, goods destined for market and for the ships docked in the harbour. (More on the harbour later.)
  • Instead of monumental buildings, imagine the houses and apartments of ordinary people lining the hillsides. Judging from the Byzantine era city walls, the ancient city would have extended on and around Mount Pion as well as the slopes of Mount Coressus.
  • Finally, imagine religion, and lots of it. Imagine libations to Dea Roma, imagine devotees of Isis, the Egyptian goddess, imagine processions to the temple of Artemis, and, above all, imagine the regular, ritual slaughter of animals as sacrifices in Ephesus's many temples. The strangeness (to us) of Greco-Roman religion came home to us in a more dramatic way when we saw the statues of Artemis in the Selçuk Archaeological Museum. But more on that in another post.
*Source: Paul Trebilco, "Asia," page 307 in The Book of Acts in its first century setting, vol 2 : The Book of Acts in its Graeco-Roman setting (ed. David W. J. Gill and Conrad H. Gempf (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994). Trebilco now has a volume out on The early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius (WUNT 166; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004).

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