The story of Ephesus told in history and mythology, goes well back to pre-Ionian times.According to Strabo,the earliest inhabitants of Ephesus were the Carians and the Leleges, who lived in a wide plain near the Temple of Artemis, the Mother Goddess, later to become the Temple of Diana.According to Pausanias, the Lydians,who constituted the majority of the population of Ephesus, where the owners and masters of the city.Close to the Lydians, was a crowded community of mixed tribes, of which the Amazons were the most powerful.It is highly probable that the carians and the Leleges were not the earliest inhabitants of Ephesus, because in other part of history ; Strabo speaks of tribes which had come from Minos.
B - EPHESUS IN THE IONIAN PERIOD
The Acheaens, who had reached a high level of civilization in ancient Greece , migrated during the middle of the 13th century B.C. , following the decline of the Hittite Empire, and settled in cities which they either captured of founded in valleys in the region between Symrna and the River Meander ( Buyuk Menderes in Turkish ) . They settled in this region without disturbing the native tribes, and set up the City-States which were to play an extremely important role in the cultural and political life of the entire Hellenic world.Each of the City-States was independent and self-contained in it's own territory,making and administering it's own laws.On account of common religious beliefs, however,they were able to unite around a single sacred place called ' Panionion ' .
Although our knowledge of the founding of those City-States is based partly on history and mythology, we have a considerable amount of authentic information on the foundation of Ephesus.The Acheaen invasion took place in a series of migrations,which continued through a long period.The early comers are believed to have been a group of adventurers, who settled on a small island opposite the city.This island today, is the modern ' Kurutepe ' , which during the course of time was silted up by the river Kaystros ( Kucuk Menderes River in Turkish ) , and eventually was joined to the mainland.The new inhabitants of the island remained there for twenty years, during which time their number increased.They accepted the religious beliefs on the mainland, amongst whom they began to look for supporters.This temporary settlement constitutes the first stage of the invasion.With fresh migrations in the eleventh century B.C. , the island became overcrowded, and it became necessary to look for new land.
First, a leader was needed ; he was found in the person of Androcles , son of the Athenian King Codrus.Secondly, the Delphic Oracle had to be consulted. Founding a colony without it's approval would be an irreligious and disrespectful act.Messengers were sent to Delphi who inquired of the Oracle where the new city should be founded.They returned with the message that the new colony should be founded at a place to be indicated by a fish an a boar.One day, several fishermen went ashore for a picnic and started frying the fish they had caught for lunch.One of the fish jumped off the fire into some dry bushes nearby.A spark which fell with the fish into the bushes started a fire, and a boar lying nearby began running for it's life.After running some distance, it was killed by the fishermen near the hill of Koressos. After this incident, Androcles crossed the sea seperating the island from the mainland, and took the city with the help of the people of the plain.He drove away most of the Lydians and the Leleges ( Strabo and Pausanias ) , and he built his castle on a hill.He then distributed the fertile lands among his people, who were good sailors and farmers.Next, Androcles proceeded to pay his debt of gratitude to the gods and goddesses.he built three temples, one for the worship of Athena, at the place where the boar had been killed ; another for Apollo close to the harbour . The third was built for Artemis at the market place (Agora or forum ) A few years later, Androcles was killed in a battle while helping the Priens against the Carians.His body was brought to Ephesus and a tomb was built for him near the Gate of Magnesia.
Near the sea, the plain of Kaystros is about ten kilometres long and six kilometres wide.Ancient Ephesus was a beautiful city built along the bay known by the same name,against a background of rising hills.With the development of trade through the main trade-route going to Nineva by the way of Sardes, Ephesus grew more and prosperous. The eastern part of Ephesus was built up with homes of merchants and in other quarters lived ship owners,sailors and artisans.After being ruled by descendants of androcles for some time, the government of Ephesus gradually passed into the hands of the city merchants, who had grown very rich and powerful, and had establised a kind of social and political oligarchy.It was actually a victory over aristocracy.In this period, Ephesus appears to be a prosperous centre of trade and banking, maintaining close contacts with Lydia and Sardes which had already reached a high level of civilization.Through these contacts the people of Ephesus copied the luxurious way of living they found at Sardes, and the Lydians were not long in being influenced by the brilliant and inventive genius of the Ephesians.It was through those mutual influences that a period of political and social growth and of artistic creativeness started, which completely changed the face of the world from the time of Gyges to that of Croesus.In this period, we see a major economic change - the discovery of money, an event which marks a stage of development not less important than that achieved in the field of politics.Thus the old and impractical method of barter for payment was completely abondoned.
By virtue of its famous Temple of Artemis, Ephesus soon became an important religious centre, attracting great numbers of pilgrims from many lands. This resulted in the further development of the commercial life of the city, and added to the colour and variety of its cosmopolitan atmosphere. Croesus the last king of Lydia, besieged Ephesus about the middle of the sixth century B.C. (561 - 546 B.C.), and forced the Ephesians to abandon their city and settle on the plain near the Temple of Artemis. He was fair in his treatment of the Ephesians and, in fact, he presented gold statues of oxen and large columns of the ArtemisTemple which was then being built.
The ruins of that Ephesus city built here now lie buried under thick layer of debris. If the hillock now carrying the Cathedral of St. John were to be excavated, it's nearly certain that, as in Troy, several layers of different cultures would be found. For example, Mycenean remains were found at the bottom of a well at that site. It is nearly sure, that the Minoen Cretans had colonized all the shores of western and southern Asia Minor.
However, this site is of great importance, for it was the city where Heraclitus was born. For the thinkers of western Asia Minor did not call themselves philosophers but physiologists (Phusis = nature, logia = knowledge). The Ionians had no moral Gods to bind their thought with divine imperatives. Thus it was in the Ionian cities that the first attempt was made to reach a purely naturalistic interpretation of the cosmos. One of the foremost representatives of this thinking which became later the origin of European thought an civilization was Heraclitus of Ephesus. To describe the ordered nature of cosmos, Heraclitus used the term "logos" which became a fundamental symbol of Ionian thinking. Now the Cathedral of Saint John stands on this same site where Heraclitus had lived. The first sentence of the Fourth Testament of St. John runs thus - " In the beginning was the word , and the word was with God , and the word was God ". Here " the word " means " the logos" of Ionian thinking. Of course, St. John spoke to the Ionians at the level culture and thus succeeded in establishing the first Christian churches at Ephesus.
With the defeat of Croesus by the Persians in 541 B.C., Ephesus joined, as did other neighbouring cities, the Ionian Confederation. In 498 B.C. the Ionian cities revolted against the Persians, but were defeated by them in a battle near Miletus in 494 B.C.. Darius, king of Persians, laid Miletus to waste in vengeance, but spared Ephesus which had not taken part in the revolt. Although Ephesus avoided a catasthrophe in this way, later on, Ephesus was to surrender to the inevitable consequence of a natural phenomenon-- the silting of its harbour. The great philosopher Heraclitus was born about the time the Lydian domination had come to an end in Ephesus.
Under the freedom thatEphesus enjoyed following the great Persian wars, a mature form of democracy was established there by 470 B.C. In the Peleponnesian Wars, the Ephesians were first allied to the Athenians, but later changed sides and helped the Spartans. The arrival of Lysandros, commander of the Spartans, in Ephesus in 407 B.C. occasioned rejoicing. In the final stage of Peleponesian Wars, which ended with a Spartan victory of Aigospotaomi in the Dardanelles, the Ephesians fought in alliance with the Spartans against the Athenians. Following these wars, Ephesus served as an important naval base in the war between Sparta and Persia, and was ceded to the latter in accordance with the terms of the peace treaty (386 B.C.).
An event of the great importance to the Ephesians took place in this period : this was the burning of the Temple of Artemis by Erostratos, a lunatic who wished his name to be recorded in history. During the night that the ArtemisTemple of Ephesus was burned , Alexander the Great was born. According to Hegesias of Magnesia - another ancient city near Ephesus-, the fire could not be stopped because that night the Goddess Artemis had gone to attend Alexander's mother. Following his great victory at Granicus near the Hellespont in 334 B.C., Alexander liberated Ephesus from Persian domination and granted it independence. Although Alexander offered financial aid to the restoration of the Artemis Temple in a manner befitting its fame, the Ephesians rejected his offer saying that it would not be appropriate for one god to build a temple for another. Alexander, however, helped indirectly in the restoration of the Temple of Artemis of Ephesus. The restoration of the Artemis Temple of Ephesus was soon completed with contributions from women who donated their jewellery and form wealthy merchants who sold much of their merchandise in order to raise necessary funds.
C - EPHESUS IN THE HELLENISTIC, ROMAN AND BYZANTINE PERIODS
As a result of the quarrels which started among Alexander's generals after his death, Ephesus fell into the hands of Lysimachus, his companion and successor. In this period the city had to fight against a relentless enemy, the river Kaystros which was carrying its alluvial deposits into the harbour and gradually filling it. In time large commercial and war vessels were unable to enter the harbour and in consequence, shipping and the economic life of the city were seriously hampered. Thus Ephesus was faced with the danger of losing its superiority as a great commercial and political power.Its harbour was becoming a marshland while the Ephesians began to threatened by still another relentless enemy: malaria...,which killed thousands of Ephesians and St Paul also mentions about malaria disease in his Book of Acts in the Bible.
Appreciating the close connection between the sea and the prosperity of Ephesus, Lysimachus built a new and well-planned city at a convenient site sheltered by Mt. Koressos (Bülbül Dagi in Turkish) and Mt. Pion (Panayir Dagi). The new city was linked with the old by two roads with impressive gates at both ends. The streets of the new city were laid out in an east-west an north-south direction cutting each other at right angles. Within the squares thus formed, dwellings and other edifices were built. To protect the city against attacks, Lysimachus had nine kilometers of walls built on Mt. Koressos and Mt. Pion. These walls are still standing and they are six meters high; with tens of watch-towers in every hundred meters.
The Ephesians were not in a great hurry to move to their new Ephesus city. Lysimachus, however, found a way to encourage them to move. He had the city's canals closed, and, when the rains came, the people had no choice but to evacuate flooded Ephesus. Lysimachus had the two neighbouring ports, Lebedos and Colophon destroyed and moved their people to the new city which was initially named "Arsinoeia" after his daughter - according to some sources, Arsinoeia was his wife not the daughter -. This was an important attempt which reminds us ot the far reaching and a most profound vision of some of the industrial magnates of our times. It was not long before the expected success was obtained. Not only did Ephesus recover, but it also reached a stage of development it had never known before.
Ephesus developed into the largest port and the greatest commercial city of its time, over shadowing Miletus and continuing to be the most prosperus city in Asia Minor until the third century A.D., when it suffered serious damage at the hands of the Goths.
The Temple of Artemis was refuge for the homeless and a place where festivals and religious ceremonies were held. Between the Temple and the new city were suburbs and villages. The largest city of its time, Ephesus had gymnasiums, galleries, baths, market places, theatres and seperate quarters for Syrians, Egyptians, Greeks and Jews. Its streets were crowded with flocks of goats and sheep and with people wearing a great variety of clothes, European and oriental wares carried by long caravans of camels, donkeys and mules which were stored on the warehouses along the harbour. With hotels, crowded coffee-houses and places of entertainment, Ephesus was a lively tourist centre ; place of pleasure for hunters, flute players, dancers and beautiful women...
From, about the beginning of the second century A.D., Ephesus was the principal city of the Roman province of Asia Minor. Already St. Paul had come to Ephesus to form one of the earliest Christian communities. Later Ephesus became the head of the seven principal churches mentioned in the Apocalypse; St. Paul founded his church, and the Ephesians completed what had been started by St. John the Apostle.
After the death of Lysimachus (280 B.C.) , the Ephesians pulled down some of the city walls. The Romans defeated Antiochus, the Great King of Syria, and his allies, the Ephesians, in the year 190 B.C., so Ephesus passed into the hands of the Romans, who gave it to Eumenes II, king of Pergamum, an ally of Rome. In accordance with the will of its last king, Attalus III, Ephesus became a Roman city in 133 B.C., together with the entire territory of the Kingdom of Pergamum. The heavy taxation imposed by the Romans offended the people of Ephesus, but when they could not get on with King Mithridates IV of Pontus, they became friends with the Romans and gave Marcus Antonius an enthusiastic welcome in the autumn of the year 44 B.C. Plutarch relates that nothing could be heard in the streets but flutes and guitars while Antonius was being led into Ephesus by a magnificent procession of women wearing the ceremonial garments of the Temple of Bacchus and by young men dressed in the manner of Pan and Satyrs. The city was saturated with incense smoke and the streets were decorated with ivy.
With the period of Octavianus Augustus (63 B.C. - 14 A.D.) a new stage is reached in the history of Ephesus. During this period of peace, Ephesus became the capital of the province of Asia. The development and progress of Ephesus reached its crest during the first and second centuries A.D. The Ruins of the Stadium of Ephesus, the Theatre by the harbour of Ephesus, the Ephesus Library, the Agora and many other fountains are monuments which bear testimony to the unparalleled wealth of Ephesus. Referring to Ephesus of this period, Aristeides writes: " Ephesus is known to everybody by the international character of its means of communication and the perfection of its accomodation facilities. Everyone goes there as if to his own country. It is the universal bank of Asia, and the refuge of those in need of credit " .
The second largest city of the East after Alexandria, Emperor Hadrianus (117 A.D. - 138 A.D.) visited Ephesus twice. Ephesus a population of over 200.000 people when Hadrian visited it. At this time a new channel was opened for the River Kaystros and the swamps were drained.
Emperor Antonius Pius (138 A.D. - 16 A.D.) called the city as : " the greatest Metropolis of Asia " , and Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161 A.D. - 180 A.D.) restored the Temple of Artemis. In this period Ephesus played an important role in spreading the new faith, Christianity. Two of the Apostles. St. Paul and St. John, had preached in Ephesus, which became the third Christian city of importance and the Head of the Seven Churches of Asia the, first Christian Churches of the world.
Although Ephesus maintained, in the third century, its religious and political importance, it never again enjoyed its former wealth and prosperity. The most important event of this century was the destruction by the Goths of the Temple of Artemis, part of the city and the plundering of its treasury.
Near the end of the fourth century an event of great importance for Christianity took place : Nostrius of Antioch believed that " Mary was not the Mother of God, but the mother of Jesus, that is, of man " . When he was the patriarch of Costantinople in 428, he defended this doctrine an wished to have it universally accepted. There was much confusion in religious circles. Finally a council was called by Emperor Theodosius II (408 - 450 A.D.), which met in 431 in the Twin (Double ) Churches of Ephesus ( Hagia Maria Theotokos ,the first church in the world which was dedicated to Virgin Mary ) . Delegates who attended this General Council of the Church (The Ecumenical Council) complained of the bad living conditions and of the unhealthy climate of the city. Bad living conditions were due to the silting up of the harbour and to the resulting marshlands and of course, malaria... We can, however, see that even in this period some important buildings were built, such as the Harbour Baths of Ephesus, the Ephesus Twin Churches, the Arcadian Way opposite the Theatre of Ephesus, and the church in the Cave of the Seven Sleepers near Ephesus.
D - THE CITY ON THE HILL OF AYASULUK
To save Ephesus, the once wealthy center of commerce and civilization, from its tragic fate it was necessary to revive its harbour. There were two possible solutions :either the harbour could be dredged or the city could be moved further west along the coast. Neither of these solutions, however, was tried. Nevertheless the Emperor Justinianus had a magnificent church built, replacing the Basilica over the tomb of St. John. These who disliked the unhealthy climate down in the Ephesus, began to leave the city Ephesus and go up to the hill where the Church of St John was built. This new settlement grew in time, and was surrounded by walls during the wars of the seventh century. Later, a secondary wall was built on the highest part of the hill to provide a final refuge for the people.
Towards the end of the eleventh century, the name Ephesus began to be forgotten, and the city was often referred to as Hagios Theologos, a nick-name for St. John the Apostle. Medieval sources changed this into " Alto Luogo ", and Turks called it " Ayasuluk ". Although captured from the Byzantines by the Turks in 1090 for the first time, Ephesus did not become an official Turkish possession until the year of 1304. Shortly afterwards the city passed into the hands on the Aydinogullari, who built many civic buildings, such as mosques, medresses - school-like buildings by the mosques- and baths. The Isabey Mosque is the most outstanding of these.
The city and environs passed into the hands of the Ottoman Turks in the year 1390, but its offical annexation took place in 1426. With the remarkable growth and development of the neighbouring port of Smyrna ( Izmir ) , towards which much of the trade of Ephesus was diverted ; Ephesus was eventually reduced to the state of an unpretentious village. European travellers who visited Ayasuluk about this time describe it is " an unkempt little village of a few houses " . Now called Selcuk it presents the character of a steadily developing Turkish town.