Impressively built on the western slope of the Panayir Mountain, the Great Theatre of Ephesus is unquestionably the most interesting sight in the Ephesus ancient city.
Studies have shown that the Great Theatre of Ephesus was rebuilt several times in different periods as some other buildins had been built.Its final construction started during the reign of the Emperor Cladius (41 – 54 A.D) and was completed during the reign of the Emperor Trajan (98 – 117 A.D).Parts of the stage and columns in Doric style are the only remains from the early structure.The Ephesus Theatre is 60 feet in diameter,and two passages divide it into three parts,each consisting of 22 rows of seats.The Theatreof Ephesus, had a seating-capacity of 25,000 people.Most of those stone-seats have been removed and used in the construction of other buildings in and around Ephesus city.
At the top of the Ephesus Theatre,about 100 feet from the orchestra, was a gallery to which led a staircase.Whilst the orchestra stand was used for plays in the Hellenistic period,the stage (Logeion) of the Ephesus Theatre,which was nine feet above, was used fort he same purpose in the Roman period.The stage consisted of three storeys,and its front part was very richly decorated with niches,columns and reliefs.The first two storeys of the Ephesus Theatre’s Stage building were built during the reign of the Emperor Nero (54 – 68 A.D),and the third storey was added during the reign of the Emperor Septimus Severus.There were gangways leading to the stage from the right and left,and a staircase at the front.The columns which carried the marble floor of the stage are still in place.There were five entrances and three rows of columns with statues in the front of the Ephesus Theatre’s stage building.
On the slopes above the Ephesus Theatre,there are ruins of a house adorned with mosaic-work with geometrical designs.This was the property of either a wealthy man or of an influential statesman from Ephesus city.
Built in the western wall of the Ephesus Theatre,there is a Hellenistic Fountain ,which differs from other monuments in its graceful simplicity.While the front part,which was added afterwards,shows crude workmanship,the niche at the back,which is surrounded by Ionic columns, is the product of fine artistic sense.Through the ‘Three Lion Heads’ at the back of the niche flowed water coming from the Marnas’ (one of the builders of Ephesus) water-works.
On an Ephesus tour,these important and impressive ruins always attract the attention of both travellers and scholars.These ruins of Ephesus, are not only important from the archaeological and historical points of view,but also for having been the scene of an interesting incident during the struggle between Paganism and Christianity.
In the Acts Of St. Luke, the doctor from Antioch,there is related the following interesting incident in the nineteenth chapter :
23 “ And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.
24 For a certain man,named Dimitrius, a silversmith,which made silver shrines for Diana,brought no small gain onto the craftsmen.
25 Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation,and said, Sirs,you know that by this craft we have our wealth.
26 Moreover, you see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia,this Paul has persuaded and turned away much people,saying that there no gods which are made by hands.
27 So that, not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought;but also that the Temple of Great Goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed whom all Asia and the world worshipped.
28 And when they heard these saying,they were full of wrath,and cried out,saying,”Great is Diana of Ephesus…Great is Diana of the Ephesians…”
29 And the whole city was filled with confusion and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus,men of Macedonia,Paul’s companions in travel,they rushed with one accord into the theatre of Ephesus.
32 Some therefore cried one thing,and some another: for the assembly was confused;and the more part knew not wherefore they were coming together.
33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward.And Alexander beckoned with the hand,and would have made his defence onto the people.
34 But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice,about the space of two hours,cried out, Great is Diana of Ephesus..
35 And when the tow clerk had appeased the people, he said : You men of Ephesus, what man is there that knowing not how the city of Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana,and of the image which fell down from Jupiter ?
36 Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against,you ought to be quiet,and do nothing rashly.
37 For you have brought hither these men,which are neither robbers of churches,nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.
38 Wherefore if Demetrius,and the craftsment which are with him,have a matter against any man ,the law is open,and there are deputies; let them implead one another.
39 But if you enquire anything concerning other matters,it shall be determined in a lawfull assembly.
40 For we are in danger to be called in question for this day’s uproar,there being no cause,whereby w emay give an account of this concourse.
41 And when he had thus spoken,he dismissed the assembly “ .
We do not know what happened immediately afterwards.We do know,however,that,St.Paul of Ephesus had to leave Ephesus city for Macedonia.
During the most prosperous period of the history of Ephesus, the Theater of Ephesus was the scene of celebrations held in honour of Artemis of Ephesus city.In the month of April,when the celebrations were held in Ephesus Theatre, the Great Goddess Artemis of Ephesus was used to attract the whole world to Ephesus.
On the day of celebrations (Panejiris),a statue of the patron goddess of the city (Artemis of Ephesus) , and 29 idols donated to her temple were brought to the Ephesus Theatre in a procession headed by Ephesus city officials,delegates from other cities,singers,acrobats,priestesses and young men,passing through the streets of Ephesus lined with thousands of people.The idols were then placed on bases in the Ephesus Theatre,which was filled by 25,000 people.Then,there were dances performed in front of the idols and spectators.
On an Ephesus tour, a modern visitor to the Ephesus Theatre, may sit anywhere in the building and, looking at the bases on which the gold idols and statues of Ephesus’ Artemis once rested, may allow his imagination to travel back to Pagan Ephesus and Picture in his mind’s eye over a half million people celebrating Venus and vine.