Visiting the Ruins
Gymnasium of Vedius Stadium
On the slope of the hill to the left of Ephesus is the Gymnasium of Vedius (A.D. second century), the remains of a large rectangular building with an arcaded courtyard, the palaestra (hall for wrestling). The eastern half of the structure, built of brick faced with marble, is better preserved and shows interesting details of the internal arrangement.Some 100m/110yds south of the Gymnasium of Vedius is the Stadium, which dates from the time of Nero (A.D. 54-68). On the south side the tiers of seating for spectators were hewn out of the hillside; the stone benches are missing. At the semicircular east end was an arena which could be shut off from the main part of the stadium and used, in the absence of a circus, for gladiatorial contests and fights between wild beasts. Between the Gynmasium of Vedius and the Stadium a marble-paved way ran east to the Koressos Gate, of which some remains survive.200m/220yds along a modern road which runs south from the Gymnasium of Vedius, on the left, are the remains of a Byzantine building. Notable features are the large room with semicircular niches on the south side and the 50m/165ft-long apsed hall on the west side.
Church of the Virgin Mary (Theater, Gymnasium)
100m/110yds or so to the west of the Gymnasium of Vedius in Ephesus, to the right of the car park, can be seen a 260m/285yds-long complex of remains known as the Church of the Virgin Mary, or the Double Church, or the Council Church. This was the meeting-place of the Third Ecumenical Council in A.D. 431. It was originally a museion (i.e. a center of research and teaching), a three-aisled hall of the second century A.D. in which a pillared basilica was inserted in the fourth centuryThe new road continues south for another 300m/330yds to the Theater Gymnasium, a large rectangular structure of the Roman Imperial period with an arcaded courtyard measuring 70m/230ft x 30m/100ft on its north side.
Square of Verulanus
Immediately west of the Theater Gymnasium in Ephesus is a large complex of buildings, the plan of which is not easy to distinguish. Nearest the gymnasium is the Square of Verulanus, a spacious arcaded courtyard for the training of athletes, and beyond this is the Harbor Gymnasium, which dates from the Early Empire. This consisted of a number of buildings grouped around a central courtyard. On the north and south sides of the courtyard were two magnificent marble halls measuring 16m/52ft x 32m/104ft, with columns and niches for statues. Immediately beyond this were the Great Baths or Harbor Baths, built in the A.D. second century and sumptuously rebuilt in the reign of Constantine the Great (fourth century).
To the west of the baths lay the Old Harbor of Ephesus, now an area of marshy ground. Immediately south of this group of buildings is the Arkadiane, a fine arcaded street running east from the harbor to the Great Theater, which stood facing a long square. The effect of this magnificent avenue, which was built by Arcadius, the first Eastern Emperor, about A.D. 400 and which is lit at night, was further enhanced by an elaborate gate at either end.
The Great Theater in Ephesus, begun in the reign of Claudius (41-54) and completed in the reign of Trajan (98-117), is particularly impressive, both for its great size and for the excellent state of preservation of the orchestra and the stage buildings. It was here that St Paul preached against the cult of Artemis and inveighed against the guild of silversmiths responsible for its shrines. The theater's 3 by 22 tiers of seating, divided into sections by 12 stairways, could accommodate an audience of some 25,000. From the top there is a fine view extending down to the Old Harbor. There were also staircase tunnels leading to the upper tiers. The stage wall, originally three-storeyed and 18m/60ft high but now preserved only to the height of the lowest storey, was elaborately articulated, with columns, niches for statues and richly decorated cornices. In the west terrace wall is a Hellenistic fountain-house in the form of a temple in antis, which in spite of its ruinous state is notable for the clarity and simplicity of its structure.
Southwest of the Great Theater in Ephesus is the Lower Agora, a spacious square, 116m/127ft each way, from which a colonnaded street leads west. The agora (market square), which has been only partly excavated, was a third century rebuilding of an earlier structure, to which the use of stone from earlier buildings gives an interesting variety of detail. It was surrounded by a double colonnade housing shops and offices, with a set-back upper storey on the east side.
On the south side of the colonnaded street in Ephesus, which has an elaborate gate at each end, steps lead up to a colonnaded square, on the south side of which is the colossal Serapeion, the temple of the Egyptian god Serapis. Along the 29m/95ft-long facade of the temple were monolithic columns 15m/50ft high with Corinthian capitals. The cella was entered through a massive doorway, with doors moving on wheels. In Byzantine times the Serapeion was converted into a Christian basilica.
Along the east side of the Lower Agora in Ephesus the Marble Street leads from the Koressos Gate, but has been excavated only from the Great Theater southward. This fine marble-paved street, once lined with arcades and decorated with statues, continues south to the Library of Celsus. Along the middle can be seen a series of holes through which surface water flowed into drains.
Library of Celsus
In a small square lying below street-level in Ephesus is the imposing two-story facade of the Library of Celsus with its rather crowded columns and prominent cornices (re-erected in 1970-78 by Austrian archeologists). The library itself, which was entirely faced with colored marble was of three storys, with colonnades around the lower two. Along the rear wall was a series of rectangular niches for holding parchment books and scrolls. Below the central niche is a grave-chamber with the Sarcophagus of Titus Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, Governor of the province of Asia, in whose honor his son built the library in the early A.D. second century.
Street of the Curetes
Southeast of the Lower Agora in Ephesus the marble-paved street, flanked by numerous impressive public buildings, continues as the Street of the Curetes, climbing uphill towards the Upper Agora. At the point where the Street of the Curetes bends southeast are the bases of the Propylaion, a gate of the second century A.D. from which a street, continued by a stepped lane, led south to Mount Koressos.On the east side of the Propylaion is the Octagon, a monumental tomb with an eight-sided superstructure, surrounded by a Corinthian colonnade, with a stone bench, on a square marble base.Higher up the slope of the hill a group of terraced buildings are in the course of excavation. On the opposite side of the street is a house which is assumed to have been a brothel.Beyond this is a small temple, much restored, which an inscription shows was dedicated to the Emperor Hadrian (117-38). Beyond this are the remains of the Baths of Scholastica, once of several storys, which were originally built in the second century A.D. and were rebuilt about A.D. 400 by a Christian woman named Scholastica.Higher up, on the south western slopes of Mount Pion, can be seen a two-story rotunda on a square base, with Doric half-columns round the lower story and free-standing Ionic columns round the upper story. Probably this, like the Octagon, was a hero's tomb.Past the Fountain of Trajan (nymphaeum) and the Gate of Hercules, the street bears right to enter the so-called Square of Domitian. Above the square rises the massive substructure of the Temple of Domitian, erected by the province of Asia in honor of the Emperor (A.D.81-96). In the basement of the temple is the Museum of Inscriptions.
Gate of Macaeus and Mithridates
Immediately adjoining the Library of Celsus in Ephesus, at the southeast corner of the Lower Agora, is the Gate of Macaeus and Mithridates, so named in an inscription. It has been restored.
To the east of the Temple of Domitian in Ephesus extends the Upper Agora, with a Temple of Isis and a hydreion (water-tower) which collected spring water flowing down from the hill. On the north side of the Upper Agora is the site of the Prytaneion.
The Prytaneion (council chamber, town hall) in Epheses is located only after a long search. The figures of Artemis which were found here are now in the Archeological Museum in Selçuk.
East of the Prytaneion in Ephesus is the semicircular structure of the Odeion, built by Publius Vedius Antonius in the second century A.D. The lower tiers of marble benches are original, the rest are reconstructions. The auditorium of this little theater or concert hall had seating for an audience of 1,400. Since there is no provision for the drainage of rainwater it is assumed that the Odeion was roofed, probably by a wooden structure spanning the 25m/80ft width of the auditorium.
From the Upper Agora the old main street of Ephesus continues east to the eastern entrance to the excavation site, ending outside the enclosure at the three-arched Magnesian Gate, the starting-point of the road to Magnesia on the Maeander. At the bend in the road is the base of a circular Roman structure, wrongly called the Tomb of St Luke, which was converted into a church in Byzantine times by the addition of an apse and a porch.
Immediately north of the Magnesium Gate in Ephesus are the imposing ruins of the Eastern Gymnasium (A.D. first-second century). Like the other three gymnasia in Ephesus, this is a large rectangular building with several magnificent halls and a palaestra. Since many statues of girls were found on the site it is known as the Girls' Gymnasium.