We follow our tour guide down a narrow gravel path. Glimpses of the ancient metropolis come into view and we learn that Ephesus has had many transformations; initially it was Greek, then Hellenistic, then Roman, and finally Byzantine. During the Hellenistic period, that’s the period after Alexander(301-30 BC), the city flowered into a major center of commerce and culture. I am thinking it must have been similar to cities in our world like Taiwan or Singapore. We do not consider them as being world powers; yet, they have become huge centers of commerce featuring monumental architecture.
I raise my eyes from the gravel path and I am looking at a beautifully preserved amphitheater called the Odeon, which means that it is a small theater or concert hall. It held 1500 people. There is no system for water drainage and archeologists think it was a roofed structure. As with all of these ancient theaters, the acoustics are amazing. People conversing in center stage are easily heard the top row.
A few steps down the path we find the Prytaneion or the Palace of the Council. This was a complex of buildings used for civic meetings and was the residence of the governing family. Because of its close proximity, I suspect that the Odeon may also have been used for voting and civic oratory.
The main structures of the Prytaneion consisted of a front garden and a walkway that led though the columns shown in the photo to the inner garden or atrium, which was an uncovered garden surrounded by rooms. I assume the rooms, as with other Roman style homes, were used for meetings, cooking, sleeping, entertaining and eating. A few pillars and stones outlling the foundation are all that remain.
In this area two temples have also been uncovered beneath buildings constructed during the Byzantine era. The temples are dedicated to, guess who? If you said Artemis, you are right. It is not surprising that Christians would build over a pagan temple, but we should note that thousands of deities were worshiped in the ancient world. Wise rulers, like Xerxes, Alexander and Caesar knew toleration of religious beliefs defused insurgency. Well, that and decimating the population of any city that fostered an uprising. Insurgency was punished with slavery, torture, and death, but different religious beliefs were generally well tolerated until the Christian era.
I find it ironic that the city thrived despite being occupied by Persians, Romans and Byzantines. It did not die until the ocean receded and it could no longer be used as a seaport. Instead of a harbor, a huge mucky swamp eventually extended in front of the city.