The Magnesia Gate and the City Walls

The most important places of defense in a city are certainly its walls and gates. Until the period which we call the Roman Peace (Pax Romana) (the 2nd-3rd centuries AD) the gates and walls of cities were constructed strongly and magnificently in Anatolia.

With the ending of the Roman Peace the old tradition was continued again. Three important gates of Ephesus are known: the Harbour Gate, the Coressus Gate and the Magnesia Gate.The Corressus Gate has not yet been found. The Magnesia Gate stands on the east side of the city. It is the starting point of important roads which lead to the city of Magnesia, about 30 kilometres distant from this gate, and then, bending into Caria towards Tralles (Aydin), into Anatolia. It was named Magnesia after the first city. Lying 2-3 metres below the ground, it was excavated and partly uncovered.

According to the remains it was a beautiful example of Hellenistic city gates with a courtyard. The entrance of the gate was protected by two high towers of a rectangular plan. In front was a rather large paved square and behind (in the inner side) a narrow courtyard encircled by high walls. If the gate broke under the attacks of the enemy the attackers would come in to this court and they would be annihilated under fire from the high walls. Only a part of the courtyard has been excavated. Although in the Hellenistic period the necropolis (the graveyard) of the city began right after the gate, in the Roman period the gate was only a quarter of the city and the suburbs of Ephesus had moved further away.


The walls began at the two sides of the gate and after encircling Ephesus all around they met at the harbour. A very small portion of the north walls were preserved. On the other hand, the walls on Mount Coressus were extant. These walls were fortified at short intervals by rectangular towers. Some of the towers had small doors for sudden attacks which we call exit doors. It is quite difficult in the present day to visit the walls here as the land is undulated.

The walls extend for kilometres towards the west running over the summit of the mountain, and forming a sharp corner after a tower in the west which can be seen from almost everywhere in Ephesus they descend towards the harbour. This tower is erroneously mentioned as St. Paul's Prison. It is written in the Bible that St. Paul was not imprisoned in Ephesus. The tower has two storeys and a great number of rooms, therefore it is quite certain that it was used as barracks.

Leave a Reply