The Roman Period in Ephesus

The heritage of the Kingdom of Pergamum was in the end not without difficulties. Aristonicus revolted against the Romans for the inheritance of Attalus, son of Eumenes II born from an Ephesian prostitute. And he fought them. For three years Rome tried to put an end to this revolt. And in the end it did. As a result, Aristonicus was kept a prisoner in Ephesus until his death. Ephesians had in this war, as in previous periods, taken sides with the powerful Romans. Naturally, this was not left without reward. And as a result, poverty and debts ended. Manius Aguilius came from Rome with ten high-grade officers as consul in Ephesus. Aguilius strengthened the relations between Ephesus and Rome. He designated Ephesus as the beginning of the King's road. A great number of tradesmen began rushing into Ephesus by land and sea. Welfare had gone up but the Roman taxmen (Publicane) were making unjust profit from the city. And they had become quite rich. In 104 BC the Ephesians asked Rome for help to stop this arbitrary behaviour.

The task of the agent was undertaken by Artemidorus, the great geographer and orator of the period. Whereupon the Roman senate took sides against the tax collectors who had to take refuge in the shelter area of the Temple of Artemis. And in their gratitude the Ephesians erected a statue to honour Artemidorus. Events of this kind decreased the loyalty of Ephesus towards Rome and turned it into hatred. King Mithradates of Pontus who had been nourished on the idea of a great Asian kingdom took profit of this attitude in 88 BC.

The Ephesians immediately opened their doors to him. When Mithradates felt himself securely in place in Ephesus, he gave orders for absolute death penalty for those who spoke Latin in Ephesus. All the Ephesians who had a grudge against the Romans immediately obeyed this order. First of all, they destroyed the Roman statues of honour in the city and they attacked the Romans. As Mithradates was of a severe character he acted quite harshly in the city and in the end he appointed a military governor to Ephesus. This situation did not last long. Three years later the Roman consul and army commander Sulla started action to revenge the Romans and captured back the places occupied by Mithradates. In his anger and wish of revenge he fined Ephesus to 20 000 talents. He killed all the Pontic soldiers in the city. Sulla returned to Rome in 84 BC and became dictator there. With the departure of Sulla, the pirates in the Aegean had begun to give fright to the city. Because of fear Ephesus adopted a neutral attitude towards Rome. Maybe it was more reasonable to be as before with the powerful. With this reasoning a beautiful monument was built in Curetes Street to honour C.Memmius, Dictator Sulla's nephew. After Rome annihilated the pirates in the Mediterranean and the Aegean, industry, agriculture and trade began to flourish in Ephesus. In 51 BC the orator and artist Cicero came to Ephesus as the Proconsul of Rome and gave a conference. After Cicero, Julius Caesar gathered the Asian governors together in Ephesus and he also gave a conference. After which event he invaded Gallia (Gaul) and became a proconsul. In 44 BC Julius Caesar was stabbed in Rome. Mis two murderers, Brutus and Cassius, took refuge in Ephesus. In 39 BC Antonius (Mark Antony) came to Ephesus in order to finance his military expenditures. The Ephesians who knew his interest in the festivities of Dionysus organized a welcoming ceremony in which they dressed the women as Maenads and the men as Satyrs. Queen Cleopatra of Egypt had also come with Antonius. Thus, the Egyptian religion, the cult of Isis and Serapis, came to Ephesus. In 33 BC in which year his relations with Octavius were getting bad, Antonius came to Ephesus again with Cleopatra. Together with the 200 ships given by Cleopatra the number of ships in his fleet rose to 800. He collected soldiers and completed his preparations. He fled to Egypt when defeated in the sea battle in the out- waters of Athens which he fought against Octavius, once his army mate and brother-in-law and now his worst enemy. When in the following year
Octavius came to Egypt and besieged Alexandria, Antonius and Cleopatra fell into despair and committed suicide (31 BC).

In 27 BC at the age of 33 Octavius was given the title of Augustus by the Roman Senate. And he was declared emperor. Under him internal disorders were calmed. During this period Ephesus began to gain in importance. Also a period of peace which was to last for about a hundred years began. In this period matters of state were rearranged. Persons who had been consuls in Asia were sent as governors. The population of Ephesus had risen to about 200 000 as the capital of the Roman province of Asia. The great historian of the period, Aristeides, defined Ephesus as "Asia's greatest centre of trade and banking". During this time the city was decorated with valuable works of art. After Augustus, Tiberius (14-37 AD) came to power. In his period, in 17 AD there was a violent earthquake in Ephesus. And although this event destroyed the city on a big scale, it regained its beauty through widespread reparations. The importance of Ephesus increased daily. The city became rich. The 1st and 2nd centuries AD were the brightest period of Ephesus.

Many of the structures we see in Ephesus today belong to this period, structures such as, the theatre, gymnasium, library and stadium. The renowned orator Aristeides defined Ephesus as "the general bank of Asia and the place of refuge for those in need of credit". In this period, the area within the walls built by Lysimachus was completely filled up with buildings. The earthquakes of 41 and 54 AD also harmed the city considerably. In 60 AD Proconsul Marcus Aefulanus saved the harbour from becoming marshland. Very important persons also became governor to Ephesus.

Emperor Hadrian came in 123 AD to Ephesus. He visited the Aegean islands and went to Rhodes on a yacht provided by the Ephesians. In the spring of 129 AD Hadrian came for a second time to Ephesus, this time by sea from Athens. He stayed a while there. He saved the harbour of the city which was filling up with the alluvium carried by the Carster River. He opened a new bed for the river. In 138 AD, Emperor Antoninus Pius who had previously been governor in Ephesus succeeded Hadrian. He declared Ephesus "the very first and the biggest metropolis of Anatolia". The Vedius Gymnasium in Ephesus was built during the reign of this emperor and it was dedicated to him. When, in 268 AD, the Temple of Artemis of Ephesus was, because of the riches of the previous period of peace, in its most magnificent period, it was burned down, destroyed and sacked by the Qoths arriving from the north. In this period, Christianity began to address large audiences in Ephesus. And later on, when stronger, the city became after Jerusalem and Antioch the third important centre of Christianity. The ideas of St. Paul who had come to Ephesus in 54 AD had reached their purpose. The third general council of the church organized by Emperor Theodosius was held in 431 AD in the church of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus. In 449 AD, this council was held a second time in the church of the Virgin Mary of Ephesus through the great efforts of the followers of the Archbishop of Alexandria, St. Cyril. The doctrine called "Monophysitism" had been accepted by force at this meeting. This doctrine is defined in history as "the brigandage of Ephesus". It was the identification of the Virgin Mary as the mother of God Jesus.

Participants of both meetings spoke of the sad state of lodgings in Ephesus and of the air pollution in the city. In this period, the harbour and its surronundings were filling up with alluvium and becoming marshy. The mosquitoes generated by the marshland were causing epidemic diseases like malaria. Because of these reasons, the harbour was gradually losing its importance, and unhealthy living conditions were causing the city to diminish day by day. The city had started to move slowly to the hill of Ayasuluk on which stood the tomb of St. John.

The earthquakes of 358-365 and 368 AD had also caused considerable damage to the city. Arab forces on campaigns to attack Istanbul in the 7th century AD on the way back attacked Ephesus among other cities of Ionia, and destroyed and burned down and pillaged everywhere. In the third campaign to Istanbul Caliph Suleimans commander Mesleme spent the winter of 716-717 AD in Ephesus. In this period, walls were built for protection from the Arabs, walls which ran parallel to the Harbour Street and which left such important buildings as the Celsus Library and the Agora, constituting the centre of the city, outside. The population was decreasing day by day. The harbour was turning into marshland. The malaria epidemic was becoming more intense everyday. Tradesmen were going to other ports. And the people had decided to live on the Ayasuluk Hill. In the 10th century AD the city had completely moved to Ayasuluk Hill.
 

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