Ephesus Museum in Selçuk

GPS coordinates: 37.948370, 27.368066

Archaeological site: 

Statue of 'Beautiful Artemis'
Statue of 'Beautiful Artemis'

A visit to Ephesus Archaeological Museum in Selçuk is the perfect complement to the tour of the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. This small but fascinating institution has in its collections a number of exhibits from the area of the ancient city, the Temple of Artemis, the Basilica of St. John, and the fortress on Ayasuluk Hill. Moreover, other archaeological sites situated nearby are represented, including the finds from the Belevi Mausoleum and Çukuriçi Mound where the oldest artefact in the museum's collections was found – a stamp dating back to 6200 BCE.

Unfortunately, the museum collections are not complete, as many interesting objects from Ephesus were sent abroad. The findings excavated between 1867 and 1905 were taken to the British Museum, and those from the period of 1905-1923 to Austria where they are now exhibited in the Ephesos Museum in Vienna. When the Turkish law forbade taking the archaeological findings out of the country, a depot was built in Selçuk in 1929 to protect the excavated material from Ephesus and other nearby sites.

In time, the need arose for a larger venue to be constructed, and in 1964 the first section of the Ephesus Museum was opened to the public. It functioned in the southern section of the building that is still standing today. The exhibits, which until that time had been gathered in the warehouse at the excavation site, were put on display in this new venue. With the passage of time, it turned out that the museum premises were too small for its purposes, so, in 1976, the facility was expanded with the northern section. In 2012, a thorough renovation of the museum began. It was completed in December 2014 when the museum reopened. The museum collections have remained mostly the same, but the building has been modernized.

The items exhibited in the museum come from different periods of history and prehistory, including the Mycenaean, Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman times. The objects are not shown chronologically but grouped geographically in dedicated exhibition halls and the garden of the museum. There are nine main rooms of the archaeological section, devoted to the finds from the nymphaeums of Ephesus, the terrace houses of this city, ancient coins, the presentation of Ephesus through the ages, stone artefacts (in the garden), the cult of Kybele, the finds from the Artemision, the statues of Artemis Ephesia, and the Imperial Cult.

Hall of the Fountain Findings

In this room, there are exhibits found near the monumental fountains of Ephesus. The major parts of this exhibition are related to the Pollio Monument, the Fountain of Domitian, the Trajan's Nymphaeum, and the Fountain of Laecanius Bassus.

The Pollio Monument

The Pollio Monument was erected adjacent to the State Agora of the city, in honour of Gaius Sextilius Polio who had made generous donations to Ephesus, including an aqueduct and a basilica. The most prominent sculpture from this location is the resting warrior from the late 1st century CE. It is a statue of a young man, depicted in a half-lying position. His left arm is leaning against a rock, and it once had supported a shield. The left leg is bent while the right leg is extended forward. The man has a calm expression of his face, and his wavy hair is secured with a band.

The Fountain of Domitian

The Fountain of Domitian, built in 92/93 CE according to the inscription, stood to the south of the Pollio Monument. It was richly decorated with the statues brought from other monuments of Ephesus. Some of these statues are thought to be taken from the so-called Isis Temple on the State Agora, probably after an earthquake, to repair the fountain.

The most impressive decoration from the Fountain of Domitian is the so-called Polyphemus Group, standing in a semicircular niche. In Greek mythology, Polyphemus was the one-eyed giant son of Poseidon and the nymph called Thoosa. He was one of the Cyclopes described in Homer's Odyssey, and his name means "abounding in songs and legends". In Homer's epic, the Greek hero of the Trojan War, Odysseus, landed on the island of the Cyclopes during his journey home. Together with some of his men, he entered a cave filled with provisions. The cave belonged to Polyphemus who soon returned home with his flocks. The giant blocked the entrance to the cave with a great stone and ate two of the men.

Polyphemus Group
Polyphemus Group

Next morning, the giant ate two more of the sailors and left the cave to graze his sheep. After the giant returned in the evening and devoured two more of the men, Odysseus offered Polyphemus some strong, undiluted wine. The drunk giant asked Odysseus his name, promising him a guest-gift if he answered. Odysseus cleverly told him that his name was Nobody and Polyphemus promised to eat him last of all. With that, he fell into a drunken sleep. In the meantime, Odysseus prepared a wooden stake and then drove it into Polyphemus' only eye. When the giant called for help from his fellows, saying that "Nobody" had hurt him, they thought Polyphemus was being afflicted by divine power and recommend prayer as the answer. In the morning, the blind Cyclops let the sheep out to graze, touching their backs to ensure that the prisoners were not escaping. However, Odysseus and his men had tied themselves to the undersides of the animals and thus got away. Sailing off, Odysseus boastfully revealed his real name, an act of hubris that was to cause many problems for him later because Polyphemus prayed to his father, Poseidon, for revenge.

The statues from the Fountain of Domitian demonstrate the moment from the Polyphemus' story. They show Odysseus trying to make Polyphemus drunk and handing him the bowl of wine. In the same time, his companions carry the sharpened pole that will be used to blind the Cyclops. On the ground, there are two bodies of the killed comrades of Odysseus. There are also parts of a torn body on the Polyphemus' leg.

Among other statues from the Fountain of Domitian, displayed in the museum, there are two river gods called Mamas and Klaseas, originally placed in the northern and southern aedicules of the nymphaeum. The head of Zeus, also from this monument, belonged to the statue that stood in the central aedicula on the western side of the structure.

Head of Zeus
Head of Zeus

The Trajan's Nymphaeum

In the same room, there the statues once adorning the nymphaeum made at the behest of Emperor Trajan. During the archaeological excavations of the nymphaeum, the researchers found the statue of Aphrodite, two statues of Dionysus, one naked and one clothed. The statue of a young hunter symbolizes the legendary founder of Ephesus, Androklos. Other statues include the ones of Emperor Nerva, some members of the imperial family, and one satyr in a reclining position. The statue of the goddess of beauty Aphrodite stands nearby. This collection is completed with the explanation of the water supply system of Ephesus.

Reclining satyr
Reclining satyr

The Fountain of Laecanius Bassus

Gaius Laecanius Bassus Caecina Paetus was a consular governor of Roman Asia in 80/81 CE. As a wealthy, provincial official, he is credited with financing the transformation of the architectural landscape of Ephesus. He ordered the construction of the massive water feature at the southern end of Domitian Street. Because of the enormous size of the fountain, it is often referred to as the Water Palace, i.e. the Hydrekdocheion.

This nymphaeum had a rectangular pool framed by an ornate two-storied façade on three sides. It was adorned with many statues -- including the sea god Triton, sea creatures, river gods, and the Muses. Some of them used to serve as the water outlets, pouring water into the basin. The interplay of vibrant and colourful architecture, sculptural decoration with flowing water, and the dynamic element of water all resulted in making the fountain an attractive highlight of the city. Many decorative items of the fountain are now displayed in the museum.

Statue of sea god Triton
Statue of sea god Triton

Hall of the Terrace Houses Findings

The second room houses the finds from the Terrace Houses of Ephesus. Most of the exhibits in this hall are from the period from the first to the third centuries CE. The gallery also presents the history of the Terrace Houses in the form of a timeline and the description of the daily life in the Terrace Houses. This aspect is illustrated by the collections of small everyday objects, such as spoons, medical instruments, and scales.

These houses are the most outstanding examples of so-called peristyle dwellings. At the heart of such houses, there is a courtyard open to the sky, that provided light and fresh air to the inhabitants. It was surrounded with the colonnades, with other rooms behind. These houses had two or three stories, with living quarters, dining rooms, kitchens, and baths. The building materials were carefully selected to keep the houses warm in winter and cool in summer. There was even cold and hot running water delivered to the houses. These luxurious residences were paved with marble slabs while their walls were covered with frescoes depicting the scenes for the mythology and the theatre plays.

When the archaeological work began in these luxury residential villas, located on the northern slope of Koressos Hill, the frescoes and mosaics found there were transferred to the museum. However, later the researchers concluded that the best method of their preservation is to leave them in their original locations. Nowadays, the Hall of the Terrace Houses Findings presents smaller objects found in this area, but in order to see the mosaics and frescoes, it is necessary to visit Ephesus. The exhibits in the museum include bronze objects, marble figurines, and statues.

The imperial families of Rome are represented by Emperor Tiberius and his mother, Livia. She is portrayed with soft facial features, and her eyes gaze up to the viewer. It indicates the original setting of the bust in a low niche. This bust of Livia is one of the only four surviving portraits of Livia from Turkey: two from Ephesus and two from Aphrodisias. The second portrait of Livia from Ephesus, a part of a larger-than-life statue, is displayed in the Hall of the Imperial Cult of the same museum.

Bust of Livia
Bust of Livia

The head of Socrates from the 4th century CE is also here as well as the statues of Zeus, Asclepius, and Hygieia. Interestingly, in this section, there is a statue of Artemis the Huntress, the typical representation of this goddess. It is worthwhile to remember this statue and compare it later with the statues of Artemis Ephesia, displayed in a separate section of the museum.

The bust of Marcus Aurelius, made of fine marble in the 2nd century CE, is an example of fine craftsmanship. The philosopher-emperor has a wrinkled forehead as if he was deep in thought. The statue is dressed in the paludamentum. This characteristic cloak, fastened at one shoulder, was traditionally worn by military commanders. As supreme commanders of the whole Roman army, Roman emperors were often portrayed wearing it in their statues. So strongly was this cloak connected with the imperial status that after the reign of Augustus, the paludamentum was restricted to the Emperor.

Bust of Marcus Aurelius
Bust of Marcus Aurelius

There is also a bust of Menander, a Greek dramatist and the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy. This prolific writer composed 108 comedies but unfortunately only one of them, Dyskolos (Old Cantankerous), has survived almost entirely. Probably the best-known quotation of Menander was made by Julius Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon. According to Plutarch, the phrase used by Julius Caesar at the crossing was a quote in Greek from Menander's play "Arrhephoros": "He declared in Greek with a loud voice to those who were present 'Let the die be cast' and led the army across."

Among the smaller finds, it is worth to take a closer look at the terracotta objects such as a relief depicting a mounted hero, the statuette of a family group, or a lamp in the shape of a foot. There are also ancient toys, for instance a wheeled rooster figurine. The figurine of Priapus is marked by its oversized, permanent erection. In Greek mythology, this peculiar deity was a minor rustic fertility god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens, and male genitalia. Other ancient gods represented by the figurines found at the Terrace Houses include Dionysus, Nemesis, Hygieia, and Asclepius.

A highlight of this section is a small marble statuette of Artemis, in Archaic style, but made in the 2nd century CE. Artemis' companion, Eros, is also here, in the form of a small bronze statuette from the 2nd century BCE that shows him riding a dolphin.

Other impressive objects are the bronze head of a philosopher from the 3rd century CE, and the statue of an Egyptian priest from the 6th century BCE, also made of bronze. Another precious bronze object is the vessel called oinochoe, from around 470 BCE. Oinochoe is a wine jug typical for ancient Greek pottery. Most Greek oenochoe were in painted terracotta pottery. Still, metal oenochoai were also common at the wealthier homes, and this is the case for the oinochoe from the Terrace Houses in Ephesus.

It is worth paying attention to an impressive and intricate ivory frieze from the early 2nd century CE. It was found in a burnt layer of Terrace House 2. It may have been part of some furniture or it belonged to a lintel. The frieze is 120 centimetres long. Its three panels show Emperor Trajan and the Roman army in the victorious campaign against the Dacians or the Parthians.

Ivory frieze
Ivory frieze

Hall of Ancient Coins

The exhibits gathered in this hall consist of several thematic collections. The first of these are the coins found in Ephesus, displayed in chronological order. They are accompanied by a description explaining the process of minting coins in the ancient period. There are also several hoards of coins on display, including the Yeniköy Hoard from the 5th century BCE and much later Ayasuluk Hoard from the 15th century CE.

Ayasuluk Hoard
Ayasuluk Hoard

Ancient Greek cities often used animals as identifying symbols on the coins that they minted, for instance the drachmas of Athens depicted the owl of Athena. For this purpose, Ephesus used the bee and the deer. The earliest electrum coins from Ephesus that date back to 620–600 BCE, had a depiction of a grazing stag and the script "emi sema" (I am the sign of Phanes). Starting from these early coins until the Roman period, a deer was the unchanging element of Ephesus coins. The deer was the sacred animal of Artemis, the patron goddess of the city. Artemis as the huntress was often depicted with this animal in different variations: riding a deer, in a chariot drawn by deer, subduing a stag with her bare hands, or with a little deer at her feet. Even the stiff hieratic form of Artemis Ephesia was portrayed with two deer standing at her sides.

On the other hand, bees were also associated with Ephesus for many reasons. According to Philostratus, the Athenians who came to colonise Ionia, where Ephesus is located, were led there by the Muses, who took the shape of bees. Artemis' priestesses were called melissai or "bees" of the goddess and were directed by "king bees", the priests who served a year-long term under strict rules of purity. This is obviously an incorrect image of the life of bees -- the ancient Greeks and Romans did not realise that the leader of a beehive is a queen and not a king. Again, Artemis Ephesia is often accompanied by bees, shown on her belt or dress. Moreover, David George Hogarth, who excavated the earliest levels of the Artemision found numerous gold ornaments, some in the shape of bees, that could have been attached to the statue's garments. These fascinating objects are now in the collections of the British Museum in London.

In the Roman period, Ephesus coins were minted continuously until the reign of Emperor Gallienus in the mid-3rd century CE. In this period, the obverse side of the coins had the portraits of the emperor of the period and his family while the reverse side depicted important buildings such as the Artemision, statues, including Artemis Ephesia, or other works of art. The deer also sometimes appeared on the Roman-era coins.

Hall of Ephesus through the ages

In this section of the museum, the chronology of human settlement in the area of Ephesus is presented. The exhibits gathered there are organised according to the timeline of the history of the city. The oldest artefacts in the museum are the vessels from the Mycenaean tomb, discovered by accident, during preparatory work of a car park at the Basilica of St. John. The utensils found in the tomb date back to the 14th and the 13th centuries BCE. Among the smaller objects, there are bronze swords and spearheads, terracotta vessels and figurines, glass bottles, and flasks.

Vessels from the Mycenaean tomb
Vessels from the Mycenaean tomb

The larger exhibits include the marble statue of Eros holding a rabbit, and a marble head of a child. Interestingly, in the Theogony of Hesiod composed around 700 BCE, Eros was not a god of love but a primaeval god, son of Chaos, the original emptiness of the universe. Only the later tradition made him the son of Aphrodite, the goddess of sexual love and beauty, by either Zeus, Ares, or Hermes.

One of the most beautiful objects in this hall is the head of Eros, made of white marble. Unfortunately, only the head has been preserved of the statue that was a copy of the famous Eros stretching a bow sculpture of Lysippos, made around 330-320 BCE. The head of Eros is slightly inclined to the right, as Eros is looking at the bow he used to have. The face is the demonstration of childish innocence, and beautifully sculpted hair is curled and tied back.

Head of Eros
Head of Eros

Stone Exhibits in the Garden

The small garden of the museum is full of interesting exhibits. Among them, it is worth paying attention to the finds from Belevi Mausoleum, including a sculpture of a lion-griffin and a large but unfinished sarcophagus with a carved male figure lying on its lid. Other exhibits gathered there include two other sarcophagi, grave steles, column capitals, several kouros statues from the 6th century BCE, and a mosaic with a geometric pattern. There is also a monumental inscription known as the Ephesian Customs Law.

Sarcophagus in the garden
Sarcophagus in the garden

Belevi Mausoleum

Belevi Mausoleum is a monumental tomb from the Hellenistic era that stands near Selçuk in the Aegean province of Izmir. It is the second-largest ancient mausoleum in Anatolia, slightly smaller than the most famous building of this type; that is the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. However, Belevi Mausoleum is much better preserved than one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Originally, the mausoleum was designed for Lysimachus, one of the generals of Alexander the Great. Lysimachus was killed during the war with his former ally -- Seleucus I Nicator, at the Battle of Corupedium, near Sardis, in 281 BCE. His body, guarded by a faithful dog, was found a few days later and sent to his son -- Alexander. He buried his father in Lysimachia, located in Thrace. It was a symbolic event because Lysimachus founded Lysimachia during the preparations for the war against his rivals.

Finally, the ruler of the Seleucid dynasty known as Antiochus II Theos was buried in Belevi Mausoleum. His nickname, meaning "God", was given to him by the residents of Miletus. He freed them from the rule of a tyrant named Timarch. Antiochus II died in 246 BCE, allegedly poisoned by his wife and cousin -- Laodice I -- who then married another cousin, Seleucus II. Antiochus II Theos was partly of Persian origins because his grandmother Apam was a Persian princess. She married one of the distinguished generals of Alexander the Great, Antiochus I Soter, the father of Antiochus II. His roots explain the Persian influences visible in Belevi Mausoleum embellishments.

The burial chamber of the mausoleum is carved in solid rock. This chamber had the square plan, with a side of the length of 29 meters, and its height was 10 meters. From the outside, the rock obscuring the mausoleum was covered with marble slabs. There was a second level above, surrounded by 28 columns. The construction of Belevi Mausoleum has never been finished, but it would probably have the shape of a steep pyramid with the statue crowning its top, and the whole structure would reach 35 meters in height. In the burial chamber, there was a large, unfinished sarcophagus, with a lid carved to resemble a lying man. Originally, the man's head was decorated with a crown, and he held a bowl in his hand. He was accompanied by a servant, whose dress and figure indicate Persian origins.

Belevi sarcophagus
Belevi sarcophagus

The materials for the construction of the mausoleum were acquired locally; for example, the marble came from the vicinity of Ephesus. To complete the decorations of the mausoleum, up to 2,500 cubic meters of marble had been excavated. The slabs, which covered the mausoleum from the north, depicted the funeral. The reliefs on other sides illustrated a centauromachy -- the battle of legendary people known as Lapiths with the Centaurs at the wedding feast of Pirithous. Interestingly, the reliefs were originally colourful, and the traces of paint were still visible in the 1930s.

The groups of lions-gryphons staring in the direction of carved stone vessels were placed around the edges of the roof of the mausoleum. On the corners of the roof, there were pairs of sculpted horses. The preserved sculptures and the sarcophagus are now in the collections of the Ephesus Museum in Selçuk. However, other decorative elements, including the fragments of centauromachy, are exhibited in the Museum of History and Art in Izmir.

The artefacts from Belevi Mausoleum displayed in the Ephesus Museum are an excellent illustration of a mixed, Greco-Persian style. The Persian influences are visible in the character of an oriental servant, the statues of lions-gryphons with long wings, and the style of decorative vases.

Belevi lion-gryphon
Belevi lion-gryphon

Ephesian Customs Law

A remarkable discovery related to the functioning of the Ephesus harbour was made in the 80-ties of the 20th century during the excavations conducted in the area of St. John Basilica in Selçuk. It was an inscription reused as an ambo but containing a copy of the Ephesian harbour laws for the Roman Province of Asia. It is now known as the Ephesian Customs Law, and it is displayed in the museum in Selçuk.

This inscription was set up in Ephesus as the principal city of the Asia Province in 62 CE, during the reign of Emperor Nero. Basically, this inscription describes the rates of the customs duties, revised and published by the three curatores publicorum vectigalium (curators of public revenues) nominated by Emperor Nero. It presents the legal regulations concerning the administration and exaction of the customs dues in the province. The text was composed in the period when the emperor and the senate had been already aware of the failings of the tax system executed by the so-called publicani, i.e. tax-collectors.

For the scholars, the document is a crucial source for understanding how the collection of taxes was executed in this period. For instance, it discusses the ways information stored in the archives at Rome was retrieved. It also specifies the methods of tax payment and the penalties for tax evasion. Other issues discussed there include the rates of taxes, tax exemptions, and the relation between custom-dues and other taxes.

Hall of Cybele Cult and the Hall of the Finds from the Temple of Artemis

The main aim of the Hall of Kybele Cult exhibition is to explain the cult of the Anatolian Goddess Kybele and its relation to the worship of Greek Goddess Artemis. The exhibits include many votive offerings, small statuettes of the goddess, and gold jewellery. This section, along with the next one, is an excellent introduction to the most important room of the museum, i.e. the Hall of Artemis Ephesia.

In the collections of the museum, in the Hall of the Finds from the Temple of Artemis, there are also other objects related to Artemis and her temple. There is even a fragment of lead pipe with marble sleeves that was found under the altar of Artemision.

The ancient Greeks often offered a variety of objects to their deities, usually by delivering them to an appropriate temple. These gifts were put on display somewhere within the sanctuary and then later buried in a votive deposit. In some special cases, particularly valuable offerings were stored in a treasury or within a special room in the temple. Among the most common ancient votive offerings to Artemis there were the images of this goddess, from larger than life statues to small relief images. The niches in the wall of the museum display numerous votive depictions of Artemis, most frequently in the seated position. She is sometimes accompanied by animals, such as lions. The people standing next to the goddess are the donors of the votives and their families.

Unfortunately, most of the architectural fragments of the Artemision are not in the museum in Selçuk. They are now on display at the British Museum. Among the most impressive exhibits shown in London, there is a colossal carved column drum from the Hellenistic Temple of Artemis. It shows a draped woman, perhaps Alcestis or Eurydike, between a youthful draped Thanatos (Death) and Hermes Psychopompos; also shown are Persephone seated, and her husband, Pluton (Hades). Another architectural piece is a marble fragment of a carved column drum from the Artemision with the preserved lower folds of a garment. There are also eight wall blocks originally from the Artemision and later reused in the Great Theatre. Moreover, a preserved fragment of the altar that once stood in front of the temple, decorated with reliefs depicting the Amazons, is now in the Ephesos Museum in Vienna.

Hall of Artemis Ephesia

The most famous exhibits of the Ephesus Archaeological Museum are in the Hall of Artemis Ephesia, where there are two statues of this goddess. They were found during the excavations conducted in Prytaneion in Ephesus. In 1956, the head of excavations, Franz Miltner, was informed by an enthusiastic Turkish excavation worker that a golden statue was unearthed in the Prytaneion. After a closer inspection, the statue turned out to be not gold but marble. The perfectly preserved statue was called 'Artemis the Beautiful' by Miltner. It was later joined by 'Artemis the Colossal', named so because of its size. The third, smaller-than-life statue of the goddess, in a much worse state of preservation, was also excavated. These three statues were made relatively late, in the Roman Imperial period, but they are thought to be the copies of the cult statues from the Artemision.

Importantly, these cult statues of Artemis, known as the Ephesian Artemis, differ immensely from the Huntress Artemis iconography where the goddess is depicted wearing a short functional tunic called a chiton and a mantle known as himation. This hunting variation wanders through the forests with a bow and a quiver. The Artemis Ephesia is depicted in quite a different manner that amazes and surprises many of the visitors.

The first of the Artemis Ephesia statues, known as Colossal Artemis because of its size, dates back to the first century CE. The impressive decoration rests of the head of Artemis, consisting of two rows of reliefs depicting temples. Characteristic tabs on the chest of the statue are reminiscent of the breasts. However, some scientists put forward other hypotheses, suggesting that they are eggs of bees or testes of bulls, sacrificed to the goddess.

Statue of Colossal Artemis
Statue of Colossal Artemis

The statue is missing a hand, probably due to the method of its making. The hands were prepared separately, from ivory or gold, and then bolted to a marble body. The figures of lions on the shoulders of the goddess are the evidence of the relationship with the Anatolian goddess Kybele who was customarily accompanied by these animals. There are also decorations in the form of rows of real and mythical animals below the richly decorated belt on the goddess's hips.

The second statue of the goddess is known as Beautiful Artemis. It was made in the second century CE. Its finders were surprised by the splendid condition of the sculpture. Artemis is presented in the same position as in the case of Colossal Artemis, but this sculpture has both hands that are stretched forward. On the sides of the goddess stand her faithful companions, i.e. a pair of deer. Animals surround the head of Beautiful Artemis, on her neck there is a pearl necklace, and under it -- the signs of the zodiac, symbolizing her power over the heavens.

Statue of Beautiful Artemis
Statue of Beautiful Artemis

Hall of the Imperial Cult

In this hall, there are objects related to the imperial cult that developed in Ephesus during the Roman period. The highlights of this exhibition are the statues of Roman emperors, the Parthian Monument fragments, the frieze from the Temple of Hadrian, the altar from the Temple of Domitian, and the statue of proconsul Stephanus.

Statues of Roman Emperors

The statues of Emperor Augustus and his wife, Livia, were discovered in fragments in a room at the eastern entrance to the Stoa Basilica, to the north of the State Agora of Ephesus. The statues date to the late-Augustan or early-Tiberian principate. The room where they were found served as the Ceremonial Hall of the Basilica. This location is in accordance with the standard practice of the Roman era: most of the portraits of Livia were found in religious or civic buildings such as basilicas and porticoes. They often contained shrines of the imperial cult, thus blurring the line between sacred and civic spheres.

Statues of Augustus and Livia
Statues of Augustus and Livia

The basilica of Ephesus was demolished in the Early Byzantine Period. It is possible that the imperial statues were purposefully broken at that time. Moreover, signs of the cross are visible on the foreheads of these characters, possibly indicating their symbolic baptism in the early Christian period.

Importantly, the over-life size white marble portrait of Livia from Ephesus in the only extant example of the so-called Marbury Hall type with its body intact. This type is named for the statue of Livia purchased in Rome in the 18th century and formerly located at Marbury Hall. The head of the statue features an elongated face, a horizontal brow, comma-shaped curls along the forehead, and three waves of hair pulled back from the sides of the face. Livia wears the Greek garments: a chiton and a himation, a costume frequently associated with the sculptural representations of deities. She is seated, and the preserved section of her left forearm is posed as if it had originally held the horn of plenty. Together, the clothes and the pose suggest a divine role for Livia. The statue of Livia is accompanied by a seated statue of Augustus of approximately the same height.

The reason behind the depiction of Livia as a goddess was the political one. Her husband, Emperor Octavian Augustus, promoted the return to the traditional values and morality of the Roman Republic era. His new laws significantly changed the situation of women. For instance, they prohibited men from marrying women below their social class. Also, adultery, previously a private issue, became punishable by law. Moreover, women were encouraged to bear children; freeborn women with three children and freedwomen with four children were granted freedom from tutela, i.e. the guardianship by a male relative. Livia, as the wife of Augustus, became a living example for other women to emulate.

The hall also presents the marble heads of several Roman emperors, including Trajan, Commodus, and Balbinus. While Trajan and Commodus are well-known historical figures, Balbinus is one of the almost forgotten rulers of Rome. He was the emperor only for three months in the year 238, known as the Year of the Six Emperors. Thus, his portraits are relatively rare. The best-known one is the statue on display in the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus in Athens, but the bust in Selçuk is also well-worth some attention.

Head of Balbinus
Head of Balbinus

The Parthian Monument

One of the most fascinating exhibits in this hall is the Parthian Monument. The reliefs of this monumental structure were found in front of the Celsus Library, arranged as a basin of the fountain. They show the scenes from the wars fought with the Parthians by emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus; thus, the reliefs are known as the Parthian Monument.

The Parthian Monument is one of the most important extant Roman-age reliefs from Asia Minor. It has five thematic cycles: the Battle Scenes, the Adoption Scene, the Personifications, the Assembly of the Gods, and the Triumph. It commemorates the Roman Emperor Lucius Verus, who established a camp in Ephesus during his Parthian Campaign of 161-165 CE.

The Austrian archaeologists found the existing tablets and reliefs of the monument during the first decade of their excavations at Ephesus. This is the reason that almost all of the discovered pieces are now in the Ephesos Museum in Vienna. The plaster casts of the reliefs discovered in the 1960s and 1970s were added later. The friezes have a total length of about 70 metres, of which 40 metres are on display in Vienna where they have been arranged in the form of a monumental altar. It is only an educated guess at their correct arrangement, as they were not found in their original state.

Some original reliefs and copies are also displayed in the Ephesus Museum in Selçuk. In this venue, there are the copies of the adoption scene, the personification of the city in Asia Minor, and the battle scene (with small original pieces). The original reliefs in this museum depict the figure of the armoured soldier and the figures of Selene and Apollo Helios.

Quite surprisingly, there is still much that the scholars do not know about it. The structure is represented by a number of relief tablets and fragments from a monumental frieze that were found in various locations within the ruins of Ephesus. All of these pieces had been repurposed at least once, making it impossible to point out the structure's original location. Moreover, the archaeologists have been unable to determine the plan and appearance of the building were the friezes had originally been installed. Thus, it is impossible to decide what was their spatial arrangement.

The reliefs of the monument were found in several locations of the ancient Ephesus. In the Late Antiquity, some of them were used as the balustrade of a fountain, installed in front of the Celsus Library. This was the result of the rebuilding activity after an earthquake that destroyed the central hall of the library. The building was then abandoned, but its monumental façade was still standing. It was turned into the background of a fountain. Other tablets of the monument were used as construction materials for different buildings, and others were utilised for the reparation of the roads.

Several proposals concerning the monument have been made so far, and possibly the most popular one claims that it was a huge altar -- similar to the Altar of Zeus in Pergamon -- with the main frieze running along the main level. However, other proposals suggest that it was a square building with an inner courtyard, with the relief tablets placed on its internal or external walls.

The significance of the monument has long been recognised. However, the scholarly debate is still ongoing, concerning the meaning of the monument. Was its main purpose to honour Antoninus Pius for the consolidation of the Empire? This theory is strengthened by the fact that he was the governor of Asia Minor, with the headquarters in Ephesus, around 140 CE. Or was it erected mainly to celebrate the victory of Lucius Verus over the Parthians? In the 160s, Lucius Verus led a campaign against the Parthians, during which he spent much time at Ephesus. The city served as one of the logistical headquarters of this campaign. This fact led some scholars to identify the famous monumental frieze as the structure commemorating the Roman victory in this war. This is also the reason why it is now called the Parthian Monument.

Parthian Monument - the battle scene
Parthian Monument - the battle scene

In 1903, one of the most fascinating fragments was discovered. It depicts an impressive gathering of four Roman emperors from the 2nd century CE: Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Lucius Verus, and Marcus Aurelius. A question arises: is this the depiction of a historical event -- was it really possible to gather all these people in one place at the same moment of time? The answer is, amazingly, yes. When Emperor Hadrian, whose marriage to Vibia Sabina turned out to be childless, began to decline in health, the urgent issue of the succession on the imperial throne arose. The lack of children in the imperial family was not really surprising, because Hadrian preferred to spend time with handsome Antoninus, and Sabina -- apparently -- preferred the company of Suetonius, a writer and an imperial secretary.

Returning to the issue of the choice of a successor: in 136 Hadrian adopted consul Lucius Ceionius Commodus, who took the adoptive name of Lucius Aelius Caesar. Why did Hadrian selected as a successor a person who was known to be of poor health and rather an aristocratic intellectual than a born leader? This fact has not been fully explained, but speculation arises from time to time among the historians that Lucius was actually the natural son of Hadrian. Unfortunately, or fortunately for Rome, Lucius did not live long enough to become the emperor, because he died unexpectedly when he was only 36 years old. The reason was a violent haemorrhage that occurred on January 1, 138.

Thus, Hadrian was forced to select his successor again. This time the choice fell on Antoninus, whose full name was Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Arrius Antoninus. He went down in history under a shorter nickname -- his involvement in the posthumous deification of Hadrian by the Roman senate was commemorated by the cognomen of Pius, i.e. righteous or pious. Antoninus was no longer a young man at the time of his adoption, because he was 52 years old, while his adoptive father -- Hadrian -- was 62.

To avoid the risk of the immediate death of the successor and the threat of throwing the Empire in chaos, Hadrian carried out a somewhat complicated adoption procedure -- he adopted Antoninus himself, while Antoninus -- adopted not one, but two successors of the next generation. The choice fell first on Lucius Ceionius Commodus the younger, son of the late unlucky successor to Hadrian, who was given the adoptive name Lucius Verus. Had Hadrian prepared the imperial future for his grandson? At the time of his adoption, Lucius was only eight years old and is depicted as a child on a relief from the Parthian Monument. The second person adopted to the imperial family was Marcus Annius Verus, who is much more widely recognized under the name of Marcus Aurelius. At the time of adoption, he was just entering adulthood, for he was 17 years old.

There is also the question about the figure whose head can be seen in the upper right corner of the relief. Perhaps this is a commemoration of Lucius Ceionius Commodus, the first candidate for a successor to Hadrian, and also the father of the future emperor Lucius Verus. If this really was the idea of the creators of the relief, it depicts not four, but five people directly related to the issue of imperial succession.

The adoption scene is a critical message as it signals that the line of succession is appropriately designated and secured over three imperial generations and thus ensuring political stability. Other fragments of the monument -- including dynamic battle scenes -- strengthen the message: Rome will defeat all enemies, regardless of whether they are the Parthians from the east or the Germans from the north. The personifications of the cities and provinces of the Empire signify the support of particular regions for the conquests of Rome.

Parthian Monument - the adoption scene (a copy)
Parthian Monument - the adoption scene (a copy)

Frieze from the Temple of Hadrian

In the Hall of the Imperial Cult, there is also an impressive marble frieze from the Temple of Hadrian in Ephesus that consists of four scenes. The first of the reliefs recreates the foundation myth of Ephesus. It shows five figures: a male deity, possibly Zeus or the personification of the region, a female figure holding a vase -- the personification of the Hypelaios spring, an anonymous armoured warrior, and Androklos on horseback fighting with a wild boar. Beneath the animal, there is a figure of a fallen warrior. The Hypelaios was a spring among the olive trees, which may have later been contained by a fountain, the Hypelaeus mentioned by Strabo: "The city was in ancient times round the Athenaeum, which is now outside the city near the Hypelaeus [a fountain]."

Frieze from the Temple of Hadrian
Frieze from the Temple of Hadrian

The second relief depicts an anonymous emperor sacrificing in front of a garlanded altar with the religious official behind it. The emperor is wearing a military costume, and Nike is offering him a crown. Alternatively, the male figure making a sacrifice is interpreted as Theseus. To the right of the altar, there is a naked man holding a spear, Heracles, and four fleeing Amazons. To the left, behind Nike, there is a male figure with a shield and another Heracles. According to some myths, the Amazons had been the original founders of Ephesus, and even the temple of Artemis in Ephesus was attributed to the Amazon queen. Other myths mention that the Amazons, fought by Heracles and Theseus, sought sanctuary in this temple.

The third relief again shows four Amazons, this time fleeing from Dionysus. Dionysus is embracing a satyr while Pan, holding a thyrsus, is standing next to them. A thyrsus was a staff of giant fennel covered with ivy vines and leaves, and topped with a pine cone. It was a symbol of prosperity, fertility, hedonism, and pleasure, usually associated with Dionysus and his followers. The relief also shows a male figure riding an elephant, and a Maenad playing the cymbal. Thus, the whole scene is often explained as a Dionysian procession.

The fourth, final relief is the most problematic to explain or interpret. It is not a dynamic scene as the three other reliefs but rather a group portrait of various deities and heroes. From left to right, they were identified as: Dea Roma, Selene, Hermes or Helios, Apollo, Artemis, Androklos and his dog, Heracles, Dionysus, Hermes, Hecate, Aphrodite or Kybele, Ares, and Athena. However, the figure of Hermes has also been interpreted as Emperor Theodosius, due to the characteristic haircut. Theodosius was a very strongly devoted Christian, here shockingly shown with a multitude of pagan gods. The alternative explanation is that the figure is actually Hecate, but then there would be two Hecates standing next to each other.

Altar and statue from the Temple of Domitian

In 1930, the Austrian archaeologists led by Josef Keil found the altar of the Temple of Domitian. As they discovered one part of the altar around ten meters in front of the temple, they assumed that the other part had been removed in late antiquity. The part of the altar found by Keil is on display in the museum in Selçuk. It is decorated with a relief frieze depicting accumulated arms and armour in disorder, the weapons of different peoples and Romans: various kinds of shields, helmets, quivers, bows, leg armour, and cuirasses. Why was the altar decorated with such a relief? The weapons of defeated enemies were often dedicated to temples and sanctuaries, and the friezes featuring weapons were common in the Roman Imperial times. These weapons symbolised the victorious emperor and celebrated his triumph.

Altar from the Temple of Domitian
Altar from the Temple of Domitian

Much later, in the 1970s, the Turkish team of archaeologists were conducting the excavations in the area of Theatre Street that connected the theatre and the stadium of Ephesus. Amazingly, they found the other part of the altar in this location, quite distant from the temple. This fragment was reused in late antiquity as the basin of a fountain. Some parts of the fountain basin and a fragment featuring weapons have been preserved there. Some scholars date the decorations of the altar to the later period because of the depiction of the bearded barbarian wearing oriental clothes and a Phrygian cap, sitting on a cuirass and leaning against a trophy which is part of the frieze featuring armours and weapons.

Inside the so-called Temple of Domitian, a massive statue of an emperor once dominated the cella of the temple. Unfortunately, it is impossible to find out what was the posture of the emperor depicted on this statue because only his head and one arm have been preserved. It is estimated that it measured up to 5 meters if the emperor was shown seated or 7 meters -- if he was standing. For a long time, it was assumed that the emperor depicted was Domitian himself.

Moreover, even the original attribution of the temple to Emperor Domitian has been questioned. It was based on the preserved inscriptions that informed that the first neokorate status was granted to Ephesus by Emperor Domitian and his wife, Domitia. Thus, the statue found within the temple was identified as the one depicting this emperor. However, according to the recent results of research, the building might already have been begun as early as in the Neronian period. One way or another, the monumental pieces of the statue, now identified as depicting Emperor Titus -- Domitian's older brother -- can now be seen in the Ephesus Museum in Selçuk.

Why are there problems with the identification of the statue's identity? Moreover, why was the temple renamed shortly after its completion? These issues resulted from the problematic character of Domitian and his controversial legacy. Domitian, who called himself "the ruler and the god", was assassinated by court officials in 96 CE. After his death, the Roman senate condemned him to damnatio memoriae. It meant that he was to be excluded from official accounts, including the destruction of his depictions, and the removal of his name from inscriptions and documents. Was Domitian really such an evil ruler to deserve this fate? It remains a debatable issue among the scholars who point out that the authoritarian nature of his rule put him at sharp odds with the senate, while he remained popular with the common people and the army. Moreover, despite the ancient accounts picturing him as a cruel and paranoid tyrant, modern researchers point out that Domitian was actually an efficient ruler and his economic and political programmes provided the foundation of the peaceful second century.

Statue of Domitian or Titus
Statue of Domitian or Titus

Statue of Stephanus

The monument located near the exit depicts proconsul Stephanus, who served as the governor of Ephesus. The statue represents a group of seven late antique statues from Ephesus that were found in the centre of the city. On the basis of their style, the statues have been dated to the period from the beginning of the 5th century to the middle of the 6th century, with the majority from the turn of the 5th and the 6th centuries. Astonishingly, the group of statues from Ephesus represents the largest homogeneous series of late antique monumental statuary ever found in any city of the Roman Empire.

All these statues depict the magistrates of high rank as demonstrated by their clothes: an inner tunic, an outer tunic called colobium, a broad East Roman toga, and high shoes known as calcei. Most of the officials are shown holding a mappa, i.e. kerchief used to signal the start of the games, in their right hands. The kerchief is shown folded into a ball, ready to be thrown into the arena. In the left hand, they hold a sceptre, sometimes ending in a bust of the emperor. Some of the figures also have a bundle of scrolls by their feet.

The statues are very similar, and there is no coincidence in it. They were created to represent the office, not the individuals. They could be produced in larger quantities and stored until the time came to display them publicly. The heads were made separately and attached to the torsos. This clever method enabled the quick replacement of the head when the holder of the office was succeeded by another person.

The statue of Stephanus was discovered in 1956 near the Baths of Scholastica on Curetes Street. It must have fallen from its base that was also found. This statue is the best-preserved one of the group. The proconsul is depicted as a man of middle years with the mappa held in his raised right hand. The closer look at the statue reveals that the head had been reworked from an earlier, larger one, as there are the traces of the ears visible among the locks of the proconsul's hair. It is also probable that the head of Stephanus was installed onto an earlier torso.

Statue of proconsul Stephanus
Statue of proconsul Stephanus

The inscription on the base of the statue informs that Ephesus honoured a person called Stephanus, born on the island of Naxos who had given fair judgements. A mule-drawn carriage symbolised his labours. Although no date is given, on the basis of the style of the sculpture, it has been dated to the early reign of Emperor Justinian. Thus, the statue an excellent example of the transitional period of the way people were represented in antiquity and in the Middle Ages.

Visitor tips: 

Ephesus Archaeological Museum in Selçuk is open daily, in summer (April — October) from 8:00 am to 6:30 pm, and in winter (November — March) from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, the ticket office closes half an hour earlier. The ticket costs 18 TL.

The museum has a small café and a souvenir shop. There are also toilets near the entrance.

Ephesus Archaeological Museum is situated in the centre of Selçuk, near the bus station and just a half-hour walk from the ruins of ancient Ephesus. The museum address is Atatürk Mah. Uğur Mumcu Sevgi Yolu, Selçuk.

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