Hellenistic Heroon in Ephesus

GPS coordinates: 37.938754, 27.341317

Archaeological site: 

Hellenistic Heroon in Ephesus
Hellenistic Heroon in Ephesus

Description: 

The visitors starting their walk down Curetes Street from the Triodos Square encounter a group of buildings lining the street to the south. The proximity to the so-called Hadrian's Gate and the monumental staircase that possibly was the Altar of Artemis signifies their importance. This group consists of three structures, from the west to the east: the Hellenistic Heroon, the Octagon, and the Hexagon. In their background, there is the so-called Terrace House II, the built-up residential area on the northern slope of Bülbüldağ Hill.

The first of these three structures is the Hellenistic Heroon, frequently referred to as the Androklos Heroon. The remains of this building that resembles a pool stand at the south-western ending of Curetes Street. The heroon — a sanctuary dedicated to a hero — was built in the Hellenistic period, in the 2nd century BCE. It was a U-shaped structure with a Doric façade on a ground floor and an open upper level of the Ionic order. In front of the building, there is a water basin as it later served as a fountain. The enclosure panels were renovated in the late ancient times when cross reliefs were added. Therefore, the monument was known as the Byzantine Fountain for a long time, and even today, many visitors believe that it is a Christian monument.

The key element that enabled the researchers to provide an interpretation of this heroon was the relief from its pediment. It shows a figure of a horseman dressed in a short chiton with a chlamys unfurling backwards. The whole relief presented a battle between a horseman and a hoplite, a charioteer, a fallen figure in heroic nakedness, and armed warriors.

One of the ancient authors, Pausanias, informs us about the fate of the legendary founder of Ephesus, Androklos: "But after that the Samians had returned to their own land, Androklos helped the people of Priene against the Carians. The Greek army was victorious, but Androklos was killed in the battle. The Ephesians carried off his body and buried it in their own land, at the spot where his tomb is pointed out at the present day, on the road leading from the sanctuary past the Olympieum to the Magnesian gate. On the tomb is a statue of an armed man."

This information, along with the frieze, led many researchers to believe that the battle for the fallen figure may illustrate the heroic death of Androklos. As the founder of Ephesus, he may have been buried not outside the city, but in its very centre where his grave provided protection against the enemies. Possibly, the statue of Androklos stood on the upper floor of the Heroon as its base with a dedication to this hero as ktistes meaning a founder was found nearby.

However, the identification of the Heroon building located at the western end of Curetes Street with the grave of Androklos is very uncertain. If Androklos had ever existed, he could have been interred inside or outside the city, as the burial laws or customs from this early period of history (the end of the 11th century BCE) are unknown. Moreover, most scholars accept that the early Ionian settlement was situated near Ayasuluk Hill and not between Pion (Panayır Dağ) and Koressos (Bülbül Dağ) hills. Thus, the location of the so-called Androklos Heroon does not make much sense in this context. Moreover, the structure did not contain a burial chamber, so possibly it was not even a funerary monument. Finally, while some scholars such as Hilke Thür drew the connection between the building and the legendary Hypelaia spring, the fountain was actually fed by a canal and not by a spring.

Interestingly, the archaeologists found a sarcophagus on the western side of the so-called Androklos Heroon. Inside, there was a skeleton of a 60-70-year-old man as a marble portrait of an Imperial priest. The sarcophagus dates back to the end of the 1st century CE or the beginning of the 2nd century CE, and it is possibly the resting place of certain Tiberius Claudius Aristion, the founder of the Trajan Nymphaeum. His sarcophagus was perhaps moved to this new location in Late Antiquity.

This text is a fragment of a guidebook to Ephesus: "The Secrets of Ephesus".

Bibliography: 

Image gallery: 

Hellenistic Heroon in Ephesus
Hellenistic Heroon in Ephesus
Hellenistic Heroon in Ephesus
Hellenistic Heroon in Ephesus
Hellenistic Heroon in Ephesus
Hellenistic Heroon in Ephesus
Antoninous as Androklos, from Ephesus, Izmir Archaeological Museum
Antoninous as Androklos, from Ephesus, Izmir Archaeological Museum