Ephesus, one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia Minor, on the S. side of the Cayster, near its mouth on the W. coast. It was said to have been founded by the Amazons, whose legend is connected with Artemis or Diana, the deity of Ephesus. Strabo says that it was settled by the Carians and Leleges, who were driven out by the Ionians. It was besieged by Croesus, and passed successively under the power of Persia, Macedon, and Rome. The Romans made it the capital of the proconsular province of western Asia, and the centre of a great commerce. - Its rich territory, central situation, and the energy of its Greek population gave Ephesus great prosperity. It was the native place of Parrhasius, Heraclitus, Her-modorus, and Hipponax, the inventor of parody, and claimed to be the birthplace of Homer. But its chief glory was its magnificent temple of Diana, and the city did not fall into decay until the Goths destroyed the temple. The Ionian colonists found the worship of Diana established and the foundations of the temple laid.
It was enlarged and seven times restored at the expense of all Asia. During the night on which Alexander the Great was born, in 356 B. C., this magnificent structure was burned to the ground by the caprice of a certain Eros-tratus, who avowed that he had no other object than to immortalize his name. While it was rebuilding Alexander offered to pay all the expense if he might be allowed to place his name upon it; but the Ephesians refused, and the temple was built by the people generally, the work extending over 220 years. It was 425 ft. long and 220 ft. wide, being the largest of the Greek temples, and four times as large as the Parthenon at Athens. It was magnificently decorated with sculptures by Praxiteles and a great painting by Apelles. The statue of Diana was of ivory, furnished with exquisitely wrought golden ornaments. The temple had the right of asylum, which extended to the land around it, and caused the city to be overrun with criminals until the limits were narrowed by Augustus. The medals of Ephesus under the emperors bore a representation of the temple, which was counted one of the seven wonders of the world.
It was still the most notable thing about the city when St. Paul preached there in the year 54. The commerce of the place attracted many Jews in apostolic times, and this led the apostle Paul to found there a Christian church, and to remain there over two years. The apostle John also lived in Ephesus, and addressed to the church there one of the messages in the Apocalypse. It was the resort of sorcerers and magicians, and the "Ephesian letters" were celebrated magical charms, even to the 6th century. Several Christian councils were held here; the most important of which were the assembly of the bishops of Asia convoked in 196 to fix the day for the celebration of Easter, the third oecumenical council in 431, and the famous " robber synod " in 449. (See Cyril of Alexandria, and Eutyches.) About A. D. 260 the city was sacked by the Goths, who burnt the temple; but the final destruction of the latter is supposed to have taken place in the following century. During the Byzantine period Ephesus was the see of an archbishop, but it dwindled in population, its port became choked, and its plains, from want of drainage and cultivation, unhealthy. In the 11th century it was attacked by Turkish pirates, who were, however, driven out.
In the 13th century it was alternately in the hands of the Mussulmans and their foes, but in 1308 fell finally under the Turkish power, and was held by one or another Turkish sultan. The ancient city almost entirely disappeared before the modern era, even the site of the temple being lost, the ruins having been in great part carried away for the construction of later buildings, while the rapid formation of alluvial soil buried many beneath the surface. Several small Turkish villages occupy the ground, the most important of which is Ayasalook, 48 m. S. of Smyrna by the railway to Aidin. - In 1863 an Englishman, Mr. J. T. Wood, found in the ruins of the Odeum two letters from Antoninus Pius to the Ephesians (A. D. 145-150), and in the great theatre one from the emperor Hadrian to the Ephesians, dated Sept. 27, 120: besides an inscription containing particulars as to the endowment and ritual of the temple of Diana. A clause in this inscription ordered that certain processions should go through the Magnesian gate to the great theatre, and thence through the Coressian gate back to the temple; this gave the first clue to the site of the temple. The great theatre appears to have been large enough to contain 50,000 persons.
After clearing this out Mr. Wood discovered a gate which he supposed to be the Magnesian gate; and outside of this, at a depth of 11 ft., was a road leading N. W., and on its side a row of bases of square piers such as might have supported a stoa or covered portico. This he supposed to be the stoa built by Damianus in the 2d century from the Magnesian gate to the temple, to shelter processions in bad weather. He discovered also another similar road from another gate, and standing at the point where these two roads would converge, he found in 1869 the angle of an enclosing wall, with an inscription to the effect that Augustus had built the wall around the temple of Diana out of the revenues of the goddess. This wall he traced for 1,200 ft. until it turned westward, and within this enclosure he found by sinking pits extensive Roman foundations, a mosaic representing a Triton, many inscriptions, a pavement of Greek character, and fragments of statuary, besides several drums of Ionic columns of white marble.
In 1871 the wall of the cella on the south and remains of piers came in sight; and on the west were found the lower drum of a column nearly entire weighing 7 1/4 tons, with figures in high relief, portions of other drums, and the sculptured base of a column and an Ionic capital, according with Pliny's description of the 36 sculptured columns of the temple. Many of the fragments and inscriptions discovered have been sent to the British museum. S. E. of Mount Prion, near the city, is the grotto of the seven sleepers, who are said to have taken refuge here from the persecutions during the reign of Diocletian, and falling asleep to have waked 200 years after and come into the city. The tradition was received by Mohammed and embodied in the Koran, and the cave is a place of pilgrimage with Moslems and Christians. The names of the seven sleepers, and also of the dog Ketmehr which slept with them, are reverenced throughout the East as of talis-manic power. Not far from here tradition places the grave of St. John the apostle.
Remains of an ancient Amphitheatre.