Ephesus (ĕfˈəsəs) [key], ancient Greek city of Asia Minor, near the mouth of the Caÿster River (modern Küçük Menderes), in what is today W Turkey, S of Smyrna (now Izmir). One of the greatest of the Ionian cities, it became the leading seaport of the region. Its wealth was proverbial. The Greek city was near an old center of worship of a native nature goddess, who was equated with the Greek Artemis, and c.550 B.C. a large temple was built. To this Croesus, who captured the city, contributed. From Lydian control Ephesus passed to the Persian Empire. The temple was burned down in the 4th cent. B.C., but rebuilding was begun before Alexander the Great took Ephesus in 334. The city continued to thrive during the wars of his successors, and after it passed (133) to the Romans it kept its hegemony and was the leading city of the province of Asia. The great temple of Artemis, or Artemision, called by the Romans the temple of Diana, was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. From c.100 B.C. to c.A.D. 100 Ephesus was the world capital of the slave trade. The city was sacked by the Goths in A.D. 262, and the temple was destroyed. The seat of a church council in 431, Ephesus was abandoned after the harbor silted up. Excavations (1869–74) of the ruins of the temple brought to light many artifacts. Later excavations uncovered important Roman and Byzantine remains.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.