The City of Ephesus

The long and prestigious history of Ephesus, a valuable port city in western Anatolia, stretches back at least as far as 1440 B.C., when the city was likely the capital of the kingdom of Arzawa. Later, Greek peoples inhabited Ephesus and built a temple to the goddess Artemis on the site. After this first temple was destroyed in a fire, the Ephesians rebuilt it, and it was later recognized by the historian Herodotus as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Over time, the continual silting of the Cayster River forced the population to move westward, so that by the time Paul visited Ephesus it had relocated to where it is shown here, and its small harbor had to be constantly dredged to keep it navigable. By this time Ephesus had become one of the largest and most prestigious cities of the Roman Empire, but the progressive decline of its value as a port forced it to depend increasingly on income generated from pilgrims to the temple of Artemis. It is no surpise, then, that Paul’s prolonged ministry in Ephesus during his third missionary journey drew the ire of silversmiths and sellers of small shrines of Artemis, who feared his ministry would jeopardize their business (Acts 19:23-41). They stirred up a large crowd, seized two of Paul’s companions, and rushed into the theater, where they shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” for two hours. After the crowd eventually settled down and dispersed, Paul left for Macedonia (Acts 20:1). Years later the apostle John relocated his ministry to Ephesus along with Mary the mother of Jesus, whom Jesus had committed to his care (John 19:25-27), and it was likely from here that John wrote his three epistles. Ephesus is also one of the seven churches John addressed in the book of Revelation (2:1-7). Not long after this the Romans abandoned the burdensome task of dredging the small harbor, which then became unusable, thus forcing the city to slowly migrate westward once again. The modern shoreline now lies over 3 miles (5 km) west of Roman Ephesus.

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