Ephesus: An Ancient City of Biblical Proportions & How It Inspires My Jewelry Designs - Part 1/3
Ephesus is an ancient city in Anatolia located in present day Turkey about 2 miles southwest of a picturesque town called Selcuk near the city of Izmir. This known history of this site date backs as far as 6000 BC. And in terms of size nothing compares to Ephesus, which may practically be considered to be the largest outdoors museum on earth. The formal excavation of Ephesus began in the second half of 19th century. In 1863, A British railway engineer John Turtle Wood began his archaeological quest to find the legendary Artemis Temple, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Earth. In 1869 he discovered the temple, however due to poor condition of the findings his sponsored backed out and in a few years he had to shut down his operations.
Ephesus was once again abandoned until Otto Benndorf of the University of Vienna started what will be the largest archaeological undertaking in present day Turkey in 1893. As of 2015 the excavation work still goes on, and it is believed that only 10-15% of the city has been brought back to daylight.
As you can see there are plenty of reasons why one would be inspired by such a magnificent place. In some of my historically themed jewelry designs, I have used ancient coins that are from Ephesus or relevant to history of Ephesus. This makes sure that pieces are as close to museum quality reproduction jewelry as possible.
In this blog I would like to feature one of my favorite ancient coins in my collection. It is a drachm, which is in context of numismatics a silver coin of 2 cm diameter and about 4 grams of weight from Hellenistic times, featuring the mighty Macedonian king Alexander the Great. Obverse side of the drachm depicts a masculine profile of Alexander the Great facing right as a Herakles (a.k.a. the Roman Hercules) look-alike with the legendary Nemean Lion skin crowning his head. Of course as usual, there are many who believe that the drachm shows Herakles himself as opposed to Alexander the Great. For me, the first interpretation seems more attractive as most kings of his time, Alexander believed that he was a descendant of Gods and great-grand child of Hyllus, the son of Herakles. On the reverse side, Zeus, Herakles' father is shown holding in his stretched hand an eagle and a bow & a scepter in the other. It is a bit hard to read but on this side is also written ALEXANDROU.
For those of you who may not know, Herakles, the son of Zeus and the mighty hero, undertook 12 mythical quests known as his labors. The goddess Hera, out of vengeance, made him lose his mind. In that state, he killed his wife and children. When he regained his sanity back, he regretted what he has done and prayed to god Apollo, who ordered him to serve Eurystheus, the king of Tiryns and Mycenae for twelve years. His first quest was to kill the Nemean lion which he achieved with his bare hands. Although, there isn't a general agreement that Herakles wore Nemean lion's skin around his head, there are many who think so.
Photo from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. H. L. Pierce Fund
Now that you know a bit about the history of the coin and its relation to the mighty king Alexander the Great and the legendary hero Herakles, I can go back to talking about my jewelry designs that feature museum quality reproductions of this ancient silver coin. I have designed jewelry pieces that will accommodate both men and women using this marvelous Alexander the Great era coin. Below, you can see a pair of earrings and a pendant featuring gold-plated brass reproductions of this coin. In both of these designs, the coins are set into Sterling silver. Also note that this coin looks very cool when it is reproduced using copper and fitted on to the masculine men's ring that I designed some time ago based on the work of ancient masters. I usually smooth out the bumps on the ring so that they look equally attractive on ladies also.
As I keep talking about the history of Ephesus, the relation between Alexander the Great and the ancient city will be evident. According to legends, Ephesus was found by the Amazons, the tribe of women warriors. But looking at archaeological findings we can see that the region has been inhabited even in Neolithic age, about 6000 BC. Later findings indicate that the city was a part of Kingdom of Arzawa, which occupied the western part of present day Turkey around Kestros River in the second half of 2nd millenium BCE. The capital of the kingdom was named Aphasa, which by no surprise closely resembles the name Ephesus. Our knowledge of this kingdom is mostly based on Hittite records. Kingdom of Arzawa was the western rival of Hittites until kings Suppiluliuma I and Mursili II finally managed to defeat them around 1300 BC.
Around 1200 BC Attic-Ionian migration to the region of Ephesus began. At the time the region was mostly occupied by Carians and Lelegians, who are indigenous and enigmatic people of the region. Son of late King Kadros, and a prince of Athens named Androklos established the city of Ephesus after he had to leave his country. Ionians at the time were running away from Dors, who invaded Greece. According to legend, the oracle of Delphi has foreseen that King Androclus would be guided by a fish and a boar as he discovers the location of a new settlement. As predicted, following their migration King Androklos who was pan frying a fish dropped it on the ground and startled a nearby boar. As the King chased and slayed the boar, he discovered the perfect place to found a new city that will be known as Ephesus. Androklos was a powerful king and a warrior who manage to unite 12 cities of Ionia into the Ionian League. The city blossomed during his reign. King Androklos eventually died fighting off Carians while aiding the city of Priene. His mausoleum is believed to be located in the vicinity of the gate of Magnesia in Ephesus.
Around 650 BC, Ephesus was raided by Cimmerians, and the including the temple of Artemis the city was razed. The many-breasted 'Lady of Ephesus' was a magnificent unification of the Greek goddess Artemis, who was the goddess of the hunt, the wild, and childbirth,and the ancient Anatolian Mother Goddess Kybele (or Cybele). Here is a photo of a marvelous sculptor of the Lady of Ephesus.
Following a chaotic period, the citizens of Ephesus revolted and demanded a new rule which helped them prosper over many decades to come. About 560 BC Lydian king Croesus conquered the city and help rebuild the magnificent temple. The temple was constructed of marble to replace an older site destroyed during a flood. Temple of Artemis became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, sadly only one the foundation and a single column of Temple of Artemis still exist. The city reached its golden age as it became a center for arts, education and prosperity. Women were equal citizens to men and they were artists, sculptors, painters and teachers who educated both men and women. However, Crouses' desire to conquer Persia resulted in his defeat together with the Ionian League who supported him. As a result Greek cities in Asia Minor became a part of the Achaemenid Empire and they were ruled by satraps who were basically provincial governers.
Model of the Temple of Artemis, Miniature Park, Istanbul, Turkey. Original image by Faigl.ladislav.
On the day Alexander the Great was born (356 BC), an arsonist named Herostratus burned down the Artemis temple. And the city of Ephesus remained under Persian rule until Alexander the Great liberated the city in 334 BC when he was 22-years old. The King offered to rebuild the Temple of Artemis after seeing that the repairs were still underway. People of Ephesus kindly declined this offer in grounds that 'A god may not build a temple for another one'. Alexander was very fond of Ephesus and Ephesians felt the same way. After his death, Lysimachus, a general of Alexander ruled the city. The city kept growing with fortifications and became a very important harbor of the Mediterranean.
This concludes Part 1 of my blog on Ephesus where I mainly discussed the early history of the city, Alexander the Great's involvement with it and how I use the well known Greek drachm that shows the Great King and Zeus in my jewelry designs. Hope you enjoyed it.