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Coin 5




Coin 14



Coin 31



Coin 33



Coin 34

10. Ephesus as temple-warden

Ephesus was one of the chief cities of the province Asia, which from the first century BCE was ruled by the emperors of Rome. The cities of Asia not only obeyed the emperor's commands (such as to pay their taxes), but also recognized his immense power over them by establishing temples to him, where representatives of all the cities of the province sacrificed to him as a god. A city that had such a temple was called neokoros in Greek ( 31 ), which means "temple-warden."

Ephesus very much wanted to have such a temple for the first emperor Augustus, but that honor went to another important city, Pergamon; and then to Smyrna, which won a contest to build the temple to the emperor Tiberius, his mother Livia, and the Senate. Ephesus was ruled out of that competition because it was too totally devoted to its chief goddess Artemis. So the citizens of Ephesus may have called their city neokoros of Artemis, at least informally (see "the image of Artemis of Ephesus").

Ephesus may have first become officially neokoros for a proposed temple of Nero, but that emperor soon died in disgrace, and nothing came of it. Instead, Ephesus turned to the new dynasty that replaced Nero's, the Flavians: Vespasian (ruled 69-79), his older son Titus (79-81), and his younger son Domitian (81-96). By the late 80's, Ephesus had built a brand-new "Temple of the Augusti," whose platform still dominates the city's civic agora, though there is little left of the building itself. This made Ephesus (triumphantly) neokoros.

As emperor succeeded emperor, the province Asia built more and more temples to their worship, mostly in major cities. Ephesus became twice neokoros in the 130's CE for building a temple of Hadrian (tentatively identified as a giant precinct in the northeast part of the city). At the beginning of the third century, Ephesus made a coup: it asked to build temples to the brother-emperors (and sworn enemies) Caracalla ( 14 ) and Geta ( 5 ). Both agreed, but on separate temples: a new one was to be built for Geta, but Caracalla allowed the honor of his to go to Ephesus' patron goddess Artemis. Unfortunately, Caracalla soon killed Geta, and any sign of worship for the dead co-emperor was wiped out. Ephesus was thus officially twice neokoros for the emperors and once for Artemis, for a total of three ( 33 ).

In 218, a young emperor known as Elagabalus (nicknamed from his Syrian patron god) came to power and made Ephesus four times neokoros, an unprecedented number. But the oddity of his religious, sexual, and/or political practices made him unpopular in Rome, so he was killed, and all memory of him (except on small coins that passed unnoticed) was wiped out. Under his cousin and successor, Severus Alexander, Ephesus went back to being three times neokoros (twice and for Artemis) until the mid-third century, when the emperors Valerian ( 34 ) and his son Gallienus re-added the fourth neokoria; but by that time, the Empire was deep in war and civil conflict, Valerian himself was soon captured by the Persian king Shapur, and it is the last we hear of Ephesus as neokoros.

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