Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Alexander’s presence in Ephesus

Picturing Alexander walking through the streets of Ephesus is not difficult. When he arrived, most cities of Asia Minor were occupied by armed forces and notables loyal to the Great King while the population generally was known to have amicable relations with Macedonia. Here in Ephesus, they had even erected a statue in honour of King Philip II, Alexander’s father.

Three days after leaving Sardes, Alexander arrived in Ephesus and he was received with open arms. He immediately expelled the pro-Persian oligarchy and installed a democratic government. Now that the people felt freed from their political masters, they didn’t waste time to put the collaborators to death. Some victims had sought refuge inside the temples and were now being dragged outside and stoned to death. Alexander reacted immediately realizing that if he didn’t stop this rage at once, the vengeance offensive would run out of control and innocent citizens would be killed. He halted this revolt with firm hand. The people of Ephesus listened and Alexander’s popularity never stood higher than after his intervention.

It is probable that the city became a member of the League of Corinth, which meant that it was subject to Macedonian rule and had to pay the tribute previously granted to Persia. In reality, this tribute went to the reconstruction of the famous Temple of Artemis which burnt down the night Alexander was born, set afire by a certain Herostratus who wanted his name to be remembered for eternity. A new temple was now under construction and Alexander initially suggested it should be dedicated to him but the Ephesians refused. The Artemis-cult was an old one, going back to the worship of Cybele that probably reached the first Greek settlers around 1000 BC. Artemis was the virgin goddess of nature who assisted women in delivering their babies and was represented with many breasts (linked to the fertility cult) and a miniature temple on her head as a crown. The three stories of the crown indicated that she protected the cities while the sickle on her forehead referred to the moon goddess. She also wore the symbol of the bee, i.e. the emblem of Ephesus indicating that she originated from Anatolia.

The first Temple of Artemis goes back to the seventh century BC and after its destruction was rebuilt in the sixth century BC. The new temple rested on a plinth of 13 steps and the sanctuary itself measuring 115x55 meters was surrounded by a double row of 18 meter-high Ionic columns, 127 in total. The 36 columns on the front side are said to have been decorated with reliefs by Skopas while nobody less than Praxiteles built the altar. After its reconstruction, it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

All that is left today are some flooded foundations and a single not too well reassembled column – very sad. The scattered remains go back to the time of Lysimachus, one of the generals and successors of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. In Alexander’s days, the city was centred on the Artemision. It was Lysimachus who chose the location for the new city which he surrounded with defensive walls. The place looks wild and overgrown, an eerie picture accentuated by the cackling chickens and screaming geese in the adjacent farm. At one time even the gods made sure I heard them. The sky had turned pitch dark and soon enough the thunder rumbled while lightning flashes tore the clouds apart. A sign from Zeus, no doubt, but not from Artemis. Strangely enough, I was not surprised by the god’s manifestation.

This year, in 2014 new excavations have started again after twenty years of rest because this year’s drought has made the ruins far more accessible. Archaeologists hope to find remains from the Roman era which may answer the question whether this famous temple was converted into a Christian church. In its present condition, it is not drawing much interest from the tourists but this may change when enough of the layout is exposed. After all, the sanctuary occupies the size of a football field, something worth considering, right?

Pausing at the edge of the poorly excavated parcel, I wonder about the traders, tourists, craftsmen and kings who visited this temple over the centuries when it was a market as well as a religious centre. They all came to honour Artemis and to share their profits with her. Excavations have shown that many people came to offer their gifts: gold and ivory statues of Artemis; but also earrings, bracelets and necklaces from far away countries like Persia and even India. A nice collection of these gifts can be seen at the local Museum of Selçuk.

The temple may not have been finished when in 268 AD the Goths raided the city, destroying or partly destroying it. In 614, Ephesus was hit by an earthquake which severely damaged the buildings. The city lost its importance as a commercial centre, aggravated by the silting up of the Cayster River that constituted its harbour.

While he was in Ephesus, Alexander received representatives from the towns of Magnesia and Tralles offering their submission. To ensure recognition by all Aeolian and Ionian towns in the area, Parmenion was dispatched with a force of 5,000-foot soldiers and 200 Companions cavalry, while Alcimachus, son of Agathocles, set out with a similar force. They established a popular government in replacement of the existing Persian rule, making sure that all would keep their own laws and customs, and pay their taxes to Alexander instead of to the Persians.

Alexander meanwhile stayed in Ephesus and offered sacrifices to Artemis. It is probably at this time that he frequently visited the studio of Apelles, who became the only painter allowed to make pictures of Alexander. We know of at least one painting made especially for the Temple of Artemis in which Alexander was represented holding a thunderbolt. Apelles has depicted the king using only four colors in order to make the work more wondrous. Alexander also organized a ceremonial parade of his troops in their best outfit and in battle order. He definitely knew how to put up a show!

Leaving the temple area, I drive up the nearby hill where it is said that the Virgin Mary spent her last days. From here I have an eagle’s view of what is Roman Ephesus. In 190 BC, the city was included in the Kingdom of Pergamon, which in turn was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 133 BC, the later Byzantine Empire. In the early days of Christianity Ephesus was still very important, were it only because apostle Paul lived here, as well as apostle John who is said to have taken care of Mary and who is buried here.

Of course, it were the Romans who turned Ephesus into the largest seaport of the Aegean, which prospered till the harbour silted up, leaving the grand city about 6 miles inland from the coast. The most remarkable monument from those times are the Temple of Hadrian with the Baths behind it, the Fountain of Trajan, the Library of Celsus, and the magnificent villa’s (see: Ephesus and its terrace houses and The Grandeur of Ephesus).

[Click here to see all pictures of Ephesus]

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