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My Favourite Planet > English > Middle East > Turkey > Ephesus > photo gallery
Ephesus, Turkey Ephesus photo gallery 1 11 of 62

The Prytaneion on the north side of the Upper Agora, Ephesus at My Favourite Planet

The Prytaneion on the north side of the Upper Agora, Ephesus.
The Upper "State" Agora

Part 8: the Prytaneion

The Prytaneion (Πρυτανεῖον) has often been described as the town hall or administrative centre of Ephesus, the seat of the prytaneis, the executive. In other Greek cities, such as Corinth and Athens, the prytanis (singular, πρύτανις) or prytaneis (plural, πρυτάνεις) was one or more officials appointed or elected for one year to administer the affairs of the city and lead the city council (βουλή, boule) which convened at the Bouleuterion.

A prytaneion was an administrative building, usually with the architectural features of private residences, and located in or near the agora of a city. It also housed the sacred fire of Hestia, the goddess of the hearth, which was kept perpetually burning as a symbol of the life of the city. Such buildings often housed shrines to other deities as well as official archives, and were used for official and sacred ceremonies, banquets and receptions for honoured citizens, guests and ambassadors. [1]

However, little is known about the institution of the prytaneis of Ephesus or the functions of the Prytaneion, particularly from the rule of Augustus and the Roman Imperial period. The building has been dated to the 3rd century BC, during the Hellenistic period, perhaps around the time of refoundation of Ephesus by Lysimachus (see A brief history of Ephesus). It was reconstructed during the reign of Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD), the Severan period (193-235 AD) and the Byzantine period.

At the front of the building (south) facing the Upper Agora was a three-sided open forecourt with an Ionic peristyle colonnade, measuring 13 x 14.5 metres. In the centre are four 4 large blocks forming a rectangular foundation, 2.5 x 2.1 metres, which may have been for a base on which the statues of Artemis Ephesia discovered in this area stood (now in the Ephesus Archaeological Museum in Selçuk, see Selçuk gallery 2, page 1).

Behind the forecourt was a 7.35 metre deep monumental portico with five 8 metre tall unfluted Doric columns (pentastyle in-antis). Two of these columns have been reconstructed at the site (see photos above and below). Along with other parts of the Prytaneion, they had been reused during the rebuilding of the Baths of Scolastikia and the north side of Kuretes Street at the end of the 4th century AD, and were returned here during the excavation and reconstruction by the archaeologist Franz Miltner in 1956-1958. The columns and entablature of the portico are covered with inscriptions of the Roman Imperial period, including lists of kuretes.

At the back of the building (north) were two non-communicating sets of large rooms, as well as smaller subsidiary rooms. Archaeoligsts have named the larger rooms "Rooms I and II", to the west (left), and "Rooms III and IV" to the east. The functions of the rooms are unknown, but "Room I" may have been a banqueting hall. "Room IV" has been totally destroyed.

"Room III" has been described as the most impressive. The floor of the hall, 12.25 x 13.52 metres, was paved with white marble slabs, and has a foundation of a square structure in the centre. At each of the four corners stood 6.26 metre tall columns on Ionic bases with high pedestals. Three of these columns have survived and are in situ. The monolithic, gray granite shafts are heart-shaped in section, and the composite capitals are also heart-shaped. The monumental character of the room has led some scholars to believe that it had a religious function, and was possibly the location of the sacred fire of Hestia. Several inscriptions discovered in the area of the Prytaneion refer to the worship of Hestia, as well as other deities such as Apollo and Demeter.

The sanctuary known as the "Temenos" (see previous page) to the east, may have been part of the Prytaneion.

Reconstructed Doric columns of the Prytaneion portico, Ephesus at My Favourite Planet

Reconstructed unfluted Doric columns and part
of the architrave of the Prytaneion portico.

An inscription on a Doric column of the Prytaneion, Ephesus at My Favourite Planet

One of the inscriptions on the right-hand
column with a list of kuretes under the prytanis
Tiberius Claudius Hermias, 54/59 AD. [2]
photos and articles:
© David John

See also:


the nearby town

galleries index

Selcuk photo gallery 1 - town of Selcuk, Turkey

gallery 1
around town

Selcuk photo gallery 2 - Ephesus Archaeological Museum, Turkey

gallery 2

Selcuk photo gallery 3 - Serbian folk dancers in Selcuk, Turkey

gallery 3
Serbian dancers
visit Selçuk

The area of the Prytaneion, Ephesus at My Favourite Planet

The area of the Prytaneion. The rows of stones along the ground in front of the Doric
columns of the portico, mark the area of the forecourt. The grey granite, heart-shaped
columns of "Room III" can be seen in the background, behind the portico columns.
Notes, references and links

1. The Prytaneion

For a discussion of the history and function of the institution of the Prytaneion and the architectural forms of buildings around the ancient Greek world (with plans and photos), including at Ephesus, see:

Stephen Gaylord Miller, The prytaneion: its function and architectural form. University of California Press, 1978. At googlebooks. The Prytaneion of Ephesus is discussed on pages 98-109, with a plan and photos.

2. Inscribed list of Kuretes

ἐπὶ πρυτάνεως Τι-
βερίου Κλαυδίου Ἀρι-
ήου υἱοῦ Κυρείνα
κουρῆτες εὐσεβεῖς φιλοσέβαστοι·
Ἅλυς Ἀριήου
Διονύσιος Χαρησίου τοῦ Μιθριδάτου
Τι(βέριος) Κλαύδιος Ἔραστος Ἑρμίου
Ἀντίοχος Ἀντιόχου· Τρύφων
Τρύφωνος (τοῦ Τρύφωνος) Ἀσσκλᾶς· Μᾶρκος
[ἱε]ροσκόπος· Μηνόδοτος ἱ[ερο]κῆρυξ·
[Ὀλ]υμπικὸς ἐπὶ θυμιάτρου· Μητρᾶς [σπονδα]ύλης

Inscription IEph 1008.

See: Miltner, JÖAI 44 (1959), Beiblatt, Seiten 305-306, Abbild 146.
Photos, articles and map: © David John,
except where otherwise specified.

Additional photos: © Konstanze Gundudis

All photos and articles are copyright protected.

Images and materials by other authors
have been attributed where applicable.

Please do not use these photos or articles without permission.

If you are interested in using any of the photos for your website,
project or publication, please get in contact.

Higher resolution versions are available on request.

Some of the information and photos in this guide to Ephesus
originally appeared in 2004 on
See also
The Cheshire Cat Blog
photo essays about Turkey:

Istanbul Essentials part 1

Istanbul Essentials part 2

Istanbul Essentials part 3
with video

Ionian Spring part 1

Ionian Spring part 2

Ionian Spring part 3
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