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The remains of the monumental entrance to the Ephesus Stadium, north of the archaeological site.
|Ephesus Stadium and Vedius Gymnasium
If you arrive or leave the Ephesus archaeological site by the lower entrance, you will pass this massive ruin on the road to Selcuk. This is just a fragment of what was the Stadium's monumental entrance, and practically all that remains of the city's enormous sports arena.
The ruins of the stadium and the gymnasium are not open to the public, but various architectural fragments can be seen through the high, chain-link fence around the site. Even the information board for the stadium is a metre or two beyond the fence, making it almost impossible to read for mere mortals.
A stadium was built here in the Hellenistic Period, just inside the city walls near the Koressos Gate, one of the two main gateways to the city (the other was the Magnesian Gate, outside the upper entrance to Ephesus). During the reign of Emperor Nero (54-58 AD) it was expanded on a grand scale, financed by public subscription. The original seating on the south side, built on the slope at the foot of Mount Pion (Panayır Daği), was extended up the hill, and tiers of seating were also added to the north side, supported by a retaining wall and a vaulted substructure.
The expanded stadium had the traditional elongated U-form, though quite irregular in shape (see the plan below). A walled-off section, around 50 x 40 metres, at the eastern (rounded) end of the Stadium was used as an arena, probably for gladiatorial contests.
It dwarfed even the Great Theatre, with a length of 230 metres and a width 40 metres, it is said to have had a seating capacity of 13,000.
After the official adoption of Christianity in the Roman Empire from the mid 4th century, such stadia fell into disuse. A church was built in the western end during the 5th century, and the stadium was gradually dismantled as its stone was quarried for building material.
The Vedius Gymnasium (see photo below) stood just to the north of the stadium, directly at the city walls. The bath-gymnasium complex, measuring 135 x 85 metres, was financed by M. Claudius P. Vedius Antoninus Phaedrus Sabinianus and his wife Flavia Papiani, and was opened 147-149 AD. It was renovated around 400 AD and remained in use until the end of the 5th century. It was destroyed by fire in the 6th century.
The ancient artifacts discovered at the gymnasium include:
A statue of a river god, found during excavations in 1928 (see photo below).
The first "Alkamenes herm of the Ephesus type" discovered (also 1928), now in the Izmir Archaeological Museum (see Pegamon gallery 2, page 15).
An "Ikarios relief" of Dionysus (see the Dionysus page of the People section).
On the opposite side of the road, around the hill diectly in front of the stadium, are the remains of the Roman macellus (meat market, circa 200 AD), the Hellenistic "Crevice temple" (circa 400 BC), probably the sanctuary of a female deity, a fortification wall, a peristyle house and an early Byzantine fountain. The area is unfenced but overgrown, with a rough track beaten by curious feet (probably those of a few die-hard archaeology fans). You can wander around, but the remains are not easy to make sense of without a detailed plan. An information board - with a plan - informs visitors that ceramics found in this area prove the existence of a settlement here as early as 750 BC.
The ruins of part of the Vedius Gymnasium, beyond the 2 metre high fence.
The irregular plan of the Ephesus Stadium.
See a photo of the more regular-looking Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, Greece.
The Stadium at Ephesus.
A marble relief of a gladiator and a palm branch from
a stele or statue base in Ephesus. 2nd - 3rd century AD.
It can be seen on the Marble Street, near the Great Theatre.
See a photo of another gladiator relief from Ephesus below.
Marble relief of a gladiatorial duel from Ephesus, 3rd century AD. Part of a parapet.
According to the inscription, Asteropios the hoplomachus (ὁπλομάχος, literally,
shield fighter) defeated Drakon the thraex ("Thracian").
Neues Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. SK 964.
In the museum display the relief is partly obscured by another, smaller relief
of a provocator. 1st - 4th century AD, provenance unknown. Inv. No. SK 966.
See: Eckart Köhne, Cornelia Ewigleben, Gladiators and Caesars: The Power of
Spectacle in Ancient Rome. University of California Press, 2000. At googlebooks.
A marble statue of a river god from Ephesus, identified as
a personification of the local river Kaystros (Κάυστρος).
Roman period, 2nd century AD.
Izmir Museum of History and Art.
|Map, photos and articles: © David John
Additional photos: © Konstanze Gundudis
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have been attributed where applicable.
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Some of the information and photos in this guide to Ephesus
originally appeared in 2004 on davidjohnberlin.de.
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