EPHESUS, although a city but little noticed in the Scriptures, is to the Bible student a place of great interest, because in the days of the apostles it was one of the chief seats of missionary enterprise. A city with better natural advantages for spreading the light of the gospel it would be hard to find. It stood on a bank of the Cayster River and near a fine harbor on the coast of Asia Minor, thus having intercourse with all the maritime cities of that day; and through the long plains bordering the neighboring rivers, it had easy access to the principal inland cities. In the days of the apostles it was in the full height of its prosperity and power. It was a very ancient city, so old that its founders are unknown; but it did not have so remarkable a history as some of the neighboring cities.

It was early taken possession of by the Ionians under Androclus, and the city was extended over the heights of Mount Coressus and Mount Prion; but the older inhabitants clung to their homes in the plain. In Roman times the city was, if anything, more magnificent than before. It was the center of trade for the region round about. The inhabitants were noted for their wealth, their luxurious and dissolute habits, and their belief in magic and witchcraft.

The chief attraction of the city, however, was the famous temple of Diana, which stood in the plain about a mile away from the main part of the town. The original image of this goddess, which the Ephesians claimed had fallen from heaven, was a very rude affair, consisting of a head and a shapeless trunk. Even the later images, notwithstanding the perfection to which all arts had at that age attained, still kept the rude mummy-like form of the original image.

The first great temple to Diana was built at an early date, Crcesus himself furnishing most of the columns and several cows of gold. But on the same night that Alexander the Great was born, an incendiary set fire to this fine work of art. The Ephesians enthusiastically went about rebuilding it on a larger and grander scale than before. All the chief cities of Asia Minor helped defray the cost of the structure, and the ladies of Ephesus contributed their jewels to aid the work. In so high honor was Diana held, that Alexander the Great offered to bear the expense of the whole building if he might but inscribe his name on it. This request the public-spirited Ephesians refused to grant. Many fine works of art were continually brought as offerings to the temple, until it came to be in reality a rich museum.

Once a year, probably during all the month of May, a festival was held at Ephesus in honor of the goddess, and all the Ionians endeavored to be in the city at that time, bringing with them their wives and children. The people were not allowed to bear arms near the temple, and no bloody sacrifices were offered. At such times the "craftsmen" carried on a lively trade, selling to the superstitious Ionians "silver shrines,"—images of Diana and that part of the temple in which she stood. These the strangers carried to their distant homes, and set up as objects of private worship.  Diana was at this period held in greater veneration than any other heathen god, and her worshipers were found in almost every land. It has been thought that it was during the time of this festival that Paul and his companions in travel stopped at Ephesus. The craftsmen found their trade somewhat lessened, probably on account of what the heathen had already learned from Paul in regard to the true God. At such a time the city would be crowded with strangers from abroad, and it would require but a few remarks so inflammatory as those spoken by Demetrius to fill the whole city with confusion.

But the life and activity of the place has gradually given way to desolation and ruin. A wretched village named Ayasa, luk stands on the sight of what was once a proud heathen city; and mud from the River Carter covers the spot where stood the temple of that goddess "whom all Asia and the world worshiped." In wandering over the ruins, travelers see, to use the words of another," piles of ruined edifices on the rocky sides and among the thickets of Mount Prion; they look out from its summit over the confused morass which was once the harbor where Aquilla and Priscilla landed; and they visit in their deep recesses the dripping marble-quarries, where the marks of the tools are visible still." Close to one of these hills stand the ruins of a vast theater, whither the infuriated mob, having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's fellow-laborers, rushed, and for two long hours wearied themselves with shouting,

"Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" The theater was a large building, open to the sky, as all the theaters were at that day, and was capable of seating thirty thousand persons. Across on the plain was visible the magnificent temple of Diana. Quite extensive ruins of the theater yet remain, although the marble seats have been removed. In the accompanying picture is given a good view of the present condition of Ephesus.

The glory of the Ephesians has been brought low; the worship of Diana has perished with her followers. But the light of the gospel of Christ, then so despised, shines brighter and brighter as the ages roll away, because it is from above, from the Lord of heaven and earth, who "dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is worshiped with men's hands, as though he needed anything."


"Art builds on sand; the works of pride

And human passion change and fall;

But that which shares the life of God,

With him surviveth all."


W. R. L.