The Grand Theater of Ephesus known as the Ephesus Amphitheater, but not actually an amphitheater is the most impressive structure in the ancient city of Ephesus, attracting visitors with its well-preserved condition. It is also the highlight of visitors of Best Ephesus Tours and our Private Ephesus Tours.
It is located on the slope of Panayir Hill facing the Aegean Sea direction and standing strongly with its 25000 estimated seated capacity. Imagine a huge commercial city more like a cross point, attracting thousands of visitors including Cleopatra and Mark Antony. And at your first step to the port of the city, the Grand Theater of Ephesus welcomes you with it is splendid-looking marble seats.
History of the Grand Theater of Ephesus
The Ephesus Theater was constructed in the Hellenistic period, most probably in the time of the reign of Lysimacos (250 BC) into the west slope of Mount Pion (Panayir). Same to many other theaters of the time, Grand Ephesus Theater also followed a similar Hellenistic architectural style. After Ephesus was controlled by Romans (133 BC) and after the devastating earthquake in 17 AD Roman architectural renovations of Ephesus Theater changed the building to modern looking.
Emperor Claudius enlarged the seats in 40-55 AD. Emperor Nero replaced well-carved statues and carved pillars on the second story in the late 1st century AD. and Emperor Septimus Severus added the third story in the late 2nd century AD. The original Hellenistic style version totally changed and expanded to a bigger structure with an enlarged seat capacity up to 24 000 – 25000 people. The front rows of cavea were removed and the enlarged orchestra become more practical for theatrical shows and gladiator fights. Although it reminds of the Roman style after renovations, the current form of Ephesus Theater can be considered as a combination of Hellenistic and Roman architectural styles. That’s why it is called Greco-Roman style theater.
Differences Between Greek and Roman Theaters
The main difference between a Hellenistic and a Roman Theater is that the Hellenistic ones are usually supported by a hill in order to benefit from the gradient of the hillside. It was the Romans who invented free-standing supporting walls of the auditorium (Cavea). The Ephesus theater is often called an Ephesus Amphitheater as a general misconception. The theater has a semi-circular arrangement of raised seating looking into a stage, but an amphitheater is a ‘theater in the round’. The Collesium can be shown as one of the examples of Roman-style architecture amphitheaters.
Archaeological Features of the Grand Theater of Ephesus
- It is the largest of its time with a capacity of 25,000 seats. The cavea consisted of 66 rows of seats, divided into three horizontal sections with walkways between seats.
- Vomitoriums (entrances) of the Grand Ephesus Theater for the audience from the upper cavea facing Harbour street.
- The width of the theater is 145 meters and the stage building with a decorated facade is 18 meters
Demetrius the Silversmith & The Riot in Ephesus Theater Against St. Paul
The Ephesian Artemis was widely popular in the ancient world and her temple in Ephesus – taken over from Greeks, called ‘Artimus’- was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Ephesus Ancient City was welcoming many visitors from other sites to see Artemis Temple and it was a good income for those who earned a living by selling items related to the Goddess Artemis. Consequently, the missionary works of St Paul endangered the great income of those, especially silversmiths selling statues of Artemis. Saying of St. Paul stated in Holly Bible ‘gods made by human hands are no gods at all’ got the fear of a drop in sales of statues depicting goddesses. The crowd collected around Demetrius the silversmith was angry and the protests of the mob against Paul turned into a riot. The crowd marched to the Grand Theater of Ephesus, together with the seized companions of Paul from Macedonia. They started to chant ‘ Great is the goddess Diana of Ephesus’ ( Diana is the Roman name of Artemis). Although Paul intended to appear in theater his followers persuaded him to not enter the theater. This riot started by Demetrius forced St. Paul to leave the city.
Acts 19: 23-41
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius,
who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 and you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.
32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people
did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and
they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”.
35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city
of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
Concerts in Ephesus
The theater of Ephesus has always been the scene of important events throughout history. Theatrical activities and gladiatorial battles organized by Roman senators came to life in this important scene. The Great Theater of Ephesus, which has been renovated in modern times, has hosted the performances of famous singers due to its biblical importance as well as reflecting the richness of history. Elton John, Sting, Luciano Pavarotti, Bryan Adams, Ray Charles, Jose Carreras, and Diana Ross are some of those well-known artists who performed here.
Drone Footage of Ephesus and Grand Theater of Ephesus
If you would like to explore the Grand Theater of Ephesus on-site with us, you can reach us at the links below.