The inscriptions relating to the history of Ephesus are displayed in the substructure at the eastern end of the terrace of the Domitian Temple. More than two thousand inscriptions have been discovered either by chance or during excavations. From these inscriptions, we have learned about the People’s Assembly, Senate decisions, appraisals and punishments, and decrees of emperors and kings.
Only some of the exemplary inscriptions are displayed according to subject and chronology. The texts and their interpretations have been translated and displayed next to the inscriptions. The oldest inscriptions discovered in Ephesus are dated to the 7th century B.C. The preserved sections of these inscriptions are displayed as nos.
1 and 2 give no indication of the theme or the purpose of the text. As in all the inscriptions of the Archaic period, the position of the letters in each line were in register with the previous line, and words were separated from each other by a period. In the inscription numbered 4, the death penalty requested for a religious crime is described. In the text, the Proegors (the state attorneys) state the names of forty-four or forty-six people who treated a group of ambassadors badly, and looted the gifts they were either taking to or had taken from the Temple of Artemis in Sardes, and request the death penalty for them. The inscription numbered 11 belongs to the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C.
It states “up to the roof, this wall is the common property of Moskhion and Eucleides”, and therefore indicates common property law. The inscription numbered 13 is an appraisal of an Ephesian tutor serving in the Pergamese Palace. It was written by King Attalos II to the Ephesian People’s and Advisory Assemblies. A tutor named Aristo had educated the future King of Pergamum, Attalos II, and since King Attalos II was quite pleased by the services of Aristo, he declared his pleasure to the Ephesians. The inscription is dated to 155 B.C.
The text of inscriptions numbered 14-26 honour different people. Number 20 states that the famous sophist Titus Flavius Damian, between 166-167 A.D. donated 22000 medimmes (a measure of grain) to the retreating Roman armies following the Parthian wars, built a new hall in the Varius Baths, donated 19,816 denarii of his own money to the city, and therefore was honoured by the Trade Guild of the Agora. Number 26 states that an Ephesian athlete, whose name cannot be read, was honoured for his victories in the thirteen cities of southern Italy, Asia, Greece and the Islands.
In number 27, the decrees about the procedures to be carried out by the Prytanis relating to sacrifices, are listed. It is evident from this inscription dated to the 3rd century, that Prytany was a very expensive duty. The prytanis was not only the high priest of Hestia, the goddess of the sacred hearth in the Prytaneion but also was in charge of all the cults in the city.
Inscription number 31 is about Emperor Hadrian who came to Ephesus from Athens in 128 under the name of Zeus Olympios and states: it is dedicated to the goddess of destiny who rules well. To Zeus Olympios, father of the land “to Emperor Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, the saviour of the city and its adoptive founder”.
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