The Temple of Serapis in Ephesus

The road with steps which passes by the south-western corner of the Agora leads to the Temple of Serapis in Ephesus (Serapion), as well as the road which starts at the western gate of the Agora. This 24 metres wide and 160 metres long road which resembles a stoa, is paved with marble. It leads to a door reached by steps at the south side of the temple. The door opens onto a spacious courtyard which is enclosed on three sides by a columned portico. The Temple of Serapis is built on a terrace higher than the courtyard.

Remains of The Temple of Serapis in Ephesus
Remains of The Temple of Serapis in Ephesus

The prostyle (preceded by a porch with columns in the front) temple consists of a porch (pronaos) and the main chamber (naos). The columns of the pronaos measure 1.5 metres in diameter and have Corinthian capitals. It has been established that each column weighs 57 tons, and the other structural elements on the columns weigh about the same. The entrance of the temple is very wide and has two doors made of metal. The castors of the doors have left deep prints in the stylobate (the upper step of the temple).

The Temple of Serapis Ephesus Ancient City
The Temple of Serapis

The incomplete structural elements seen around the temple indicate that the temple was not completed. An Egyptian-style statue made of granite was discovered during excavations. An inscription unearthed, mentions that the temple was dedicated to Serapis. The Roman religions did not believe in “life after death”.

Bust of Serapis - Greco-Egyptian deity of the Sun
Bust of Serapis – Greco-Egyptian deity of the Sun

According to them, as Homeros mentioned also, the spirits of the dead moved around in Hades and usually suffered pain, Whereas the Egyptian religions promised incarnation and life in the other world.

Good relations between Egypt and Ephesus reached their peak during the Persian era. The trade realized by ships travelling directly between Ephesus and Alexandria is the most convincing proof of this. Many statues of Egyptian origin unearthed in the course of excavations in Ephesus, and a peace treaty displayed today in the Ephesus Museum, also prove the close relationship between Ephesus and Egypt. The marble peace treaty is 1 metre long, and on one side, Artemis, the most powerful goddess of Ephesus, and on the other side, Serapis, the most important Egyptian god, holding a sceptre and wearing a beard, are depicted. Therefore, the cult of the god Serapis was observed in Ephesus, and in the 2nd century during the period of Antonius, this highly decorated temple was constructed and dedicated to him.


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