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Temple of Hadrian
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Quick Facts on the Temple of Hadrian

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Temple of Hadrian Temple of Hadrian, Ephesus
Ephesus, Aegean Region
Ephesus  locality
Turkey  country
Middle East  continent
Main date(s)
37.938431° N, 27.341744° E

Description of the Temple of Hadrian

The diminutive Temple of Hadrian is actually more of a monument than a temple. The architrave contains a dedicatory inscription, dated to 118 CE, from one Publius Quintilius (who is otherwise unknown) to Hadrian, Artemis and the people of Ephesus. The inscription includes a bust of the goddess Tyche.

The small, simple structure consists of just a pronaos (porch) and small cella (main hall). The porch is supported by two pillars and two columns of the Corinthian order.

The pediment and decorative frieze of the pronaos have disappeared. In the arched tympanum over the main portal is a carving of a half-nude woman surrounded by acanthus leaves; some identify the figure as Medusa, symbolically keeping evil spirits away.

The cult statue of Hadrian once stood on a low podium at the end wall of the cella, but has been lost. The bases in front of the porch facade are inscribed with the names of Galerius, Maximianus, Diocletianus, and Constantius Chlorus, indicating that the bases originally supported statues of these emperors.

Inside the porch, the lintels are decorated with four panels of reliefs. These were added in the 4th century during restorations to the temple following major damage. The reliefs in place today are plaster replicas of the originals, which are protected in the Ephesus Museum.

The first three panels from the left depict the mythological foundation of Ephesus, and show representations of Androklos chasing a boar (part of the founding myth of Ephesus), the battle between Hercules and Theseus, and gods with Amazons. Most of these were recycled from a 3rd-century building.

The fourth panel was created new at the time of the 4th-century reconstruction, and is very interesting for the religious history of Ephesus. It shows Emperor Theodosius (the Christian emperor who outlawed paganism in 381) and his family surrounded by pagan gods including Athena, Apollo, Androklos, Heracles, Selene, and Artemis of Ephesus!

In light of the themes of the other reliefs on the same structure, which include such founding legends as the wild boar hunt of Androklos, it may be the relief is not primarily religious in nature but rather "indicates that he [Theodosius] was regarded as the new founder of Ephesus" (Sherrer, 21). The imagery of the gods may thus be intended as symbols of the city and of traditional legends rather than a religious statement.

Still, the combination of such an anti-pagan Christian figure with the old gods certainly demonstrates the lack of violent opposition towards the latter that will become prominent in the fifth century. And indeed, paganism was by no means a thing of the past in Ephesus by the end of the fourth century. In 1992, excavators discovered a grave house that was in use from 260 to 408. It had been robbed but some artifacts remained, and none were Christian.

Holly Hayes
October 27, 2011

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