“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Revelation 1:1-7
The beginning of Ephesus is cloaked in many tales and fables. According to one legend, female warriors, known as Amazons, founded Ephesus. It’s name has been thought to derive from Apasas, a city in the Kingdom of Arzawa, which means the “City of the Mother Goddess.” This is interesting in that a temple was built in Ephesus that gained fame as being one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”. It was called the Temple of Artemis. The Greeks called this goddess Artemis, who protected wild animals and who roamed the woods with a band of women. She was also associated with the new moon with her twin being the god Apollo. An Ephesian coin bares the likeness of this temple with the inscription Neokoros (temple sweeper) of Artemis.
The Romans knew her as Diana who was worshiped as the goddess of fertility and motherhood. She was also known as the great mother. During the Roman period, a coin was minted promoting Artemis inscribed with the words “Diana of Ephesus.”
The first temple was built around 800 BC, and was destroyed and rebuilt many times. Herostratus, an Ephesian wanting to immortalize his name, burned the temple to the ground around 356 BC. Scopas of Paros, an architect and the most famous sculptor of his day was to built the last temple. Pliny the Elder, a historian, recorded that the temple was home to many works of art, including four bronze statues of Amazon women. “For over a thousand years this goddess with her temple provided a focal point for the rich religious, economic, and cultural life of her worshippers.” (Everett Blake and Anna Edmonds, Biblical Sites In Turkey, p. 119).
Ephesus was the commercial and goddess center of western Asia. It was the fourth largest city in the world behind Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. Ephesus was called the highway to Rome. It was one of the centers of philosophy in its day.
The city of Ephesus continued to grow and prosper. A prosperous business grew up comprised of artisans replicating the statues of Artemis. One man named Demetrius, a successful business owner, along with others gave a powerful speech. The crowd, all with one voice for about two hours chanted, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” It it here where we meet the apostle Paul, at Ephesus, whose preaching had turned many to the Lord.
Ephesus and the religion of Diana were in decline. Ephesus and the temple were again destroyed about 262 AD, by a raid from the Goths, the temple never to be rebuilt again.
Today, Ephesus and the area where the temple stood remain a swamp land with a few huts lining the countryside. This great wonder of the world ceased to exist. In contrast, the gospel today is being declared worldwide.