The Prytaneion was one of the most important public buildings in ancient Ephesus. Dedicated to the goddess Hestia, it contained the sacred flame of the city that was never allowed to go out. The Prytaneion was also the place where official visitors were received by dignitaries and where two important statues of the Ephesian Artemis were found.
In Hellenistic and Roman times, Hestia (a.k.a. Vesta), the sister of Zeus and Hera, was honored not just in temples but in every home, as she was goddess of the hearth (the center of domestic worship).
Hestia's sacred fire in the Prytaneion was never allowed to go out, and it was the job of the priests there to tend it. In addition to its religious purpose, the Prytaneion was an important civic building and it was where official guests to Ephesus were received by the religious and civic leaders of the city.
A building existed on this site from the refoundation of Ephesus by Lysimachus in the 3rd century BC, but the structure that can be seen in ruins today dates from the reign of Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD). The cult of Hestia Boulaea was abandoned in the 4th century AD.
What to See
The Prytaneion was a large temple-like hall fronted by a Doric courtyard surrounded on three sides by a colonnade. The courtyard was paved with a mosaic depicting the shields of Amazons against a decorative background.
Two of the pillars that have been re-erected bear inscriptions with the names of the Curetes. Scholastica took columns and other materials from the Prytaneion for the construction of her baths on Curetes Street in the 4th century.
Two statues of the Ephesian Artemis were discovered in the Prytaneion and are now displayed in the Ephesus Museum. The larger statue, dating from the 1st century AD, was in the hall. The other, dating from about 50 years later, had been carefully buried in a small room in the sanctuary.
Quick Facts on Prytaneion
|Names:||Prytaneion; Prytaneion, Ephesus|
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|Coordinates:||37.937149° N, 27.344187° E (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of Prytaneion
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- Bernard McDonagh, Blue Guide Turkey 3rd ed. (2001), 227.
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