The Temple of Hadrian is one of the main attractions at Ephesus, with a beautiful arch on the front facade and interesting reliefs of Medusa and other scenes inside.
History of the Temple of Hadrian
An inscription tells us the temple was erected around 118 AD by one Publius Quintilius (who is otherwise unknown).
The name "Temple of Hadrian" is not really accurate: it is more a monument than a temple, and was dedicated not only to Hadrian but also Artemis and the people of Ephesus.
The temple was partially destroyed in the 4th century, and it was during the course of restorations that the four decorative reliefs were added to the lintels of the interior of the porch.
What to See at the Temple of Hadrian
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 architrave contains the dedicatory inscription from Publius Quintilius to Hadrian, Artemis and the people of Ephesus, and includes a bust of the goddess Tyche, protectress of the city. 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.
The interior of the monument is decorated with panels of reliefs along the top. The ones in place today are plaster replicas of originals 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 taken from a 3rd-century building and placed here in the 4th-century reconstruction.
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 (who outlawed paganism) and his family surrounded by Athena, Apollo, Androklos, Heracles, Artemis of Ephesus, and several other historical and mythological figures.
In 381, the Christian Emperor Theodosius outlawed pagan cults throughout the empire. Not long after this, a curious relief was added to the so-called Temple of Hadrian in Ephesus. It shows the great anti-pagan campaigner Theodosius and his family accompanied by gods including Artemis of Ephesus, Athena and Selene!
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." 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.
Quick Facts on the Temple of Hadrian
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- Scherrer, Peter. ?The City of Ephesos from the Roman Period to Late Antiquity? in Koester, Helmut, ed. Ephesos Metropolis of Asia: An Interdisciplinary Approach to its Archaeology, Religion and Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Divinity School, 2004), 21.
- Franz von Miltner, Ephesos: Stadt der Artemis und des Johannes (Wien: F. Deuticke, 1958), 105f.
- Frank R. Trombley, Hellenic Religion and Christianization, c.370-529, Vol. I. (Leiden: Brill, 1993), 96.
- Bernard McDonagh, Blue Guide Turkey 3rd ed. (2001), 223-24.
- Frommer's Turkey, 3rd ed.
- Photos of the Temple of Hadrian - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of the Temple of Hadrian, Ephesus
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Temple of Hadrian. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.