'Byzantine Palace' (= Bishop's Palace) of Ephesos


Project Leader: A. Pülz

The ‘Byzantine Palace’ in the lower city of Ephesos was extensively exposed by F. Miltner between 1954 and 1956. Due to the sudden death of the excavator, however, it was not possible to produce a comprehensive publication of the ca. 75 x 50 m area, which represents one of the few well-preserved structures of non-sacred character of the Late Antique-Byzantine period in Ephesos.

Schematic ground plan
View from the crane, to the north

The monument is composed of two building halves (bath and representative wing), which were unified into one structure by means of a transversally-disposed vestibule. To the south of the complex a small chapel, which was added later to the Palace, can be found. Currently there is no information regarding the domestic and economic areas of the Palace, which could be detected in the framework of geophysical prospections in 2008.
Based on the in situ remains, the monument was first interpreted as a bathing complex ‘of Byzantine type’, and due to its crooked ground plan was jokingly referred to as Sarhos Hamam (The Baths of the Drunkard). A few years later, doubts were already raised concerning this interpretation and the proposal that the building was in fact the administrative seat of the Roman proconsul of the Province of Asia, or of the strategos of the Byzantine administrative and military district (Thema) Thrakesion, which was newly organized in the 7th century, was favoured. In contrast, due to the recent scientific results an interpretation of the monument as the Bishop’s Palace is very probable, rather.

As recent investigations have revealed, the monument, constructed in the first half of the 5th century, can be associated with a comprehensive reconstruction programme in Ephesos. Such an undertaking – as also occurred in other cities of Asia Minor – was made necessary after the natural catastrophes of the 3rd and 4th centuries. Not only individual buildings, but also entire urban areas, were no longer able to fulfil their original functions after the earthquake destructions; these offered abundant building material and building ground which could now be used for reconstruction and new edifices. These circumstances also provided a good opportunity to adapt the urban image to contemporary requirements and current taste. This new situation expressed itself in the areas of domestic and workshop structures, in churches, as well as in up-to-date public buildings and structures for display (administrative buildings, baths, fountains, piazzas and streets, etc.).

It is not yet clear how long the 'Byzantine Palace' (Bishop's Palace) fulfilled its function. It is only certain that it must already have been abandoned in the 10th century, since at this date an oven for burning lime (?) was set up directly near the former entrance in the south. Numerous wall traces of the Middle and Late Byzantine period inside the complex point to an intensive secondary usage (medieval domestic structures). Furthermore noteworthy is a small burial ground on the exterior of the small church which was used up to the 14th c. AD.

Peristyle house (BW 01)
late antiquity buildings

Bibliography

The archaeological documentation already is finished and the final publication of the numerous results in preparation.