The Upper Agora in Ephesos

Planning and conversion processes of urban space between the Hellenistic period and the Roman imperial period

The Upper Agora of Ephesos received its urban character between the Hellenistic and the early imperial period. The aim of the current research is to trace the individual steps in this design and conversion process and to gain insights regarding the functions of the area in its urban context.

The Upper Agora, the ›State Agora‹ of Ephesos, is an area located on a saddle between the two mountains on the city limits and had already been excavated to a large part by the OeAI from the late 1950s to the mid-1980s. However, important questions such as the chronology of the buildings remained open while results regarding the urban function of the area were formulated as theories that needed to be verified. The current project is carrying out a critical review of this state of scholarship with the help of unpublished documentation of previous fieldwork and is developing questions and approaches for follow-up research on site. This research takes advantage of the methods of architectural history and archaeology. At the center of interest is the Hellenistic and the early Roman imperial periods because at that time decisive measures were taken in the architectural design of the Upper Agora.

The western end of the square

The support wall that serves as the west end of the artificial terrace of the Upper Agora and the buildings in direct contact with this support wall are the focus of a detailed architectural analysis. It permits decisive conclusions about the sequence of construction, structural connections as well as about the shape and height of the different architectural elements. Associated building elements that are currently stored in the area of the so-called square of Domitian will be cataloged and documented. The research to date suggests that the construction of the support wall preceded all other building measures in the western area of the Upper Agora. Outlets for waste water in the upper part of the support wall provide evidence about the original level of the square that was significantly lower than the levels in the imperial and late antique periods. Furthermore, it was possible to determine an undetected staircase between the western annex of the Basilica Stoa and the so-called Pollio Monument as well as a consistent design and construction of the chamber rows to either side of the so-called street of Domitian.

The south stoa and the south-eastern propylon

Another step is the south stoa which was more than half-way excavated in earlier excavations but has remained unpublished. Through an in-depth cleaning of already excavated areas, precisely positioned trenches, and a detailed analysis of the buildings and building elements new insights were gained. As a result the history of the stoa can be divided up into several building and use phases and can be more precisely chronologically delimited. Following the preliminary evaluation of contexts from the construction period, its construction likely took place in the first half of the 2nd century BCE By the late 6th century at the latest the stoa probably was in ruins based on a coin hoard discovered in the back wall. In its initial state it extended quite a bit further to the east than had previously been assumed. The total length of the two-story hall was around 160 m at the time. It was possibly shortened when the small gate building was constructed in the south-east of the Upper Agora. According to the preliminary results from the excavations in 2016 the gate building was built around the beginning of the Common Era. Possibly at the same time the south stoa and thus also the Upper Agora received a monumental new entrance set somewhat in the middle of the back wall of the hall.