in the footsteps of paul
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 Jerusalem (30-34)
 Antioch (34-43)
 Spreading the Word (43-48)
 The Wider World (49-50)
 Corinth (50-52)
 Ephesus (52-56)
 Into the Fire (56-70)

I have seen the walls of unbreachable Babylon, along which chariots may race, and the statue of Zeus by the river Alphaeus, the Hanging Gardens and the Colossus of the Sun, the great man-made mountains of the lofty pyramids, and the gigantic tomb of Maussolos. But when I saw the sacred house of Artemis reaching the clouds, the others paled...
–Antipater of Sidon, Greek Anthology 9.58

Theater in Ephesus
Theater in Ephesus
(photo courtesy Ministry of Tourism, Ankara)

Artemis of Ephesus
Artemis of Ephesus
(photo courtesy Ministry of Tourism, Ankara)

The temple remains a place of refuge, now as it was before; the limits of the refuge have often been changed, as when Antony doubled its size and included a part of the city in the sanctuary. Of course, this proved a disaster, as it gave the city to criminals, and so Augustus Caesar repealed the extension. The city has a dockyard and a harbor...and, because of its fortunate position, grows daily.
–Strabo, Geography 14.1.23-24

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A man named Demetrius, a maker of silver shrines of Artemis, brought together those who worked in similar trades and said "Men, you know that our well-being depends on this work, and you can see and hear how this Paul says that there are no gods made by human hands. There is danger for us -- not only that our work, but also the Temple of the Great Artemis, will be reckoned as nothing..."
–Acts 19.23-27

phesus was the largest city in Asia Minor, and the center for criminal and civil trials. The city's theater sat facing the sea at the head of the main road from the harbor into the city. Ephesus had a troubled history with Rome. In the first century BCE, Roman tax collectors and businessmen had run roughshod over the province, outraging the locals with their exploitation and extortion. The Ephesians welcomed the challenge to Roman hegemony posed by an invading eastern king, and with his capture of the city in 88 BCE, its citizens joined in the massacre of the city's Italian residents. Rome responded with a characteristically firm hand, exacting huge penalties and taxes to keep the city without resources. The economy did not recover until the reign of Augustus.

And, as in Jerusalem, Corinth and Athens, Ephesus attracted a large number of tourists, though smaller than modern standards. Pilgrims came to Ephesus to see the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This temple had been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries. The temple Paul would have seen was erected in the fourth century BCE; a forest of marble, it had 127 columns measuring 1.2 meters in diameter, standing 18 meters high. It was a refuge for runaway slaves, and was outside the city proper. The form of Artemis worshipped here was unlike anywhere else, perhaps because she had been assimilated with a local Anatolian earth goddess. Unlike the virgin huntress and twin sister of Apollo most familiar in the stories of the Greeks, Artemis at Ephesus was a fertility goddess, and her physical manifestation was a statue of the goddess festooned with oval protuberances -- probably representing testicles of sacrificial bulls -- and she wore a stole of bees. Acts repeats a story of how Paul's success threatened the livelihood of those citizens who relied on proceeds from visitors to the Temple of Artemis.

Acts also repeats stories of miracles Paul performed while in Ephesus. In this, too, there is a connection to the city itself. Ephesus had a reputation for magic. Paul's miracles were seen as a sign of the strength and truth of his Lord, and inspired Ephesians to burn their books of magic. But the success of Paul's mission was a threat to the city coffers. Acts notes that the books burned were worth 50,000 pieces of silver. And it also details a confrontation with the Ephesians who made their living from the tourists and pilgrims who came to the Temple of Artemis. While these stories provide vivid accounts of daily life in a city like Ephesus, it is likely that they exaggerate the threat Paul represented to the city's economic well-being.

When the time came to depart, Paul headed north and west to his congregations in Macedonia, then south to Corinth once again. It seems his primary purpose was to collect charitable offerings to take back to Jerusalem. Most of his return voyage to Jerusalem would have been by ship. Hopscotching across the islands of the Aegean, Paul sought further converts and contributions. From the ship's deck, in the channels between the islands and the mainland, sailing past rugged mountain forests and smooth open plains, the entire history of the Mediterranean would have been visible. Grand public buildings faced in marble, tenements and markets crowding the streets, theaters overlooking the sea, temples reaching for the sky, colossal statues of gods and emperors. Greek, Roman, Persian, Phoenician, and Egyptian. Ruins of cities and monuments destroyed by war, earthquakes, or worn away by time. Fortresses, farms and villages, vast commercial estates and palatial villas. Vineyards and quarries. The tent cities of nomads, and soldiers, and their fires in the night.

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