Steven Friesen

Adjoining Ephesus’ harbor, the bath-gymnasium complex was the city’s largest building project at the end of the first century C.E. It honored the emperor Domitian. The complex was immense, measuring about 1,200 feet long, with the gymnasium nearly 800 feet wide. Unlike similar complexes in other cities in Asia Minor, which had a bath building and a palaestra (a square structure with rooms open to a courtyard and used for athletics, lectures or cult sacrifice), the complex at Ephesus consisted of three units: a bath building near the harbor; a palaestra; and a gymnasium with a very large courtyard enclosed by stoas. The complex served as the site of Ephesus’ own “Olympic” games that were founded by the emperor Domitian but discontinued after his death. An inscription recovered from the island of Iasos records the victory of a Metrobius in a contest held here in about 90 C.E. (The narrow basilica at left was a commercial building built in the first half of the second century C.E. and remodeled several times in the Byzantine period for use as a church.)