The newly discovered area is located in Domitian’s Square. It was an important public square located near the temple of Domitian and the Roman Agora. Domitian’s temple was dedicated to the official worship of the Flavian dynasty. Its construction was completed in 89/90 during the reign of Domitian. Today it is often referred to as the Sebastian (Venerable) Temple. The title sebastoi in Greek corresponds to the Roman title Augustus.
The development of a Roman plaza in late antiquity with shops and workshops is not surprising. However, the degree of preservation and the ability to accurately determine when it was destroyed is quite surprising, and is so important to our understanding of the city’s history, says Sabine Ladstatter, director of the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who has been in charge of the excavations at Ephesus since 2009.
So far, archaeologists have explored an area of about 170 square meters, and found a small building there that performs several types of work. There was a kitchen, a pantry, a tavern, a shop with lamps and Christian souvenirs for pilgrims, and a workshop with a shop next door.
In 614/615, when the entire neighborhood was destroyed, the exposed building was both flourishing and in use. The height of the individual rooms was up to 3.4 meters and they were completely covered with a layer of spoilage. Researchers have found an extraordinary wealth of artifacts. A huge number of cutlery was discovered, literally thousands of dishes, including intact ones with the remains of oysters or snails, amphoras filled with salted mackerel, peaches and olive groats, burnt peas and other legumes. A particularly interesting find is four solids, located in the same place. These are the Roman gold coins that replaced the halos in the 4th century. Their presence and the discovery of more than 700 copper coins in different rooms show that trade in the building was flourishing. About 600 small neck ampoules were discovered that were sold to pilgrims.
Everything points to the destruction of the neighborhood as a result of a sudden, massive fire of lightning. We can’t say exactly the day, but fruit research will allow us to determine the season, says Ladstätter. The walls and floors are uneven, so the fire was not the result of an earthquake. No human remains were found either. Archaeologists have discovered, however, dozens of arrowheads and spears, suggesting an armed conflict. The city of Sardis is located about 100 km from Ephesus, where coins of the same period have been found, and some scholars say that there was an attack by the Sassanids in Persia. However, this issue raises controversy, so in the case of Ephesus, we cannot clearly say that the city was attacked by the Persians.
However, the new discovery may help solve a mystery related to Ephesus. Previous archaeological data show that in the seventh century the area of the city shrank and the quality of life in it decreased. For example, a significant decrease in the number of currencies in circulation. This decline and poverty in the city is likely related to the events of 614/615. It should also be remembered that in the years 602-628 the most destructive series of Byzantine-Sasanian wars took place.
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