The Odeon on Pion

Ephesus was a port city, and as the sea receded, the city kept moving in chase. The ruins that we saw near Selçuk were of the last rebuilding of the city in the 4th century BCE. There are two entrances to the site: one from below the hill, the other from above. We parked below so that we could walk back downhill when we were tired. But the civic core of the city was at the top, on the hill which was called Pion. We walked slowly up the colonnaded street of the Curetes, and almost at the top, one of the last restored buildings was the structure called the Odeon (on feast days, when it served as a theater) or Bouleuterion (when it served as the meeting place of the Bouleia, the Senate). The featured photo is a view from the street.

It was uncovered in the initial archaeological digs made by J. T. Wood in the mid-19th century CE. Much is known about it, since many epigraphs were found from the structure. I couldn’t believe it when I read that some of the epigraphs were lost after being dug out! No visitor here sees the large 12 cm high letters on a marble sheet which proclaim that the building was dedicated by Publius Vedius Antoninus and his wife Flavia Papiane in the year that we would call 144 CE, because many of the fragments are in the British Museum. Modern estimates of the population of the city run between 20,000 and 35,000. The Vedius family would easily have been in the 0.1% of the most wealthy people in the city which was by then proclaimed to be the capital of Asia by the Roman emperor.

We walked up to what would have been the stage, and saw a school tour occupying seats in the amphitheater. They unfurled a banner with the name of their school and there was much laughter as a teacher took a photo. The amphitheater would have faced a two story high stage. The outer walls have carvings of bulls’ heads on them, which you can see in the photo above. It is believed that Vedius renovated a structure which was already more than a hundred years old. There is a lot of information about the family and the public works they did. There is peripheral evidence that the works were not always received gratefully by the city. But I could not find the source of the family’s wealth. Then, as now, the 0.1% would have been discreet about such matters.