My song is to Artemis, golden-shot and noise-loving,
A worthy virgin, chasing deer, arrow-loving,
To the one-uterine sister of the gold-plated Phoebus-lord.
While hunting, she is on the peaks open to the wind …
Homer. Anthem to Artemis
Ancient civilization. The air of Turkey in the truest sense of the word smelled of the sea and the sun. And it has always been like this, even when no one even heard of any Turks here. But everyone has heard of the Greeks. And here they were in abundance, in fact, the whole of Asia Minor belonged to them, and the coast was Greek even before the Greco-Persian wars. And it was here that the city of Ephesus once stood, which was one of the most important cities of antiquity. It was here that the Temple of Artemis stood, which was one of the seven wonders of the world. This city was also the birthplace of the philosopher Heraclitus, as well as one of the largest early Christian communities. In Roman times, Ephesus became the capital of an Asian province with a population of about 200,000. However, if you happen to visit the place where this city stood, then you will not see either the ruins of the legendary temple or any impressive ruins. A single column in the middle of a field, and on top of it is the nest of a family of storks. That’s all that’s left of all this ancient splendor for a variety of reasons. However, in order to look at the monuments of ancient Ephesus, today it is not at all necessary to go to Turkey. Today, you can get acquainted with them in the center of Europe, in Vienna, where a unique collection of ancient antiques from this city is exhibited in the museum of the Hovburg Palace. Well, today we will tell you about what they are and how exactly they got to Vienna.
Eroths hunt lions. The stage wall of the Ephesus theater was one of the richly decorated architectural ensembles of Roman Ephesus. The three-story façade with columns, aedicles and decor was also decorated with sculptures, including a relief frieze depicting hunting erots, stretching across the entire width of the stage, possibly in the area of the basement of the second floor. Fragments of this frieze were found in the 19th century and ended up in London and then Vienna, since in 1895, excavations carried out by the Austrians began in Ephesus. On the relief, two winged eroths hunt a lion with spears, and two dogs grab the lion by the hind legs. Remnants of red and brown paint, which were completely painted on the spears, are noteworthy. The composition of the frieze is typical of the Hellenistic era. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
And it so happened that after Schliemann’s discoveries in Europe, a massive interest in the culture of Ancient Greece arose, so that both Greece and Turkey were literally flooded by European archaeologists. But if Schliemann was inspired by Homer’s immortal Iliad, then there was a man among archaeologists who, a few years before him, was just as strongly inspired by the reports of historians of the past about the temple of … Artemis in Ephesus.
And now inspired by his knowledge of the size, significance and wealth of the Temple of Artemis, British archaeologist John Turtle Wood, who collaborated with the British Museum, was able to rediscover this ancient site in 1869. But contrary to expectations, the list of found items turned out to be so modest that excavations here were soon stopped. And why so is understandable. No finds – no money! That is, the British were not lucky there. But … but they were soon lucky in other places, Schliemann successfully excavated Troy, and it turned out that the Austrian archaeologists, who, of course, also rushed to Greece, got only the island of Samothrace, which they, incidentally, successfully explored in 1873 and 1875.
Hermes. The young god can be identified as Hermes by the wings attached to his head. The face of the “messenger of the gods” is framed by sharply cut crescent-shaped curls. The head is a reconstruction of an image of Hercules created by the Greek sculptor Polycletus in the second half of the 5th century BC. Created. The head was found in the port baths in the first year of the Austrian excavations at Ephesus, 1895. Made in the middle of the 2nd century. AD, after a bronze original circa 430 BC Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
However, it took a full twenty years before the Austro-Hungarian monarchy decided to conduct large-scale research in the Eastern Mediterranean region, received carte blanche from the Turkish government for excavations, and from 1895, that is, much later than other European countries, began research on the spot. ancient Ephesus. But the most interesting thing is that this work continues here and today, with the efforts of all the same Austrian scholarly historians. And these excavations, which have been going on here for more than a century (although they were interrupted by two world wars), still continue to provide answers to many questions regarding this ancient city.
Modern reconstruction of the appearance of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The fact that the Austrians were able to settle in the Ephesus region for such a long time and work there systematically and carefully, of course, bore fruit. Until 1906, numerous finds of exceptional value were brought to Vienna, which today can be seen in the Ephesian Museum, an appendix to the collection of Greek and Roman antiquities.
But what can be seen at the site of the “wonder of the world” today: one column, an Islamic mosque and a Byzantine fortress …
The most interesting artifacts: a Parthian monument, an Amazon from the altar of Artemis, a bronze statue of an athlete cleaning himself after a competition, and a child with a goose.
Here is this “child”! The sculpture is very dynamic and therefore curious. The little boy depicted on it tries to get up, but in this vain effort shifts his body weight to the left, as a result of which he inadvertently presses the goose to the ground with his left hand, and stretches his right hand up, as if seeking help. It is a Hellenistic bronze model of the group attributed to Boetos. The marble group was installed in the ceremonial hall of the Ephesian baths. It dates back to the 2nd century AD, but is based on a bronze original from the 3rd century BC. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
But this is only part of the extensive collection of Ephesian marbles on display at the Ephesian Museum in the New Castle of Hovburg Palace.
Interior view of the halls of the Ephesus Museum in Vienna
However, in addition to financing these works, an additional motivation for their implementation was the agreement between the Ottoman Empire and Austria. The fact is that Sultan Abdul Hamid II officially made a generous gift to Emperor Franz Joseph: he presented several ancient objects discovered by scientists to the imperial house, which made it possible to take them out of Turkey quite officially and … replenish the collections of Hovburg in Vienna.
You can admire the collection of Hovburg marble from Ephesus not only while standing, but also sitting
The value of the finds was so great that their delivery from Turkey to Austria was carried out by ships of the Austrian navy. At first they were kept (and periodically exhibited!) In the Temple of Theseus in the Volksgarten. However, after the promulgation of the Turkish Antiquities Law of 1907, the export of antiquities from Turkey was prohibited; no more such finds have been reported to Vienna.
Apotheosis of Lucius Vera. A man dressed as a Roman general climbs a chariot drawn by four horses. Nika (Victoria), the goddess of victory, holds the reins, Virtus, the personification of efficiency and virtue, leads the procession. Under the horses sits Tellus, the earth, the goddess of fertility with a cornucopia. After A.D. 169 Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
After the collection was kept in various makeshift rooms for many years, the Vienna Museum of Ephesus was opened in its current form in December 1978 in the “New Castle” section of the Hofburg complex. Visitors are presented with a very interesting selection of Roman sculptures that once adorned the public buildings of Ephesus during the Roman era, including the extensive thermal baths and the Ephesian theater. A number of architectural elements provide a complete picture of the grandeur with which Roman buildings, usually with richly decorated facades, were finished, and the layout of the ancient city allows a better understanding of the corresponding arrangement of objects in its topography. Along with all this, the highlight of the collection is the so-called Parthian monument, and a series of Roman reliefs, unique both in size and in their craftsmanship.
Octagon. In the center of the city of Ephesus, right in front of the houses on the hillside, at the end of the 1st century BC, a building was built, which was named “Octagon”. In its square base there is a burial chamber, above which an octagonal stepped structure was erected, surrounded by a colonnade. The fact that the tomb was erected within the city limits testifies to the special situation of the deceased. The bones of a young woman were found in the sarcophagus. It is suggested that this is the tomb of Queen Arsinoe IV. This Egyptian princess was born in 40 BC and, at the instigation of her sister, the famous Cleopatra VII, was killed in Ephesus. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
The scientific study of finds from Ephesus today is carried out in close cooperation between the University of Vienna, the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Austrian Archaeological Institute. By the way, in Turkey itself, the ruins of Ephesus and the local museum are visited by about two million tourists annually. And today it is the most popular place in the country after the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Well, the local Ephesus Museum is an important addition to the Austrian exposition in Vienna.
But this bronze sculpture is already known to the readers of “VO”. There was material about her. Or rather, not quite about her … There are several such figures, conventionally called “Purifying”. The fact is that after playing sports and competing on the palestra, athletes cleaned themselves of oil and dust with the help of strigilis, a curved scraper. The sculpture depicts a young man holding a strigilis in his hand and cleaning himself with it. It is interesting that all the attention of the young man is directed to this, in itself, a secondary process. The statue was assembled from 234 fragments found in the palaestra of the port school in Ephesus. The statue is a copy of Roman times, based on a lost original from the late 4th century BC. It cannot be ascribed with certainty to any Greek artist, but further Roman repetitions in marble and reproductions on clay reliefs and gems of stones prove the high level of awareness of the Romans about the original and its popularity among them. It is believed to have been created in the 1st century AD and is based on a Greek original from around 330 BC. The height of the figure is 192 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Hercules fighting a centaur. A bronze sculptural composition 50.8 cm high. Found in the same place as the figure of the “Purifying One”, but made later. Most likely, the tree served as a leg for the lamp, which, unfortunately, has not survived. An exquisite thing, once again testifying that the Romans loved to surround themselves with beautiful things, including even the most utilitarian ones. Second half of the 2nd century A.D. By the way, this is also a gift from Sultan Abdul Hamid II to Emperor Franz Joseph, like other artifacts presented here. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
So the Ephesus Museum in the New Castle of the Vienna Hovburg Palace Museum is a pleasure for true connoisseurs of antique sculpture and architecture. The fact is that only a small part of the collection is located in its large rooms, so each of its exhibits can be examined in the most detailed way.
PS The administration of the site and the author would like to express their gratitude to the director of the museum, Dr. Georg Plattner, for permission to use photographs from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.