Temple of Isis

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Ephesus had a large Egyptian population throughout most of its history. This is clearly evident by the pink granite temple in the middle of the State Agora that was dedicated to the goddess Isis.   The temple would have been built during the Hellenistic period when Ephesus had close ties to Alexandria.

As the wife and sister of Osiris and the mother of Horus, Isis was an important deity in Egyptian culture.  She was the goddess of magic and healing and, according to ancient Egyptian mythology, the reason the Nile flooded every year.  The goddess’s tears of sorrow fell into the river when she wept for dead husband, Osiris who was killed by Set, god of chaos and destruction.

Isis was the goddess of eternal life and resurrection. The dedicated temple to the ancient Egyptian deity shows archaeologists that Ephesus had a strong commercial bond with the port city of Alexandria in Egypt. Egypt was the largest producer of wheat during the time so it would be likely that Ephesus would have traded local commercial products in exchange for Egyptian wheat. The temple displays how cosmopolitan the ancient city would have been and the atmosphere of tolerance that existed in Ephesus.

While it was in use, the temple building had ten columns on its long sides, and six on its short sides.  These Corinthian columns were carved out of massive blocks of marble. Some of the monolithic blocks weigh over 50 tones. Similar blocks were used in the construction of the ornate roof and door supports. The facade held a group of statues portraying the Odysseus and Polyphemos. When the temple was destroyed during the reign of the Emperor Augustus, these statues were removed. They would later be incorporated into the Fountain of Pollio. They now reside in the Ephesus Museum.

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