Centre for Continuing Education

Ephesus Course: Life and Death in a Roman City

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

The world as we know it today has been shaped by events of the past. Learn about history the smart way with History courses at CCE, The University of Sydney.

The city of Ephesus, located on the Aegean coast of Turkey, is one of the best preserved ancient Roman cities in the world. More than a century of excavations at the site have revealed stunning remains of houses, temples, bath complexes and theatres giving an unparalleled view of provincial life in the Roman Imperial age. This study day explores the physical and textual evidence for life and death in the city of Ephesus.


At the completion of this history course participants will have:

  1. Explored the lifestyle in Roman Ephesus.
  2. Described the history of archaeological excavation.
  3. Understood why Ephesus was abandoned.


The early days of Ephesus

The city of Ephesus was founded as a Mycenaean colony and acquired new settlers around 1100 BC. A spectacular temple of Artemis was erected in the 6th Century which would be recognised as one of the 7 ancient wonders. The city was re-founded in the early Hellenistic period by one of Alexander’s generals Lysimachus. It acquired a theatre and market place and was a vibrant commercial centre.

Civic Life: The urban structure

Ephesus reached its zenith of development in the 2nd Century AD during the pax romana. It was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and the rich upper class, driven by personal ambition, constructed extravagant civic buildings which included gymnasia, aqueducts, a council chamber, library and revamped theatre. The prosperity of the city depended on its harbour and international trade.

Daily Life: The houses

The wealthy businessmen of Ephesus spent lavishly on magnificent townhouses of which a large area has been excavated. These have revealed remarkable evidence of life in the city during the Roman Imperial Age. The houses often included shops along the main street and domestic shrines.

Religious Life: Cult and Burial

The city of Ephesus preserves a rich collection of religious buildings. The spectacular Temple of Artemis attracted devotes from across the Roman Empire. An imperial temple was erected for Augustus in the Roman forum and later one was built for Domitian and Hadrian. Elaborate burial monuments were constructed outside the city walls but one fascinating tomb was erected in the heart of the city.

The decline and fall of Ephesus

The decline of Ephesus began in the 3rd Century AD and was associated with the breakdown in international trade. The sudden advance of the Goths saw the city plundered and set on fire. In the late 3rd Century Christianity gradually expanded its influence despite periodic persecutions. The Third Ecumenical Council was held at the city in 431 and a major basilica was constructed under Justinian. The silting up of the harbour and the Persian and Arab invasions saw the city fade as an urban centre.

Intended Audience

This history course is suitable for personal interest adult learners, university students and active retirees who have an interest in history, culture and the city of Ephesus.

Delivery Style

This history course in Sydney will be delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussions will be encouraged.

Recommended Reading

John Freely, The Western Shores of Turkey, London, 2004


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Certificate of completion