Visiting Ephesus . . . in Vienna, part 1

One of the more interesting parts of my recent visit to Austria for the SBL was visiting Ephesus. . . that’s right. The Austrian Archaeological Institute (Österreichische Archäologische Institut), whose website is here, has been active in excavations of this site in Turkey solidly since the 1950s (and Austrian work there goes back even further to the 1890s as you can read on that website). They have created the “Ephesos Museum” to display some of the finds that were brought back to Austria from Turkey.

As you may know, you can already read about Ephesus and view photos from the actualModel of Ephesus site on my own website here. I have also created a virtual tour of the “Selçuk (Ephesus) Archeological Museum” in Turkey, along with other museums, on my Archeological Museums webpage. Right now I thought I’d give you a few glimpses into the Ephesian materials that are kept in Vienna, in the Hapsburg palaces, no less. (No assassinations took place while I was there, as far as I know).

The Ephesos Museum has an interesting model in wood which provides a good overview of the site. Pictured here is the view from the south east showing the upper portion of the city with its temple for Domitian and Kuretes Street leading down towards the Celsus library, the theatre and the main marketplace (to the left of the theatre). Further in the distance (to the right of the theatre) are the two main gymnasia or athletic complexes.

Bronze Athlete This is an opportune time to mention some athletic related pieces in the museum.

First of all, there is a very well presented bronze statue of an athlete from Ephesus (reconstructed). This is a Roman copy of a Greek original (ca. 320 BCE) and is often categorized along with other statues that depict an athlete scraping off sweat and dirt after a competition (hence they are sometimes called “the scraper”, apoxyomenos — wiki article here). Here the athlete can be seen reaching down to scrape his thighs, holding his hands in a way that shows that the statue originally included a scraping instrument in his hands.

Similar statues have been found, such as the recent find (of 1996) in Croatia, on which see the online discussion of the Croatian Apoxyomenos. Another in the Vatican Museum (Pio Clementino inv. 1185), which is likely a copy of an original by the famous sculptor Lysippus, has been the subject of sketches that are available on the Perseus website here and here. An excellent photo of the upper portion of the Vatican statue is here.

Pliny the Elder also relates a story regarding a statue of this type by Lysippus. The story goes that this statue, which was dedicated by Marcus Agrippa in front of his baths was so admired by the emperor Tiberius that he had it moved into his own bedroom. There was such an uproar due to the popularity of the statue that Tiberius was compelled to put the statue back in its public setting for all to see (Pliny, Natural history 34.62).Herakles vs Centaur in Vienna

For another bronze athlete, this one found in the Aegean sea off the coast of Cyme in Turkey (now in the Izmir / Smyrna museum), see my photo here.

Another intriguing bronze piece at the Ephesos Museum is a lamp. I’m not sure whether you’d want this as a reading lamp for your living room, though. It depicts Herakles (Hercules), patron deity of athletes, engaged in a struggle with a mythical centaur (half man, half horse). Looking at the piece you get the feeling that Herakles has the upper-hand and that the centaur doesn’t have much time left–he’s going down. In previous posts, I have discussed mythology associated with the centaurs at some length (with photos from the British Museum): Bandits and their wild banquets: Lapiths and Centaurs.

I’ll have more from the museum at Vienna soon. Oooh, the suspense.