First Results of the Serapis Temple Project

In 2011, the Ephesus Foundation started a new project conducted by the Austrian Archaeological Institute. The so-called Serapeion, a monumental temple of the 2nd century AD, is the subject of archaeological and architectural research. Presumably it was dedicated to the Egyptian god Serapis. In 2011 work concentrated on the documentation of the present situation. The architectural blocks, which lay around in front of the temple as they collapsed during an earthquake, were drawn by the University of Applied Sciences Regensburg (D) under the direction of Prof. Thekla Schulz-Brize. Additionally, the lay-out was scanned by a team of the Vienna University of Technology using a RIEGL 3D laser scanner in order to get basic data for a later three-dimensional model of the temple. The temple will be visualized as it was seen by a visitor in antiquity.

The Serapis Temple is of outstanding importance to the history of Roman architecture, especially because of its extraordinary condition and the high number of well-preserved architectural blocks. Because of their enormous size and heavy weight (gross weight of one column: approximately 40 t) they have not been carried away to be reused in other buildings. Therefore a detailed reconstruction of the building and the precise location of each architectural element will be possible.

This year's unique discoveries were three, partly preserved appearance windows. Such windows are known from other temples but only in small and less significant fragments.
The windows were originally located in the pediment and used by the priests to show cultic objects (perhaps the cult statue) to the people during ceremonies. Due to the fact that the inner chamber of the temple (cella) was restricted to priests only, the people had to wait in the court yards and halls in front of the sanctuary. The entrance to the inner chamber was closed by two monumental door wings, about 12m high. The monumental leafs ran on rollers to move them properly. Originally, their tracks were provided with bronze inlays reflecting the sun like gold.

It is very likely but not proven, that the temple was attributed to the Egyptian god Serapis, who was very popular in the entire Graeco-Roman world. He served as an oracle god of fertility and healing and as a guarantor for the supply with grain from Egypt.

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In the front: tracks of the monumental door wings to the inner chamber of the temple


Incense burner (thymiaterion) depicting the Egyptian god Serapis

3D Scan of the Serapeion