Vol. IX, No. 1

May, 1996

The Ancient Theater of Ephesus

Ïbrahim Ataç
MSÜ, Istanbul

A team of architects and archaeologists from Austria and Turkey, using computers to aid in gathering and interpreting new evidence, expects to add important new results to what is already known about the theater at Ephesus. The emphasis of the project is on preservation; so the participation of restoration experts is a fundamental presupposition of the project. In addition to architects and archaeologists, there will also be topographers, experts in structural mechanics, soil engineers, hydrology experts, and others whose skills and talents will be needed.

The theater of Ephesus is oriented to the West, as are those of Miletus and Pergamon, and travellers in antiquity, usually entering Ephesus by sea, could catch sight of the mighty theater from far away, recognizing it as the biggest building in the city.

Fig. 1 - The theater at Ephesus,
viewed from the east.

Fig. 2 - The stage building of the
theater at Ephesus.

The theater was situated at the most important spot in the city from the start, and, from the topography of the area, it is evident that Ephesus developed between theater and harbour. Though it is generally thought that the theater had been built by king Lysimachus for his new foundation of Arsinoe, after 300 BC, the oldest traces at the theater indicate that it was erected later, and its plan echoes Vitruvius' description of the ideal theater plan to a remarkable extent.

This project to work on the theater began in 1993, and work so far has preliminarily secured the theater which had threatened to collapse. The work also made it clear that this building has still to be carefully investigated. Therefore, the project aims not only at extensive conservation but also at intensive archaeological and architectural investigation. The work will be carried out as an international cooperation of Austrian and Turkish scholars and experts.

Work will begin with the incorporation of Wilberg's evidence, and drawings and descriptions from 1905 will be digitized. That evidence will be added to current geodetic surveys and new drawings. The architectural substance of the theater will be described and documented in detail, sector by sector. A CAD model will be made of the theater (using AutoCAD and 3DStudio), and plans, sections and elevations will be prepared. Survey information will also be incorporated into the computer model. In addition, the team will document architectural pieces and compile known items from the theater, while searching for others throughout the site. [Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 show two photographic views of the theater. The sophisticated use of computer graphics already employed by the Ephesus team is illustrated in Fig. 3 and Fig. 4.]

Fig. 3 - A perspective view of
the restored stage building
from the theater at Ephesus.

Fig. 4 - A view from below of the
restored stage building at Ephesus.

Graphic reconstructions of the building and its parts, for various periods, will also be made. The project as a whole offers a singular opportunity for controlling and supplementing the scientific interpretations made up to now.

To complete the building research and to gather historic as well as technical knowledge of the theater, more excavations in the analemmata area, particularly in the North, are necessary. For investigation of older periods, deep excavations in orchestra and skene are required, and for recovery of important parts like the collapsed former ascents and passages and the east side above the third diazoma, technically more complex measures (e.g., employment of several cranes) will be necessary.

At the conclusion of the project, the evidence brought to light during the excavation (findings, stratigraphy, etc.) will be examined, the dating of the individual periods of the building or its parts will be determined, and the results will be published.

For a better understanding of the building as a whole as well as its parts, limited re-erections and re-building measures will be necessary, and broken marble parts will be put together and mounted where possible at the original places.

In the stage-building extensive dismounting works will be carried out for the protection of the fissured blocks, and the whole shell (especially the parts that are uncovered opus caementicium) will be protected against weather and vegetation.

Before starting the actual restoration, physical and chemical analyses of the affected original materials must be carried out (above all at the skene). Then a method to clean and preserve the affected marble surfaces must be established. Of course, general cleaning and the fight against vegetation will continue.

At the end of the project, some re-use of the theater for cultural performances will be possible within a limited scope. Costs for the project over next three years will sum up to approximately U.S. $ 1,322,140, with 70% of the funds coming from sponsors and the rest from the Austrian and Turkish ministries.

For further information please contact: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Stefan Karwiese, Austrian Archaeological Institute Franz-Klein-Gasse 1, A-1190 Wien, Austria ('phone: (43) 1-31.352 * 323; fax: (43) 1-317.6948) or Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ïbrahim Ataç, Mimar Sinan University, Faculty of Architecture, Unit of CAADE, TR-80040 Fïndïklï/Istanbul, Turkey ('phone: (90) 1-252.1600 * 299; fax: (90) 1-251.7567, E-mail: atac@msu.edu.tr).

This email address for Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ïbrahim Ataç is no longer functional. - editor, 25 May 2005.

For other Newsletter articles concerning the applications of CAD modelling in archaeology and architectural history, consult the Subject index.

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