The Temple of Domitian in Ephesus (89-90)

Ephesus became a temple keeper (neocoros in Greek) of a provincial emperor temple for the first time when the Domitian Temple was built in 89-90. Because the southwestern area of the upper State ago- ra was a valley, they first built a large plat- form the same height of the agora. On top of this platform was built an altar and temple. The U-shaped altar is displayed at the Izmir Museum. On top of the temple platform was a sixteen-foot (5-meter) statue of Domitian (or Titus). Today, the massive head and arm of Domitian (or Titus) can be seen in the Ephesus Museum. Although only a ruined skeleton remains of the massive platform, when Domitian’s Temple was built it transformed the religious atmosphere of Ephesus by highlighting the new dominance of emperor worship over the city.

When Domitian was murdered in 96—around the same time as the death of the apostle John—the Roman Senate rededicated the temple to Domitian’s father Vespasian and his brother Titus. The Domitian Temple was built during the ministry of the apostle John in Ephesus, and many Bible teachers believe that the new emergence of emperor worship in Ephesus played a significant role in John’s exile to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Rev- elation.