Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
online news
Refounding of Plato's Ideal City, Magnesia January 29, 2001
by Özgen Acar

[image] The sacred area in front of the Temple of Artemis, with the propylon in the background (Özgen Acar) [LARGER IMAGE]

The ancient city described by Plato in The Republic as an "ideal city" is being refounded as the soil that has covered it for centuries is removed. Magnesia ad Meandrum, which takes its name from the Meander River and the original Magnesia in northern Greece, is southeast of Ephesus, 15 miles inland from the Aegean port Kusadasi. Archaeologist Orhan Bingöl has excavated at Magnesia for 17 years.

The Temple of Artemis, built by the famous architect Hermogenes in the third century B.C., was first discovered in the nineteenth century, when important reliefs and some other pieces belonging to it were removed to museums in Berlin, Paris, and Istanbul. The temple is only now being excavated, together with its surrounding public areas, connecting roads, other public buildings, and stoa (colonnades). Its stones are being classified according to their architectural features and conserved, to be used in the restoration of the temple itself in the near future.

[image] Preparations for the restoration of the Temple of Artemis (Özgen Acar) [LARGER IMAGE]

Hermogenes' influence can be seen in the column capitals, which are in the Ionic style. While capitals in this style are usually of one type, there are striking embellishments in those of the Temple of Artemis. Important data concerning Hermogenes's contribution to the planning of other areas is also being obtained.

The Ionic capitals (Özgen Acar) [LARGER IMAGE][image]

Cylindrical column drums were uncovered at the monumental west gate (propylon), which opened the way from the agora (market place) to the sacred area in front of the Temple of Artemis. Restoration of the west gate will be completed next year when the columns are put together. A completed column reaches a height of 7.23 meters (about 24 feet). After finishing work on this gate, Bingöl says that he will start on the restoration of the east gate.

Another building near the city's ruined theater is being called the theatron or viewing place, because it exhibits architectural features similar to those found in a theater. Since the theatron was only half-completed in ancient times because of a landslide, it shows how ancient theaters were constructed. Work is in progress to protect it against further landslide damage.

[image] The theatron (Özgen Acar) [LARGER IMAGE]

By the Byzantine gate, constructed near the Temple of Artemis in the seventh century A.D., a previously unknown part of a building was uncovered. Though not a public bath, this structure was heated from below with pipes that closely resemble the present-day radiator heating system.

Cameo featuring the god Eros (Orhan Bingöl ) [LARGER IMAGE] [image]

The finds at Magnesia ad Meandrum include various coins, ceramics, and works of glass. Also found was a 1.5-cm-wide cameo ring stone featuring a winged Eros steering a two-wheeled chariot biga of victory pulled by two horses, holding a feather in his hand rather than a whip. "It is hard to believe the craftsmanship involved in the production of this piece, taking a semiprecious agate, using the colored layers and producing an embossed design in a such a limited space," says Isk Bingöl, an expert in the field of ancient jewelry.

* For more information, see

© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America