CITIES OF ALEXANDER’S WORLD: EPHESUS

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The city of Ephesus, an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, was built in the 10th century BC by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek period it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city was most famous for the Temple of Artemis, completed around 550 BC.

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Temple of Artemis

Antipater of Sidon, who compiled a list of the Seven Wonders of the World, described the Temple: “I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus: but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ”Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.”  (from Wikipedia)

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In July, 356 BC the Temple of Artemis was set ablaze by an arsonist and burned to the ground. Co-incidentally, this occurred on exactly the same night that Alexander the Great was born and was considered by the Macedonian royalty to be an omen. Plutarch remarked in his histories that Artemis was too preoccupied with Alexander’s birth to save her burning temple.

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At that time, the whole of Ionia was under Persian rule. When Philip II was assassinated in 336 BC  his son, Alexander, took over the throne. Two years later he followed his father’s plan to march on Asia Minor and take back the Greek lands from the Persians. He appointed his father’s experienced general, Antipater, as regent in his absence and in the spring of 334 BC he crossed the Hellespont with an army of 13,000 infantry and 5,100 cavalry.

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He defeated the Persian forces at the Battle of Granicus in 334 BC and routed the Persians into a retreat. The Persians suffered the loss of about 1,000 cavalry and 3,000 infantry. The Greek mercenaries who fought for Persia under the command of Memnon of Rhodes , were abandoned and attempted to broker a peace with Alexander but were slaughtered or enslaved. Memnon escaped but later died on an island in the Aegean. Alexander liberated the Greek cities of Asia Minor, executing the pro-Persian tyrant and his family and rode triumphantly into Ephesus.

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The Granicus River

Ephesus was one of the wealthiest cities in the Mediterranean world, an important trading center and a center of learning, a city where women enjoyed rights and privileges equal to men. Alexander remembered that the Temple of Artemis had burned on the night of his birth and offered to pay for it to be restored. The Ephesians tactfully declined. The temple wasn’t rebuilt, at their own expense, until after Alexander’s death in 323 BC.

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Ruins of the Temple of Artemis

After Alexander’s death one of his generals, Lysimachus, took over as satrap of the city and began new development of the city, changing its name to Arsineia after his wife Arsinoe. He constructed a new harbour, built defensive walls and moved the city farther south but the Ephesians refused to leave their homes until Lysimachus had the city’s sewage system blocked during a storm rending their houses uninhabitable. It was refounded in 281 BC under the old name of Ephesus and once again became known as one of the most important commercial seaports in the Mediterranean.

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Persian Woman

In Book One of SHADOW OF THE LION,  GENERAL PERDIKKAS and the army, escorting the joint-kings back to Macedon, arrive in Ephesus. Here we meet BARSINE, a Persian woman who had known Alexander from childhood when her father was an ambassador to Macedonia. After Alexander defeated Shah Darius and captured his harem, Barsine was among the royal women because she was the widow of Memnon of Rhodes. Later she became Alexander’s mistress. Accompanying Barsine in Ephesus is her young son, HERAKLES, the illegitimate son of Alexander. Although they are minor characters in the novel, they are important and appear in both Book 1 “Blood on the Moon”, and Book 2 “The Fields of Hades”.