Commercial Agora: Cultural Crossroads in Ephesus
The Commercial Agora was the heart of trade not only within the ancient city of Ephesus, but also for all of Asia Minor during the city’s Roman-era. Also known as the Tetragonos Agora, this marketplace once stood at the center of Ephesus along Marble Road, in between the Theater and the Celsus Library. The Commercial Agora was one of the most important trade centers of the ancient world, serving as the crossroads between Europe, Asia, and Africa. Here goods would finish their journey along the Silk Road to make their way further into the markets of Europe. During Ephesus’ Roman-era, the city was the capital of the Asia province of the Empire granting even more importance to trade within the Empire. The city also hosted the ancient world’s second largest slave market.
Originally built in the Greek-era around the 3rd century BC, the Commercial Agora was later updated under Emperor Augustus (27 BC -14 AD), nearly doubling the size of the market and adding the Gate of Mazaeus and Mithridates. The Agora would be continually updated over the next 4 centuries however the ruins visible today come from the 3rd century AD.
The Agora is a 110m x 110m square, each side lined with stoas, covered pathways supported by columns. Merchants would have sold their goods in the aisles between the columns. There were also around 100 rooms around the Agora where politicians and guilds would hold meetings. The center of the Agora once had a water clock and sundial; the water clock was a 20-minute timer used to alot speaking time in court proceedings. On the perimeter of the Agora were three gates: one leading to the harbor, one leading to the Theater, and one leading to the Celsus Library; this last entrance is the Gate of Mazaeus and Mithridates.