Ephesus (Antiquity), Monument of Memmius

1. Location

The monument of Memmius (map no. 32), grandson of L. Cornelius Sulla Felix (the fortunate), was founded in a truly privileged location, at the eastern end of Embolos (Curetes Street), exactly below the Panyirdağ which dominates to the north. Exactly next to the monument to the west is the fountain which during the mid Imperial era was reconstructed into the so-called Hydreion, while to the S-SE is the square which functioned, already from the Late Hellenistic period, as the town’s administrative centre, after its construction during the Imperial Age. Thus, the monument of Memmius had, essentially three facades, the western facade facing Embolos, the southern – and most important – facing the square of Domitian and the eastern facing the regular building axis of the town’s administrative centre. The building’s northern side faced the neighbouring hill, was the least important and remained basically unadorned.

2. Architectural description

According to the most recent and accurate study,2 the monument of Memmius belonged possibly to the tower-shaped category of buildings, very popular throughout the Roman dominion already from the Late period of the Republic. More specifically, it appears that the building was organized in four levels-sections: 1. the base formed by a high podium and the crepidoma, 2. the 1st floor with its orthostates and three niches in its main sides, 3. the 2nd floor with its cella-type core and Corinthian peristasis and 4. the pyramidal roof which stood on a cylindrical tympanum, decorated with bucrania, garlands and phiales.

The base’s ground plan at first level is square. It is important to note a compact core built using opus caementicum, rough stones and re-used materials (spolia),3which has essentially been faced by three layer of limestone blocks with rough surface (rustica) which form a tall podium. The last, together with the marble levelling course above, has a total height of 1,62 m. There follows the marble three-stepped crepidoma, 0,90 m. high.

On the crepidoma, which also conceals the compact core of the building’s interior, was a socle of orthostates (2,64 m. high) of which few fragments survive in situ. Its lower section was enclosed by an attic-ionic base which formed a spiral – throchilus – spiral pattern and was decorated with reverse moulding. Above the orthostates was possibly an epicranitis with egg patterns. The orthostates formed a cohesive wall only on the north, less important side of the building. In contrast, the other three walls had semi-circular niches within which were placed concave, marble benches. Essentially, these niches were used as exedrae. Excavations have concluded that the compact core supported the building to the height of the orthostates. The upper level of the orthostates is identified with the toichobate and stylobate of the 1st floor.

In the building’s four corners four solid L-shaped pillars rose respectively above the orthostates; each of these consisted of two pilasters on either side of a corner half-column. Both the capitals of the pilasters and o the half-columns were of Corinthian order, while their bases were of the Attic-Ionic type with plinth. The three openings of the niches in the monument’s south, east and west side were capped by arches which were supported by a total of six Caryatids at the ends of the pillars. The arrangement of the arched openings and the niches essentially gave the monument the appearance of the triumphal tetrapylon. Within the three niches, above the height of the benches, were three marble doorways with elaborate decoration and lintel held up by consoles. The entablature was formed by a three- fasciae architrave, a coalescent frieze which bore the honorary inscription and the dentil cornice. In total, the height of the second level, from the socle of the orthostates until the upper part of the cornice, is calculated at 5,28 m.4

The form of the third level of the building is more hypothetical. A. Bammer suggested the reconstruction of a parapet 2,45 m. high.5 This, according to his opinion, was decorated with the reliefs found during the area’s excavation. The existence of a parapet was dismissed by U. Outschar. The later identified more of the monument’s architectural components and, more specifically, a second Ionian entablature and a series of coffer slabs. Thus, the reconstruction of a 2nd floor with square ground plan and a cella-like core seems fairly convincing. The exterior walls of this cella were possibly decorated alternately by relief plaques and pilasters. On the three main sides of the 2nd floor Outschar places a Corinthian peristasis of which, however, no traces survive. The coffer slabshowever, with their specific technical characteristics as well as the coalescent Ionic entablature allow little margin for doubting this proposal. Sections of the entablature included a three-fasciae architrave, a frieze with floral patterns as well as a cornice with characteristic emulations of beam endings. Two types of coffers, alternately decorated the ceiling; the first had a central square endwise up and the second had four small squares within a larger one.6

The reconstruction of the monument’s roof is even more hypothetical. The only known section of the roof is the cylindrical tympanum 1,75 m. high, with a frieze decorated with garlands, phiales and bucrania.7 Considering Ephesus’ other monuments, one could, according to Outschar, deduce that the 2nd floor cornice was followed by a stepped structure, the relief cylindrical tympanum and the pyramidal roof.8 Alzinger had reached a similar hypothesis with the addition however of a peripteral storey.9 If we decide to follow Outschar’s suggestion, the monument’s final level must have reached a height of 7,5 m.

According to the evidence from excavations and the recent suggestions put forward by the scholars, one could say that the monument of Memmius presented a complex architectural form organized rhythmically over four levels, following the basic 3:1:2 proportions for the base and 1st floor, the 2nd floor and the roof respectively.10 The monument looked like a tower-like structurewhich at 1st floor level gave the impression of a triumphal arch because of the niches formed in its three main facades. The tower-shaped Julii monument at St. Remy in France is of similar architectural design.11 That building is also supported by a massive socle. On the 1st storey is a thin arched tetrapylon, whose corners are strengthened by Corinthian half-columns. In contrast to the building in Ephesus however, above the 1st floor Ionic entablature stood a monopteros with a pyramidal roof. On the other hand, the particular architecture of the 2nd floor of the monument of Memmius, with its cella-like core and the peristasis, could also be compared to other monuments in Ephesus, for example to the so-called Octagon and the circular building on Panayir Dag.12

3. Sculptural decoration

The monument’s sculptural decoration is located mainly on the 1st and 2nd floors and the cylindrical tympanum of the roof.

On the 1st floor, important are the figures of the Caryatids which support the arches of the niches.13 Six, semi-naked, young female figures are depicted in high relief; their implied movement is intense, suggesting possibly dancing. They wear fine, sleeveless chiton and narrow himation placed on the shoulders. Their head is turned slightly toward the arched opening of the niche. The long, curly locks of hair fall softly on their shoulders and chest. With their arms raised they hold above their head a cista(sacred basket) from which hangs a folded cloth. The «liquid» rendering of the clothing, its relation to the figures’ naked body, but also the Caryatids’ position in general, are strongly reminiscent of originals in the Rich Style of the late 5th century BC. On the other hand, this type of narrow himation with the mannerist, successive, loop-shaped pleating at its edge, has its equivalents in neo-Attic reliefs of the late Hellenistic and Roman years. Similar «archaistic» remnants can be discerned in the renderings of the figures’ hair. Alzinger supported that the Caryatids of Ephesus are copies of a model of the late 5th century BC and connected them to the work of Kallimachos.14 Although there can be no doubt that the Caryatids from this monument were inspired from originals by the mannerist artists of the late 5th and 4th centuries BC, it appears that they are probably simple ecclecticisticcreations of an intensely decorative character, rather than faithful copies of a classical work.

The plaques with the relief representations of standing male figures were probably placed on the 2nd floor.15 Each plaque depicted a single figure. Four such plaques survive in relatively good condition. A further three or four survive entirely in fragments. The plaques with the relief representations projected from the walls of the cella on its three main sides (eastern, southern and western) and were framed by pilasters.16 A second frame was created visually for the far-off viewer of the monument, as the figures projected out of the intercolumnar spaces of the Corinthian peristasis in front of the cella. According to Alzinger the 2nd floor reliefs are divided into at least three types: 1. togatus, 2. trumpeter or torch-bearer, 3. wailing warrior. The existence of a fourth type has also been discerned; it survives entirely fragmented and cannot therefore be identified.

To the first type belong the figures on three plaques, of which the best preserved is the plaque no. Z189/58.17 It represents a standing man wearing a tunic and toga, with which he wraps and supports the right bent arm. The left arm would have been held parallel to the body and he may have held a papyrus or a phyale. On its feet the depicted figure would have worn calcei, of which only slight traces survive. However, the figure does not appear to have worn the characteristic shoes of senators. The depicted figure is represented with the characteristic contraposto pose, while the rendering of the toga bears many similarities to its equivalent in statues of 4th century BC himation-bearers, echoing thus strong classical tendencies, characteristic at the turn of the 1st century AD. It is almost certain that all three of the toga-bearers were portraits.

On the contrary, the second and third types of relief probably depicted mythological/heroic figures. Specifically, at least two – possibly three – representations on the relief plaques belong to the second type.18 They depict a standing youth wearing an exomis with a belt at the waist and a himation draped over the left shoulder. Diagonally across the chest is the baldeus of the dagger he holds by its handle in the right hand. In the left hand he holds a rod-shaped object, possibly a torch or trumpet or – why not – a sceptre. He wears calcei tied horizontally. Specifically in the case of plaque Z842/Z2, low down next to the young man are the traces of an object possibly identified as an altar. The head of this second male type survives in the second plaque, no. Z781-Z1. The man’s face is beardless and youthful, moulded softly and with intensely idealized characteristics. The hair is short and curly and follows the contour of the head closely.

Only one example of the third type19 survives. It represents a standing, youthful male figure facing to the right. He also wears an exomis with a belt at the waist, a himation with braided edge hangs from the left shoulder, while the baldeus of a sword crosses the chest diagonally. The young man leans to the right supported on his upright spear, which he appears to clasp with his left hand. The right is bent and touches his waist. Characteristic is the motif of the right leg which crosses over the static left leg. The calcei are depicted in great detail. The robust, cubic head with its particularly soft moulding, wide cheeks, idealized expression and the lively rendering of the curly hair are all characteristics typical of a local workshop. The short hair which follows the contour of the head and reaches low down on the neck is seen often in portraits of the mid and late 1st century BC. This particular type of warrior leaning on his spear is very old and dates from the early Classical period at which time it is often seen in funerary iconography.20

Regarding the reconstruction of the reliefs on the building, Alzinger has suggested the placement of the three togati respectively on the three main sides of the 1st floor. One could moreover support that the togaticould be identified respectively with L. Cornelius Sulla, his son-in-law and his grandson, C. Memmius, who would have been depicted on the monument’s most important, south facade. These three portraits would have been flanked by the idealistic type figures. The identification of the later however is particularly problematic. Alzinger’s opinion that they represent local Ephesian heroes – given the monument’s propagandistic nature – must to be far from the truth.21

Another area of relief decoration is located on the 2nd floor frieze, above the three-fasciae architrave. The floral motif chosen for the decoration of this section included open and closed anthemia placed alternately. The first are generally calyx-shaped while the later are triangular or oval. The petals of the open anthemia are rounded and lean inwards. The closed anthemia on the other hand have an angular ending and lean inwards. The arrangement of the anthemia on the frieze is entirely coalescent to the ionic moulding directly below giving an impression of absolute symmetry.22

Finally, directly under the building’s pyramidal roof was possibly a circular decorative frieze with the bucrania, garlands and phiales. This pattern, standard and common, apart from an obvious decorative character is directly connected to religious or funerary context.

4. Function

The function of the monument of C. Memmius could, according to comparable examples from other areas of the Roman state be either honorific or funerary. Important is the inscription on the frieze on the monument’s western side: C∙MEMMIO∙C∙F∙SULLAE∙FELICIS∙N∙EX∙PECUNI(A) (= C. MEMMIO, SON OF GAIUS, GRANDSON OF SULLA FELICITUS BY MONEY…).23 A similar inscription also possibly existed on the monument’s eastern side. On the particularly important south side it would have been written in Greek.24 The inscription definitely mentions the person in honour of whom the monument was constructed, but mentions neither Memmius’ status, nor the reason for the erection of the monument. If the monument had a purely honorary function and was constructed during Memmius’ lifetime, one would expect at least a mention of the honoured individual’s status.25 Such information does not appear to have been included in the now lost part of the inscription. On the other hand, the erection of such a monument in the centre of town would have had the approval and agreement of the town’s officials even if it had not been erected by Ephesus itself. It is not unfeasible to assume that the town also offered the land needed for its construction.

On the other hand, the construction of the monument on Curetes Street may refer to its funerary function, given that Embolos was used during this period for the erection of funerary monuments or heroa, such as that in honour Androclos, the Octagon and others. According to Outschar moreover, the deceased’s ashes may even have been placed in the cella-like room on the 2nd floor.26 The building’s funerary function would also explain the lack of mention of Memmius’ status on the inscription and the representations of the particular idealized types which flanked the togati. Their presence in funerary iconography is certified already from the Classical period.

Very little is known regarding Memmius’ relationship to Ephesus itself. He was probably born around 70 BC and was the son of Gaius Memmius and grandson of Sulla. According to some scholars he served as proconsulin 34 BC.27 We do not know however if he was later posted as governorof Asia, something which would explain the erection of such a monument. Such a hypothesis is not unfeasible, given that the governors of the provinces had previously served as consuls or proconsuls. The death and burial of a governor in the capital of a province were obviously fairly important events in order to mobilize the town for the erection of a heroon on its most central road. On the other hand, as Bammer rightly observes,28 the entire architectural concept of the building as a triumphal tetrapylos on the 1st floor, and its overall decoration reveal the imperialist Roman policy for the provinces and its conquering strength. The building’s architect was most probably Italian. Although obviously inspired by the classicism of his era, he used mainly the forms and solutions of Roman architecture culminating in the use of the motif of the triumphal arch. The monument’s intensely propagandistic function is mainly proved however, by the inscription on the 1st floor frieze. Here, there is only a fleeting reference to Memmius’ father but his descent from the Cornelius family and is emphasized by the fact that the Roman dictator was the one who conquered Ephesus and was responsible for the withdrawal of its freedoms, in retaliation for the slaughter of thousands of Italians during the Mithradatic war. The memories of Sulla’s intensely negative passing through Ephesus were still raw during the construction of the monument for his grandson. For what reason did the Ephesians mention the name of a hated enemy so emphatically? The hypothesis that the monument, a work of Roman architectural concept, design by an Italian architect was funded by Italian inhabitants of the town who referred to C. Memmius and his ancestor C. Sulla with gratitude, emphasizing their particular status as conquerors in the province of Asia cannot be far from the truth.29

5. Dating

The only terminus post quem for the construction of the monument is the year 34 BC, when, according to prevailing opinion, C. Memmius served as proconsul. In the main publication on the monument, Alzinger supported that the floral and other decorative patterns on the building are quite evolved and must be dated to the first decade of the 1st century AD.
30 Bammer, however, counter proposed, slightly later, the dating of the monument at the end of the period of the Republic for historical, mainly, reasons. His basic argument was the lack of reference to Augustus in the 1st floor inscription, which contrasts the common practice on monuments in Ephesus constructed during his reign. Also, the entire building emphasizes, as we saw, the imperialist policy of Rome and the segregation of conquerors and subjects, something which contrasts with the conciliatory and mild practices of Augustus’ rule in the provinces.31

Moreover, recently, Outschar has convincingly connected the typological and morphological elements of the monument of C. Memmius with other buildings in Asia Minor and particularly with the Octagon in Ephesus which dates from around 40 BC and with the facade of the theatre of Aphrodisias from 28 BC. In this way the construction of the monument of Memmius can be dated during the third quarter of the 1st century BC and possibly «before the inauguration of the gate of the two freedmen Mazaeus and Mithridates (=South gate of the Tetragonos Agora) in 4/3 BC».32

6. Late Antiquity – Byzantine years

Already during the reign of Augustus there existed a fountain building in front of the monument’s west side which did not obviously obstruct its facade. The construction of the monumental Hydreion however at the beginning of the 3rd century AD almost adjoining this western side is possibly the terminus post quem for the degradation of the monument. On the other hand, certain findings, such as parts of wall which date from the Byzantine and more recent periods, suggest the building’s gradual collapse without the usual re-use of its materials.
33 An important role in the building’s destruction was played by the earthquakes which hit Ephesus and especially the specific area from 262 AD and later.

7. History of the research

The area of the monument of C. Memmius was initially excavated by F. Miltner in 1957-1958 within the framework of research on the eastern end of Embolos.34 The building was identified firstly by Miltner as «monument of Sulla (Sullabau)». In the following years the Austrian Archaeological Institute undertook the completion of works with certain exploratory divisions, small scale excavations, measuring, recording and mainly the restoration of the monument. The supervision of this second phase was allocated to the director of the Institute himself, F. Eicher. The individual in honour of whom the monument was erected, Gaius Memmius, Sulla’s grandson, was identified during this period.35

The partial restoration of the monument was completed in 1967-1968, while its publication was realized in 1971.36 The study of the monument’s architectural elements and static, in the first part of the publication, was undertaken by A. Bammer. W. Alzinger was respectively responsible for the presentation of the chronicle of Miltner’s excavations and the monument’s typological-morphological characteristics and its sculptural decoration. A basic element of this first publication is the certification of the 1st floor’ architecture as an arched tetrapylos with niches, as well as the proposed reconstruction of the 2nd floor with parapet with reliefs. Its construction was dated in the 1st decade of the 1st century AD. Since then there have not been other important publications on the monument itself. Parts of the publication’s results were included in W. Alzinger’s book on the architecture of the reign of Augustus in Ephesus, published in 1974.37 That same year the other scholar of the monument published his views on the political significance of the building.38 In 1988 M. Torelli studied the monument anew with regards to its ideological symbolisms.39 Real propulsion to the research was given by U. Outschar’s publication in 1990.40 The author based her thesis on the identification of new architectural elements (coffers and Ionic entablature) which confirmed the existence of a roofed 2nd floor. Her proposal for the reconstruction of this floor with a cella-like core and Corinthian peristasison its three main sides was immediately adopted by the research and maintains its force to this day.

1. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FιΕ VII, Wien 1971), p. 17.

2. Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 (1990), p. 57 ff., mainly p. 70 ff.

3. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p.101.

4. Generally for the description of the monument up to the 1st floor see Bammer, A., in Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W.,. Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 42 ff., and Alzinger, W., in Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 81.

5. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 60 ff.

6. Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 (1990), p. 70 ff. and mainly p. 74 -76.

7. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 11. See also Alzinger, W., Augusteische Architektur in Ephesos (SοschrÖAI 16, Wien 1974). The full publication of this frieze was realized by Bammer, A., “Ein Rundfries mit Bukranien und Girlanden”, ÖJh 49 (1968-1971), p. 23-44.

8. Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 (1990), p.76.

9. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 81 ff.

10. Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 (1990), p. 74 and 76.

11. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 82, pict. 73. See also Rolland, H., Le Mausoleé de Glanum (XXXIe Suppl. à Gallia, Paris 1969).

12. Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 (1990), p. 82-83.

13. For the monument’s Caryatids see Alzinger, W. in Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 85-86

14. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 85.

15. For these reliefs see Alzinger, W., in Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 101 ff.

16. Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 (1990), p. 69, 80 ff., fig. 13.

17. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 101-102.

18. Relief plaques no. Ζ842-Ζ2 and Ζ781-Ζ1 and fragments no. Ζ5, Ζ6: Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 102, 104-105, pict. 23-24, 91, 93.

19. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 102 -103, plaque no. Ζ775 - Ζ3, fig 23, 92.

20. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 103, note 150.

21. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 106-107.

22. For the relief decoration of the architrave see, Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 ( 1990), p. 64.

23. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 58.

24. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 82.

25. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 88.

26. Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 (1990), p. 84-85, note 100.

27. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 87, note 71.

28. Bammer, A., “Die politische Symbolik des Memmiubaues”, ÖJh 50 (1972-73), p. 220.

29. Bammer, A., “Die politische Symbolik des Memmiubaues”, ÖJh 50 (1972-73), p. 222.

30. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 87 ff., 92 ff. and especially 98.

31. Bammer, A., “Die politische Symbolik des Memmiubaues”, ÖJh 50 (1972-1973), p. 220 ff.

32. Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 (1990), p. 84-85.

33. For the state of the monument during Late Antiquity and later see Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 23.

34. The results of the excavations were published in the supplementary section of ÖJh for the years 1958-1960. For the chronicle of the research by Miltner see especially Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971), p. 9 ff., and Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 (1990), p. 57, notes 1-2 .

35. The most detailed study of the genealogy career of C. Memmius was published Wiseman, T.P., “Lucius Memmius and his Family”, ClQ 17 (1967), p. 164-167.

36. Bammer, A. – Alzinger, W., Das Monument des C. Memmius (FiE VII, Wien 1971).

37. Alzinger, W., Augusteische Architektur in Ephesos (SoschrÖA I 16, Wien 1974).

38. Bammer, A., “Die politische Symbolik des Memmiubaues”, ÖJh 50 (1972-1973), p. 220-222.

39. Torelli, M., “Il monumento efesino de Memmius. Un capolavoro dell’ ideologia nobiliare della fine della republica”, ScAnt 3 (1988), p. 403-426.

40. Outschar, U., “Zum Monument des C. Memmius”, ÖJh 60 (1990), p. 57-85.