The Domitian Temple is one of the most significant structures of Ephesus’ Roman-era. Built in the 1st century AD, this temple was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Domitian, who ruled the empire from 81-96 AD. The construction of the Temple was very important to the status of Ephesus within the Roman Empire as it was the first building to be dedicated to the empire and its rulers in the city. Ephesus first had to gain permission from the Roman Senate and Emperor Domitian himself, before construction could begin; this permission granted Ephesus the rank of neocorate, a high distinction for cities within the Roman Empire. After receiving this honor, the citizens of Ephesus dedicated the Temple to Domitian to further endear themselves to Rome.
The Temple was built on top of a terrace at the south end of Domitian Square, across the street from the Pollio Fountain. The Temple itself was built in the prostyle, with free-standing columns in front of the main structure, the cella. It stood 8 columns wide and 13 columns long, with 4 additional columns standing at the entrance of the cella. The Temple was adorned with several statues and a U-shaped altar; most of these artifacts are now held in the Izmir and Ephesus museums.
Domitian was not a very popular Roman Emperor. Known for his brutality, he persecuted Christians across the empire and exiled John the Apostle. Domitian was eventually killed by his servant and the Ephesians were then quick to erase his name from the inscriptions on the Temple; it was then rededicated to Domitian’s father, Vespasian, in order to keep favor with Rome. Later in the 4th century AD when Christianity became the official religion of the empire, Christians, remembering the oppression their ancestors suffered under the rule of Domitian, tore down the structure.
Other nearby sites include Curetes Street, Hercules Gate and the Terrace Houses of Ephesus.