Port cities played an essential role in the history of the ancient Mediterranean. Due to their location they were the transition point for traffic between land and sea. However, we are far away from understanding the spatial, functional, economic as well as social and cultural relevance of ancient port cities. With this paper concentrated on the city of Ephesus – located on the western shore of Asia Minor – I want to take a closer look at one of the key elements of the civic life of this thriving port city: the procession of the Ephesian Artemis. As rituals and processions were constitutive parts of both the urban space and the urban society, my key question is how this festival was related towards the littoral and maritime respectively to the harbor and the sea.
Regarding the course, organization and participants of the processions for the Ephesian Artemis, only a few references have survived given the great importance of the goddess for the city. The most comprehensive account is revealed in the inscription of the so-called Salutaris dedication from 104 AD. The existence of such a procession way already in Archaic and Classical times is 1.) suggested by graves as well as pottery that both have been found on the northern and southern lower slopes of the Panayırdağ and 2.) the curvy course of the so-called Marble Street in the Hellenistic-Roman city which is not aligned to the Hellenistic street grid, but resembles an older path.
The procession of the Salutaris dedication was completely incorporated into the built environment of the city and had no relationship to the littoral whatsoever. In contrast the procession of pre-Hellenistic times had a decided spatial littoral character due to the drastic change in the maritime and fluvial landscape in the Bay of Ephesus. Likely it also had a functional littoral character as the sea shore could have been the place where the cult image was cleansed.