The Ephesos Museum in Vienna displays antiquities from the city of Ephesus in Turkey. In the late 19th century, under the auspices of the Institute of Classical Archaeology and conducted by the newly founded Austrian Archaeological Institute, Austrian scientists began conducting research in the ruins of Ephesus. Numerous objects of high quality were recovered and moved to Vienna. They can be seen today at the Ephesos Museum. The museum’s collection includes a selection of Roman sculptures and architectural elements that once decorated magnificent buildings such as the thermal baths and the Ephesian Great Theatre. The Ephesos Museum is an annex of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Lying on the Turkish Aegean coast, Ephesus was one of the largest cities of the ancient world and is now among the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey. The museum’s collection began when Sultan Abdul Hamid II donated some of the archaeological findings to the Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph I. The export of antiquities from Turkey was generally banned with the proclamation of the Turkish Antiquities Law of 1907 and no more artefacts was sent to Vienna after this date. Many other Ephesus artefacts are on display in the Ephesus Archaeological Museum near the site in Selçuk.
Alongside sculptures and architectural elements, a series of Roman reliefs unique in both its size and importance, the so-called Parthian Monument, forms a highlight of the collection.
Statues and busts
A bronze statue of an athlete (Apoxyomenos) dated to the 1st century AD and copied from a Greek original from the 4th century BC forms the centerpiece of the museum’s collection of Roman sculptures. It has been recreated from 234 fragments and shows a young athlete cleaning his strigil, an implement used to wash the body after a contest. Unfortunately, at the time of my visit in August 2015, the statue was on loan to the Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World exhibition at the Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
The Parthian Monument
The Parthian Monument is one of the most important Roman-age reliefs from Asia Minor. In five thematic cycles it commemorates the Roman Emperor Lucius Verus who established a camp in Ephesus during his Parthian Campaign of 161-165 AD. These five thematic cycles are: 1. Adoption, 2. Parthian war, 3. Personifications of towns of the Empire, 4. “Apotheosis of Lucius Verus, 5. Meeting of the gods. The individual pieces were arranged in the form of a monumental altar with an U-shaped foundations. The friezes have a total length of about 70 metres, of which 40 metres are on display.