A temple-like monument, known as the Temple of Hadrian, stands in front of the Scholastica Baths, facing the Curetes Street. When it was discovered in 1956 and subsequently re-erected in the following two years, it was commonly assumed that it really was the Temple of Emperor Hadrian, a "neocorate temple" of official worship of the Roman emperor. The permission to build such a temple in Ephesus was granted by Hadrian between 130 and 132 CE, and the archaeologists eagerly identified the building on Curetes Street as such.
The inscription placed on the architrave blocks of the building informs that it was dedicated to Hadrian and the neokoros demos of Ephesus by P. Quintilius Valens Varius, his wife, and his daughter, under the grammateus Ti. Claudius Lucceianus; it was inaugurated under the proconsul Q. Servaeus Innocens and the twice grammateus and asiarch P. Vedius Antoninus. P. Quintilius Valens Varius is the same person as the sponsor of the baths behind the temple.
However, many researchers today question this identification and point out to the much larger Temple of Hadrian/Olympieion instead. There are many reasons for the re-interpretation of this structure as convincingly discussed by Ursula Quatember. She explains that the erection date of the temple has been pushed back in time to the period of 117-119 CE. The motive for the reassessment of the dates is the presence of two people in the dedicatory inscription: Q. Servaeus Innocens and P. Vedius Antoninus who were active in the earlier period. This would mean that the building had been constructed around 10-15 years before Ephesus received permission to build a neocorate temple for Hadrian.
Almost all researchers are now in agreement that the "true" neocorate Temple of Hadrian is the one found in the so-called Olympieion area. However, several radical theories try to explain the true nature of the so-called Temple of Hadrian on Curetes Street. For instance, it was suggested that the building had been a memorial for Hadrian's lover, Antinous. Some scholars even discarded the idea that the building was actually a temple. In this view, the structure now decorating Curetes Street had originally been the propylon of the Hadrian's Temple in the Olympieion area, later re-used in the renovation of the Varius Baths. Such rather wild speculations have recently been rejected by Quatember who, after a detailed architectural analysis, has convincingly demonstrated that in its original conception the "Temple of Hadrian" was planned and erected together with the Varius Baths. Moreover, both buildings are tied together by their architecture.
The Temple of Hadrian, despite its small dimensions of 10 to 10 meters in the plan, is one of the most attractive structures in Ephesus. It reaches a height of about 8 meters. This modest-sized building is divided into two spaces: a front hall (pronaos) and a main room (cella). It is described as a variation of the tetrastyle prostyle plan. The prostyle means that it has a row of columns in front, and the tetrastyle specifies that there are four of them. In the case of the Temple of Hadrian, this design was modified, with two pillars on the sides and two regular columns placed between them. The pillars and columns, standing in front of the pronaos, are in the Corinthian order. They support a pediment with an arch in the centre, decorated with a bust of Tyche surrounded by acanthus leaves. The architrave is beautifully adorned with plant motifs and the dedicatory inscription discussed above. This design was most probably prepared by an architect from Syria, as this style was common there.
The cella of the temple, in contract to the pronaos, was very simply decorated and there was the base of the cult statue against the back wall, aligned with the entrance. It possibly once held the statue of Emperor Hadrian. The cella was 7.5 meters wide and 5 meters long. It was roofed by a barrel vault. The tympanum above the door to the cella was decorated with the relief of Medusa, set among acanthus leaves and scrolls.
The building was later modified, following an earthquake in the 4th century. Four reliefs were placed in the pronaos, are most commonly dated to the end of the 4th century, but other theories state that they date back to the 3rd century, or even to the original structure. The dating of the reliefs has not been satisfactorily explained so far. These reliefs depict the foundation myth of Ephesus, an anonymous emperor sacrificing in front of a garlanded altar, four Amazons fleeing from Dionysus, and a gathering of deities and heroes. The reliefs that can be seen today in Ephesus are the copies, and the originals are displayed in the Ephesus Museum in Selçuk.
Another later addition to the temple were four statues, placed in front of the building. Their pedestals are still in situ, but the statues have not been found. It is commonly assumed that they depicted the tetrarchs: Diocletian, Maximianus, Constantius Chlorus, and Galerius. Later, Emperor Theodosius possibly substituted the one for Maximian with the statue of his father, as part of his refurbishment of Curetes Street.
The temple was destroyed at an unknown date, and its blocks were reused for the construction of the retaining wall in the middle of Curetes Street. This wall was erected to prevent the débris from devastated structures and abandoned hillside areas from falling onto the street. The temple was rebuilt from original fragments and the supplementation with modern building materials in 1957/1958. It subsequently underwent an extensive conservation project from 2012 to 2014.
This text is a fragment of a guidebook to Ephesus: "The Secrets of Ephesus".