The Great Theater, magnificently set on the western slope of Panayirdag, is undoubtedly the most interesting of all the ruins in Ephesus.
Building was begun in the reign of the Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41ó54) and completed in the reign of the Emperor Trajan (98ó117 A.D.). The theater could seat 24,000 people but most of the seats have been removed and used In the construction of later buildings. A wide arcaded staircase led up to a columned gallery around the top of the theater. Thirty meters above the orchestra.
In Hellenistic times the orchestra was used for plays but in the Roman period a stage (logeion). 2.7 metres higher, was used for the same purpose.
The facade of the three-storied proscenium was richly decorated with columns, relieves and statues. The first two stories were built in the reign of Septimus Severus (193ó211). There were ramps leading to the stage from the right and left and a staircase from the front. The columns which carried the marble floor of the stage are still to be seen. There were, at the front of the theater, five doors with statues above them, and three rows of columns. In early times the Great Theater was given over to the celebrations of the Festival of Artemis, protectress of the city, during the month of April. At this time 89 golden idols donated to the temple were brought to the theater in procession with singing and dancing, and plays were performed before a huge crowd of visitors.