The above great theater of Ephesus was started under Lysimachus in the third century B.C. It could hold twenty-five thousands spectators and was the largest outdoor theatre in the ancient world. It exhibited fights between wild beasts and between beasts and men.
Ephesus was the capital of proconsular Asia, which was the western part of Asia Minor. It was colonized principally from Athens. It was famous for possessing the Temple of Diana, the chief shrine to this pagan god which was also considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. For many years during the Roman period it was the second largest city of the Roman Empire (the largest being the empire's capital city of Rome). In the first century B.C. the city had a population of more than 250,000, making it the second largest city in the WORLD.
The Apostle Paul, after staying in Corinth for a year and a half, travels to Ephesus in the spring of 52 A.D. The journey to the city, with friends Priscilla and Aquila, is considered part of what is called Paul's second missionary journey. Although Paul starts the first Christian church in the city he stays only a few months:
"And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John’s baptism."
"Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied . . . . And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God." (Acts 19:1-6, 8, see also Acts 18:19-21, NKJV throughout)
Paul returned to Ephesus during his third missionary journey where he resided in and evangelized the city for almost 3 1/2 years. The city's church is the first of seven in Asia Minor given a spiritual evaluation directly from God:
"These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
"I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.
"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate . . . " (Revelation 2:1-6)