When the Pergamene King Attalos III died in 133 B.C., he bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman people in his will. The city of Ephesos that possessed the tax-exempt status as civitas libera thus became part of the Roman Province of Asia. The fact that Roman rule was not greeted with unanimous consent by the population is indicated by the euphoria with which the Pontic King Mithridates VI's attempt to conquer the province was supported. All Italians living in the province were sentenced to death, and in 88 B.C. in Ephesos alone 80,000 people were violently murdered in a single night. The revolt was suppressed by General Cornelius Sulla and the city's freedom was withdrawn, thus making it liable to pay tribute again. In 33 B. C. Marc Anthony and his wife, the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, spent the winter in Ephesos and organized their campaign against Octavian, who later became Emperor Augustus. Octavian's victory at Actium not only not only meant the end of the Republic, but also a reorganization of the Province of Asia.
Ephesos became the permanent headquarters of the Roman provincial administration and capital city (metropolis Asiae). The easy access to the sea made the city an economic centre of Asia Minor: the harbour served as a reloading point for all kinds of commodities. On the estates
of the Artemision agricultural products were cultivated and traded ; in addition, the sanctuary functioned as a credit bank and a pilgrimage centre. The Roman character of the city was further reinforced by purposefully built construction projects which were used as political instruments.
When the Apostle Paul preached between A.D. 52 and 55 at Ephesos, he was confronted not only by an active pagan cult, but also by a lively Jewish community. As a result of a rebellion led by the silversmith Demetrios, Paul left the city in order to resume his missionary activities in Corinth.
Ephesos reached its zenith during the 2nd century A.D. Numerous monuments provide witness to this glorious era; private donations by affluent citizens served the public welfare as well as their own personal commemoration.
After A.D. 230, an obvious economic decline set in, for which a series of earthquakes, culminating in a catastrophic quake around A.D. 270, as well as Gothic raids can be understood as prime causes. The Artemision was plundered and the temple itself was burnt down. Clear traces of this destruction are also visible in the city; rebuilding lasted several decades. Ephesos experienced a final recovery only in the 5th century A.D.