Temple of Artemis at Ephesus History and Facts


The Temple of Artemis

History and Facts about the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

As being one of the most important monuments of Ephesus, The Temple of Artemis unfortunately could not survive in our time apart from a couple of ruins that it has left behind. However, it is possible to find out how gorgeous once it was by looking those ruins that remained from the temple.

Devoted to Artemis, the goddess of wild nature, the moon and the hunt, this temple was on the list of The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Temple of Artemis at Ephesus Archaeological Site is located in Western coast of Turkey. If you happen to visit Turkey, you should definitely take a look at this place.

Artemis, The Goddess of the Moon

Being the daughter of Leto and Zeus, Artemis was twin sister of Apollo. She was renamed as Diana by Romans. Artemis is born one day before Apollo and she helps her mother while she gives birth to her latter child. After witnessing the pain her mother endures during the delivery, Artemis decides not to marry in her life and for this reason she is identified with virginity and is recognized the guardian of unmarried young girls.

There is a dualist relationship between Artemis and Apollo, therefore these two are considered as twins in Ancient Greek sources. While Apollo is identified with the sun, Artemis is portrayed as an anthropomorphic form of the moon.

Artemis was worshipped especially in rural and mountainous areas. There were a lot of temples dedicated to Artemis in different areas of Ancient Greek geography. After the cult of Artemis reached to Anatolia, it was reunited with the cult of the Mother Goddess that had already been there for centuries and they started to identify Artemis with many breasts like Cybele.

Greek historian Stefanos Skarmintzos points out the similarity between the cults of Artemis and Cybele. In his article The Cult of Artemis in Ephesus and the Possible Explanation of the Bee Symbol, Skarmintzos claims that the cult of Artemis in Anatolia is an assimilated version of the Hititte Goddess Cult with Greek character.

History of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

According to Plynus, a Byzantian historian, the Temple of Artemis was 115-meters-long and 55-meters-wide. Constructed out of marble down to the ground, this temple stood with 127 columns built in Ionic style.

What we know about the masterpieces inside the temple is based upon Plynus’ stories. According to him, inner side of the temple was filled with statues and paintings made by famous artists of that era such as Polyclitus, Pheidias and Cresilas. Also, the columns that supported the temple were decorated with gold and silver.

The temple was uncovered by J.T Wood, an English engineer who worked in the construction of Izmir-Aydin railway, in 1869. Beginning from the excavations that J.T Wood conducted, the results reveal that there are 4 different construction periods of the temple.

Since the excavations were carried out on behalf of British Museum, some of the artifacts extracted from this place have still been exhibited in British Museum. Also, Ephesus Museum in Vienna displays some of the pieces that was originally extracted in this place.

The temple of Artemis was built by Croesus, the king of Lydia, in 550 BC for the first time. However, it needed rebuilding after it was burnt down by Herostratus in 356.

Temple of Artemis History and Facts

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Temple of Artemis

Herostratus and the Burning of the Temple of Artemis

At that point I rose up to a bulge by the side of the temple and I cried: “Oh people! It was me who set this temple on fire! My name is Herostratus!” They heard my voice because they all kept silent at once, the only voice heard was the crackling of girders that the flames absorbed.

A Fairy Tale of Ephesus – Grigory Gorin

The burning of the temple of Artemis is the first act of terrorism that we know, so Herostratus is considered as the first terrorist in history. According to popular wisdom, Herostratus was a fame-seeking young man and set the temple of Artemis on fire to be remembered forever. However, according to different sources, Herostratus was a slave and he set the temple on fire because of his hatred of the people of Ephesus.

The Magnificent Temple of Ephesus There! Outside of Olympos, the sun has never looked anything bigger than that. (Antipater Greek Anthology [IX.58])

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus Facts

There were various temples in Anatolia and Greece dedicated to Artemis. On the other hand, the temple of Artemis in Ephesus differed from the others in terms of architecture and characteristic features. Artemis is depicted as having many breasts fittingly to the cult of the Mother Goddess and you can see this statue in this day and time.

Antipater of Sidon, compiling the Seven Wonders of the World, compares the Temple of Artemis to Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Egyptian Pyramids and other important magnificent wonders of the world and he concludes that no other wonder is as magnificent as the Temple of Artemis adding that he has seen them all.

In conclusion, the Temple of Artemis is one of the most important works of art in Ancient Age, nevertheless, there are only ruins remained from it in our time. Still, even remaining ruins are enough to understand the magnificence that this temple had once upon a time.

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus History and Facts

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    Stefanos Skarmintzos


    Thank you for finding my work of interest.
    A more scholarly version of my article ,published in a University Journal can be found here:

    • Serhat Engul

      Serhat Engul

      Dear Stefanos Skarmintzos, thank you for your contribution. I had seen that formal paper when I was preparing this post. However I wanted to promote your personal blog instead of an official website that would not need the link power I would provide. Now both links are provided on this page so that readers can benefit from your great work. Kind regards, Serhat.

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