THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS

The ancient temple, built around 650 BC to the cult of Artemis, was constructed on a site already sacred to the Anatolian Mother Goddess, Cybele. The temple was financed by the wealthy king of Lydia and marshy ground was selected for the building site as a precaution against future earthquakes.

The temple soon attracted merchants, kings, and sightseers, many of donated jewelery and other treasures to Artemis and her temple. Its splendor also attracted many worshippers and pilgrims, strenghtening the cult of Artemis.

On July 21, 356 BC, the night Alexander the Great was born, legend has it that a psychopathic arsonist intent on immortality set fire to the temple. Plutarch remarked that Artemis was too preoccupied with Alexander’s delivery to save her burning temple.

The arsonist, named Herostratus, was motivated by fame at any cost, thus the term “herostratic fame.” The Ephesians, outraged, instructed that Herostratus’ name never be recorded and that anyone who spoke of him should be put to death, but Strabo later noted the name.

Twenty-two years later, during his sweep through Asia Minor, Alexander the Great offered to reconstruct the temple. In the famous refusal recorded by Strabo, the Ephesians said it would not be right for one god to build a temple to another god.

The Temple of Artemis was eventually rebuilt remaining true to the original except for a raised platform, a feature of classical architecture adopted in the construction of later temples. By 263 AD, the temple had been plundered by Nero and destroyed by the Goths.

The temple was again reconstructed in the 4th century, but by the end of that century the temple had been abandoned and was being used as a marble quarry for new buildings, including churches.

The site of the temple was rediscovered in 1869 on an expedition sponsored by the British Museum, and several artifacts and sculptures from the reconstructed temple can be seen in the museum today.

The temple of Artemis is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. It has been built in the areas of Ephesus on a flat area which has over the centuries turned into a swamp. Today one can only see the ruins of the foundations of this marvelous construction of the Hellenistic Age, entirely made of marble and full of sculptured columns’ capitals and shafts. The most beautiful remaining of this temple are today exhibited in the London British Museum.

The oldest remaining found date back till the 6th century BC. It was surrounded by 36 huge columns, later enlarged upon the orders of the Lydia King, Kreisos, during the 6th century BC. Most of the exhibits in the London British Museum belong to this period.

The new Artemis has been rebuilt in the 2nd century BC. Located on top of the previous one, it had tremendous dimensions: 127 columns of each 17,5 meters high. Unfortunately this one has also been destroyed by fire, reconstructed and again demolished by earthquakes, rebuilt and at last looted by Goths one year later.

The statue of many-breasted Artemis was the symbol of the temple but also of abundance, hunting and wild life. The genuine statue of Artemis, removed during the fire, is today exhibited in the Selcuk Museum. Many copies of this statue found during the latest excavations date back from the Roman period.

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~ by ferry1984 on August 16, 2011.

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