You are here > 1Up Travel > Seven - 7 Wonders of World


7 Wonders of the World

Pyramids of EgyptHanging Garden of BabylonStatue of Zeus
Temple of Artemis at EphesusMausoleum of Halicarnassus
Colossus of RhodesPharos of Alexandria

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

       But when I saw the sacred house of Artemis that towers to the clouds, the [other Wonders] were placed in the shade, for the Sun himself has never looked upon its equal outside Olympus.

Antipater of Sidon

Is it simply a temple? How could it take its place among other unique structures such as the Pyramid, the Hanging Gardens, and the Colossus of Rhodes? For the people who actually visited it, the answer was simple. It was not just a temple... It was the most beautiful structure on earth... It was built in honor of the Greek goddess of hunting and wild nature. That was the Temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus.

       The story goes as, in 1100 A.D a troop of Crusaders stops at a muddy little village in Asia Minor. Their leader looks around. Confused ,he dismounts. This place is not what he expected. He read in the ancient texts that this was a large seaport with many ships docked in its bay. It isn't. The sea is almost three miles away. The village is located in a swamp. There are no ships to be seen. The leader accosts a nearby man.

"Sir, is this the city of Ephesus?" "It was called that once. Now it is named Ayasalouk." "Well, where is your bay? Where are the trading ships? And where is the magnificent Greek temple that we have heard about?" Now it is the man's turn to be confused. "Temple? What temple, Sir? We have no temple here..."

       And so 800 years after its destruction, the magnificent Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, had been completely forgotten by the people of the town that had once held it in such pride.

       The Roman historian, Pliny, mentions an anchoring place in an unknown loop of the Kucuk Menderes River, which in those days was still deep enough for sailing. The harbour was used by sailors from different corners of the world as a stop-over with readily available fresh water. There were no disputes between unfriendly nations as the harbour was believed to be under the protection of the goddess, Ephesia, and had been internationally recognised as a sacred area since 3000 BC.

       A harbour founded 5000 years ago in an unknown loop of the Kucuk Menderes River... And the temple of Artemis Ephesia, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the city under her protection... Excavations have been carried out over 125 years in Ephesus, a city which continues to attract visitors from every corner of the world even after thousands of years.

       Ephesus is on the itinerary of almost every tourist visiting Turkey. What they see are remains which were buried under layers of silt, uncovered and rebuilt by archeologists from different countries. Ephesus has always been crowded with many foreign visitors, in ancient times as now. In the past its location offered many advantages for settlement; now the white marble city is easily accessible to tourists.

       And there is no doubt that the temple was indeed magnificent. "I have seen the walls and Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon," wrote Philon of Byzantium, "the statue of Olympian Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the mighty work of the high Pyramids and the tomb of Mausolus. But when I saw the temple at Ephesus rising to the clouds, all these other wonders were put in the shade."


       So what happened to this great temple? And what happened to the city that hosted it? What turned Ephesus from a busy port of trade to a few shacks in a swamp? The answer is below as far as we could gather the historic facts.........

       The first shrine to the Goddess Artemis was probably built around 800 B.C. on a marshy strip near the river at Ephesus. The Ephesus Goddess Artemis, sometimes called Diana, is not the same figure as the Artemis worshiped in Greece. The Greek Artemis is the goddess of the hunt. The Ephesus Artemis was a goddess of fertility and was often pictured as draped with eggs, or multiple breasts, symbols of fertility, from her waist to her shoulders.

       That earliest temple contained a sacred stone, probably a meteorite, that had "fallen from Jupiter." The shrine was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the next few hundred years. In 7th century BC the temple of Artemis, goddess of hunting, was invaded by wild Cimmerian warriors, but they did little more than threaten the locals, perhaps because they feared Ephesia.

       Yet this temple didn't last long. In 550 B.C. King Croesus of Lydia attracted by the wealth of the Ionians, was more determined .He conquered Ephesus and the other Greek cities of Asia Minor.He destroyed the acropolis of Koressos and forced the Ionians to resettle near the sacred area. The wise citizens of Koressos had fixed a 1300m. rope from their city walls to the sacred temple and thereby placed themselves under its protection.

       During the fighting, the temple was destroyed. Croesus proved himself a gracious winner, though, by contributing generously to the building of a new temple. By 600 B.C., the city of Ephesus had become a major port of trade and an architect named Chersiphron was engaged to build a new large temple. He designed it with high stone columns. Concerned that carts carrying the columns might get mired in the swampy ground around the site, Chersiphron laid the columns on their sides and had them rolled to where they would be erected.Croesus helped rebuild the temple to such a degree of perfection that it became known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

       This event marked the start of civilian settlement and democratic rule in Ephesus, symbolised by the emblem of the bee, which was the symbol of the goddess Ephesia.

       In 546 BC Ephesus in common with Lydia and all of Anatolia was invaded by the Persians, and the gradual orientalisation of the city began. The Persian King, Xerxes, had set fire to all the Greek temples in Anatolia before waging war on Greece, but he left the Artemision (temple of Artemis) untouched, and even made a sacrificial offering to the goddess.

       This was the era when traditional representations of the goddess became more elaborate and richly decorated, and she acquired a Persian mouth.

       This was next to the last of the great temples to Artemis in Ephesus and it dwarfed those that had come before. The architect is thought to be a man named Theodorus. Theodorus's temple was 300 feet in length and 150 feet wide with an area four times the size of the temple before it. More than one hundred stone columns supported a massive roof. The new temple was the pride of Ephesus until 356 B.C. when a tragedy, by name of Herostratus, struck.

       On the night of 21 july 356 BC,a young Ephesian named Herostratus burned this magnificient temple to ground in an attempt to immortalize his name . He would stop at no cost to have his name go down in history. He did indeed. The citizens of Ephesus were so appalled at this act they issued a decree that anyone who spoke of Herostratus would be put to death. Strangely enough, Alexander the Great was born the same night. The historian Plutarch later wrote that the goddess was "too busy taking care of the birth of Alexander to send help to her threatened temple".

       Shortly after this horrible deed, a new temple was commissioned. The architect was Scopas of Paros, one of the most famous sculptors of his day. Ephesus was one of the greatest cities in Asia Minor at this point and no expense was spared in the construction. According to Piny the Elder, a Roman historian, the temple was a "wonderful monument of Grecian magnificence, and one that merits our genuine admiration."

       The temple was built in the same marshy place as before. To prepare the ground, Piny recorded that "layers of trodden charcoal were placed beneath, with fleeces covered with wool upon the top of them."

       The building is thought to be the first completely constructed with marble and one of its must unusual features were 36 columns whose lower portions were carved with figures in high-relief (left). The temple also housed many works of art including four bronze statues of Amazon women.

       Piny recorded the length of this new temple at 425 feet and the width at 225 feet. Some 127 columns, 60 feet in height, supported the roof. In comparison the Parthenon, the remains of which stand on the acropolis in Athens today, was only 230 feet long, 100 feet wide and had 58 columns.

       According to Piny, construction took 120 years, though some experts suspect it may have only taken half that time. We do know that when Alexander the Great came to Ephesus in 333 B.C., the temple was still under construction. He offered to finance the completion of the temple if the city would credit him as the builder. The city fathers didn't want Alexander's name carved on the temple, but didn't want to tell him that. They finally gave the tactful response: "It is not fitting that one god should build a temple for another god" and Alexander didn't press the matter.

       Piny reported that earthen ramps were employed to get the heavy stone beams perched on top of the columns. This method seemed to work well until one of the largest beams was put into position above the door. It went down crookedly and the architect could find no way to get it to lie flat. He was beside himself with worry about this until he had a dream one night in which the Goddess herself appeared to him saying that he should not be concerned. She herself had moved the stone in the proper position. The next morning the architect found that the dream was true. During the night the beam had settled into its proper place.

       After the death of Alexander during the wars of his successors Ephesus fell into many different hands.

       The city came under the control of Lysimachos from 294-281 BC and he started building a new city in honour of his wife, Arsinoeia, near the temple in the valley between Mt. Pion (Panayir) and Mt. Coressos (Bulbul). Re-siting had become necessary as the estuary was gradually silting up. Apart from the ramparts he only succeeded in building a theatre, stadium, agora and harbour. On his death the building of "Ephesus III" was abandoned and the city came under rule of the Pergamon Kingdom founded by the Attalos family.

       In 133 BC Ephesus was handed over to the Romans and eventually became capital of the Roman Province of Asia. During her greatest period of prosperity the city grew rapidly. The Romans constructed many public buildings to fulfil their needs, and gates, baths and temples were donated by the rich. The Artemision continued to attract pilgrims from all over the Graeco-Roman world.

       The city continued to prosper over the next few hundred years and was the destination for many pilgrims coming to view the temple. A souvenir business in miniature Artemis idols, perhaps similar to a statue of her in the temple, grew up around the shrine. It was one of these business proprietors, a man named Demetrius, that gave St. Paul a difficult time when he visited the city in 57 A.D.

       St. Paul came to the city to win converts to the then new religion of Christianity. He was so successful that Demetrius feared the people would turn away from Artemis and he would lose his livelihood. He called others of his trade together with him and gave a rousing speech ending with "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" They then seized two of Paul's companions and a near riot followed. Eventually the city was quieted, the men released, and Paul left for Macedonia.

       It was Paul's Christianity that won out in the end, though. By the time the great Temple of Artemis was destroyed during a raid by the Goths in 262 A.D., both the city and the religion of Artemis were in decline. When the Roman Emperor Constantine rebuilt much of Ephesus a century later, he declined to restore the temple. He had become a Christian and had little interest in pagan temples.

       Despite Constantine's efforts, Ephesus declined in its importance as a crossroads of trade. The bay where ships docked disappeared as silt from the river filled it. In the end what was left of the city was miles from the sea, and many of the inhabitants left swampy lowland to live in the surrounding hills. Those that remained used the ruins of the temple as a source of building materials. Many of the fine sculptures were pounded into powder to make lime for wall plaster.

       Decline began in 262 AD when a serious earthquake destroyed much of the city, and in the same year Goths plundered the world famous treasures of the Artemision. They did not escape the wrath of the goddess and their ship sank in the Aegean.

       Ephesus' loss of power resulted in the city losing its right to mint coins.

       In 391 AD Christianity was proclaimed as the official state religion and the cult of Artemis was finally eclipsed by that of the mother of god.

       In 1863 the British Museum sent John Turtle Wood, an architect, to search for the temple. Wood met with many obstacles. The region was infested with bandits. Workers were hard to find. His budget was too small. Perhaps the biggest difficulty was that he had no idea where the temple was located. He searched for the temple for six years. Each year the British Museum threatened to cut off his funding unless he found something significant, and each year he convinced them to fund him for just one more season.

       Wood kept returning to the site each year many despite hardships. During his first season he was thrown from a horse, breaking his collar bone. Two years later he was stabbed within an inch of his heart during an assassination attempt upon the British Consul in Smyrna.

       Finally in 1869, at the bottom of a muddy twenty-foot deep test pit, his crew struck the base of the great temple. Wood then excavated the whole foundation removing 132,000 cubic yards of the swamp to leave a hole some 300 feet wide and 500 feet long. The remains of some of the sculptured portions were found and shipped the to British Museum where they can be viewed even today.

       In 1904 another British Museum expedition under the leadership of D.G. Hograth continued the excavation. Hograth found evidence of five temples on the site, each constructed on top of the other.

       Today the site of the temple is a marshy field. A single column is erect to remind visitors that once there stood in that place one of the wonders of the ancient world. The temple served as both a marketplace and a religious institution. For years, the sanctuary was visited by merchants, tourists, artisans, and kings who paid homage to the goddess by sharing their profits with her. Recent archeological excavations at the site revealed gifts from pilgrims including statuettes of Artemis made of gold and ivory... earrings, bracelets, and necklaces... artifacts from as far as Persia and India.

       The early detailed descriptions of the temple helped archeologists reconstruct the building. Many reconstructions such as that by H.F. von Erlach depicted the faηade with a four-column porch which never existed. More accurate reconstructionsmay give us an idea about the general layout of the temple. However, its true beauty lies in the architectural and artistic details which will forever remain unknown.

Pyramids of EgyptHanging Garden of BabylonStatue of Zeus
Temple of Artemis at EphesusMausoleum of Halicarnassus
Colossus of RhodesPharos of Alexandria

Make 1Up Travel your HomepageSend this Page to a FriendGo to Top of PagePrint this PageAdd 1Up Travel to your Favorites


• Compare Country Info • Hotel Directory • Geography • Flags • World Maps • Travel Warnings • National Parks


• Asia • Africa • Caribbean • Middle East • North America • South America • Central America • Oceania Pacific • Europe • Polar Regions


• Destinations • Monuments • Ancient Wonders • Modern Wonders • Natural Wonders


• World Time • ISD Codes • Travel Links • Link Exchange


Disclaimer: Although we've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by any person resulting from information published on this site. We encourage you to verify any critical information with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Copyright © 1Up Travel All Rights Reserved.
Go Up

Privacy Policy