The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
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
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.
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
"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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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
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
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
After the death of Alexander
during the wars of his successors Ephesus fell into many different
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
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.
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.