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Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

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The goddess Artemis, sometimes referred to as Diana, was the centerpiece and reason for the building of the temple. She should not be confused with the Greek goddess Diana. In Greece, Diana was the goddess of hunting, while in Ephesus she was worshiped as the goddess of fertility. The statue of Artemis was often created with several breasts or eggs along her body to represent fertility. Some scholars today surmise that the round breast-like nodules were really supposed to represent sacrificial bull testicles.

The first temple of Artemis was likely built as long ago as 800 B.C. in the marshy swamps alongside the River Ephesus. Around 600 B.C., Ephesus was a bustling city and a major port of trade. It was decided that the architect Chersiphron was to be commissioned to build a newer, grander temple dedicated to Artemis. Archeological evidence points to a flood destroying this temple.

Around 550 B.C., the wealthy King Croesus made sure a new temple was built after he conquered the city. This latest temple proved larger and more elaborate than those that had been built before. Worship practices included young virgin girls bringing gifts from their childhood. Festivals in the goddess’s honor included music, dancing, and possibly animal sacrifice. Until 356 B.C. this temple was the glory and pride of Ephesus. It is reported that a man named Herostratus burned the temple to the ground. After torturing Herostratus to death, even mentioning his name was outlawed and punishable by death.

Time Travel • Ancient Rome

Ephesus has a continuous and complex history which begun some nine thousand years ago. Ephesus location is very favourable, but the shoreline was constantly moving from east to west due to sedimentation, which led to several relocations of the city. Excavations have revealed splendid monuments of the Roman Imperial period including the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre. But the most famous of all Ephesus monuments is the Temple of Artemis – one of the “Seven Wonders” of the Ancient World.

Ancient story of Ephesus

Ephesus is located on the Aegean coast of Modern Turkey, southwest of Selçuk. Ephesus area was inhabited since the Neolithic period (ca. 6000 B.C.) and was once one of the most esteemed cities in the ancient world. The mythical founder was an Athenian Prince Androklos. He is also famous as the founder of the Ionian League.

In the Archaic period, the city came under the control of the Lydian King, Croesus. He is most famous in history for his huge wealth. During this time, Ephesus flourished. The city was home to esteemed figures such as Heraclitus the philosopher. He famously said that a man could never set foot in the same river twice, the world being in a constant state of flux.

Hellenistic Kingdom conquered by Romans

Ephesus rebelled against Persian rule at the turn of the 5th century B.C. It was actually the trigger for the Ionian revolt and the Greco-Persian Wars. The city initially sided with Athens, but then later with Sparta. During the Hellenistic period, the city welcomed Alexander the Great’s triumphal entry, as he liberated the Greek cities of Asia Minor from Persian rule. After Alexander death, the city changed hands a few times between several rulers. The latest was Attalus III: after his death in 133 B.C., the Seleucid kingdom was bequeathed to the Roman Republic, and Ephesus became a Roman city.

Roman authority, and with it increased taxation, was not appreciated by locals. As a result, the Pontic King, Mithridates, was welcomed here. It is from Ephesus that he ordered the so-called Asiatic Vespers the slaughter of Roman citizens in Asia. The city was duly punished when it was reclaimed for Rome by Sulla in 86 B.C.

Artemis Temple: one of the Seven Wonders of Antiquity

In antiquity, Ephesus was most famous for the Temple of Artemis (Artemision) that was located nearby. It is believed that the construction of the Temple was financed by Croesus. This is indicated by the discovery of his signature on the base of one of the columns. The Temple was so splendid, that it was considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. According to Pausanias it was also the largest structure of antiquity – larger by a few meters on a side than a modern football field – and it was the first Temple to be entirely of marble.

The Temple had taken some hundred twenty years to complete, but it was destroyed by fire in 356 BC, soon after completion. It was burned down by Herostratus, who immortalized his name in this infamous way. Ancient believed that the Temple could avoid the destruction, but its divine protector, Artemis, was absent from the shrine, assisting this very same day in the delivery of Alexander the Great…

The Temple was rebuilt soon, and stood there for centuries, in spite periodical earthquakes. But, unfortunately, it was burned again by the Goths in AD 262. After this event, and even before its definite closure by Theodosius I in AD 391, the site started serving as a quarry for building the Byzantine city at Ephesus. The remaining parts of the great Artemision were slowly sinking in marshy soils, and covered by alluvial deposits. The Temple no longer survives, but we know how it appeared in the past thanks to descriptions by ancient writers and to its depictions on ancient coins.

Artemis Temple : Ancient Coins tells the Story

Pliny mentioned that the temple had 127 columns, each some 18 meters high. Vitruvius described the Temple as dipteral octastyle: two rows of columns around the temple with eight on the front and rear façades. Thirty-six of columns, according to Pliny, were decorated with reliefs. This description is confirmed by the bronze medallion minted under Hadrian, shown below.

Pic 1: Ephesus. Hadrian. AD 117-138. Æ Medallion (36mm, 33.62 g, 12h). Struck AD 129. Source: Classical Numismatic Group,, used by permission of CNG. Annotations by TTR.

The next coin below was minted some 100 years earlier, under Claudius. It is in an exceptional state of conservation and reveals interesting details of the temple’s architecture. One can see on Temple’s pediment three square openings or windows. Archaeologists don’ know the exact use of these windows: the goddess may have been displayed through them or they may have served to relieve the pressure of the structure. The reconstruction of the Temple in the Ephesus museum shows how they might have looked like in the past

Pic 2: Cistophoric tetradrachm, Ephesus 41-42 AD. Minted under Claudius. Source: Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG Auction 86 lot 110. Used by permission of NAC.

Artemis Festival and Symbols

The third coin shows how the statue of Artemis looked like. The Goddess wears a head-gear, the modius (or polos), symbolizing powers over fecundity. Indeed, Temple’s goddess was worshipped for fertility: during Artemisia festivals celebrated in March – April, men and women used to choose their fiancés Ephesus festivals drew in both locals and foreign visitors. Below Goddess’ neck, one can see ‘breasts’ of Artemis. Nobody really knows what their meaning is. Some believe they depict eggs, breast, acorns, and, last but not least, testicles of bulls. Anyhow, the Ephesian Artemis was a very different version of the deity than Diana – the “usual” goddess of the hunt. She was worshipped in Ephesus for fertility, and this can be seen on ancient coins like this one:

Pic 3: Cistophoric tetradrachm, mint under Hadrian after 128. Source: Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG Auction 94-96 lot 249. Used by permission of NAC.

The city flourished with the advent of the Pax Romana, prospering as a city of considerable commercial wealth. It was destroyed by Goths in 262 A.D., during the so-called Third Century Crisis. This moment marked the beginning of the city’s decline, despite Constantine investing in its restoration. It endured as a significant Byzantine city, but its deterioration was accelerated by an earthquake in 614 A.D., and the progressive silting up of the Küçükmenderes River.

Artemis Temple in later antiquity

The city flourished with the advent of the Pax Romana, prospering as a city of considerable commercial wealth. It was destroyed by Goths in 262 A.D., during the so-called Third Century Crisis. This moment marked the beginning of the city’s decline, despite Constantine investing in its restoration. It endured as a significant Byzantine city, but its deterioration was accelerated by an earthquake in 614 A.D., and the progressive silting up of the Küçükmenderes River.

What to see there now

Ephesus is a splendid archaeological site in its own right and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, the famous Temple of Artemis is less spectacular to see. It was built on marshy soils and was heavily damaged by earthquakes in antiquity. Today the Temple of Artemis is identifiable only by a single, rather inconspicuous, column, and the fragments of the frieze that are housed in both London and Istanbul. Besides the temple itself, we also recommend to see in Ephesus the Library of Celsus, which is a spectacular site in its own right. Built in 125 A.D. in memory of Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, the library once held an estimated 12,000 scrolls and was a monument to the ex-governor who patronised the library’s construction and is buried beneath. There is also a theatre with a capacity of around 25,000, making it one of the largest in the ancient world. Ephesus also contains the ruins of many of the recognisable aspects of ancient urban life. Several major bath houses accompany a couple of agoras, and an Odeon, as well as the remnants of the Temples of the Sebastoi (dedicated to the Flavian imperial dynasty) and the Temple of Hadrian.

Archaeological remains from Ephesus are displayed variously, including at the Ephesus Museum in Vienna, the Ephesus Archaeological Museum in Selçuk, and in the British Museum.

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Written for Timetravelrome by Kieren Johns, with additions and edits by TTR.

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus - History

Ephesus' great temple of Artemis has provided evidence for the earliest coins yet known from the ancient world. The first structures in the sanctuary ( link ), buried deep under the later temples, date back to the eighth century BCE, and from that time on precious objects were used in the cult or dedicated to the goddess by her worshippers. Some dedications were individually buried on the site of a sacrifice various objects were collected and buried in bothroi, sacred pits, since they were still the goddess' property, and some deposits likely resulted when fire or flood destroyed the cult building and buried the objects within its remains. Many such objects have been found among the foundations below Ephesus' successive temples of Artemis they include bronze belts and ornaments, bears' teeth, amber imported from the Baltic, gold and ivory statuettes, and small lumps of precious metal called electrum (a naturally-occurring combination of gold and silver) that represent the earliest coins.

These early coins were in several groups, but one of the most important was the 19 coins found in an undecorated pottery pitcher ( link ). This type of pot is datable and, unlike the precious metal coins it contained, was not of very great value, and wouldn't have been around the sanctuary for long. It dates to the third quarter of the seventh century (650-625 CE), which means that all the coins within it should have been made at that time or before, but not after.

But how far back should the coins go? Robinson, who first published the coins from the temple of Artemis, treated them as if this was a standard coin hoard of later times, which generally contains contemporary coins that were taken from open circulation. These coins from Ephesus, however, were different. They could have been dedications that were slowly collected in the temple of the goddess, not purses of money currently in use. Many of the other objects that were found around them date well back into the early seventh century.

The earliest stage of coinage probably consisted of the simplest types: slugs of electrum made up into a series of standard weights. There is some question as to whether the weights are based on a Greek (Milesian), Lydian, or Egyptian system, but as the metal electrum naturally occurs in Lydia, in the Pactolus river close to the capital Sardis, it was probably a Lydian ruler who issued them. The next types have striations on the front and punches in the back the punches were probably meant to show that the coin was pure metal all through, though any forger could have eluded this test by punching a lead slug first and then coating it with a little electrum. This is probably why images were added to early coins with, and then without, striations, becoming the first true coin types: the particular image signifies the issuer of the coins, whose power and good name guarantees their value.

In his first book of Histories (written during the fifth century BCE) the Greek historian Herodotus of Halikarnassos chronicled the deeds of the earlier Lydian kings, especially the famous Croesus (561-547 BCE) who conquered Ephesus at the beginning of his reign and gave columns to the new temple of Artemis. Herodotus claimed (I.94) that the Lydians were the first to issue silver and gold coinage. A recent find of a gold fraction from beneath the fortification walls of Sardis, which were destroyed in a war between Croesus and the Persians in 545 BCE now confirms that Croesus did issue a bi-metalic coinage. In addition, a metal refining complex ( link ) of the 6th century BCE has been found on the banks of the Pactolus river among the artifacts were items used for cupellation and cementation, processes that remove impurities from electrum and separate it into its main components, pure gold and pure silver.

The astonishing works of art known as “The Seven Wonders of the World” continue to inspire and be celebrated as the most remarkable products of creativity during Earth’s early civilizations. At the same time, they are a reminder of the human capacity for disagreement and destruction.

Artworks about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. From left to right, top to bottom: 1) Lighthouse of Alexandria 2) Hanging Gardens of Babylon 3) Statue of Zeus at Olympia 4) Great Pyramif of Giza 5) Mausoleum at Halicarnassus 6) Colossus of Rhodes 7) Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was a list of extraordinary construction reported by different classical authors, such as Philo of Byzantium, Herodotus, Callimachus of Cyrene. Defined as themata (which we can translate with “must see”), the Seven Wonders were popular among Hellenic tourists and reported in ancient guidebooks. These buildings fascinated humanists through the years, and other listings were redacted. Today only the Great Pyramid of Giza, is still visible and relatively intact.

The largest of the three pyramids of Giza, the Great Pyramid is the oldest of the Seven Wonders, dated back to the mid of the third millennium BC. The 2.3 million blocks pyramid was built for the Pharaoh Khufu (better known as Cheops), and it was the tallest manmade building for almost 3,800 years. The excavations of the pyramid started at the end of the 18th century, so the interior chambers were unknown to ancient visitors. The surface of the façades, today undecorated, were originally covered with impressive white fine limestone blocks, destroyed in a massive earthquake. Some scholars assume that this building, similarly to other pyramids, was topped by a golden or electrum capstone, which is missing today.

Original façade of Great Pyramid, covered with limestones.

Archaeologists never found evidence of the existence of this wonder. However, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were described by Diodorus Siculus during one of his voyages. Probably they were built by Nebuchadnezzar II in the 6th century BC and gifted to his wife. This masterpiece of engineering consisted of 23 meters-high climbing terraces of exotic flora and fauna. Every terrace was self-watered. While Diodorus explains that Amtis, the wife of Nebuchadnezzar II, missed her native country, and so the king commanded to build the Hanging Gardens in Babylon, this remarkable wonder is not even mentioned in Babylonian history or in Herodotus’ claims. They were supposedly destroyed after the 1st century AD by an earthquake.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon featured climbing self-watered terraces.

This magnificent statue of Zeus was commissioned by the Eleans to the Greek sculptor Phidias around the 5th century BC. The famous sculptor Phidias worked also on other important buildings, such as the Parthenon. The statue was sculpted for the Temple of Zeus in Olympia and depicted the god of Olympus seated on his throne the skin was made from ivory, and the god wore gilded robes made from glass. He was crowned with an olive wreath. The right hand held Nike, goddess of victory, while the left one a scepter. When the Olympic Games were banished by the rising Christianity, the Temple at Olympia fell into ruin. The statue was removed and carried to Constantinople where it was later destroyed by an earthquake.

Reconstruction of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Holding Nike on the right hand and a scepter on the left hand.

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was completed in the 5th century BC. This majestic structure was considered the most impressive structure ever raised by human beings. The lot of this temple, that took over 120 years to build, was not happy. It was commissioned by the King Croesus of Lydia and located near the ancient city of Ephesus. It is probably the earliest Greek temple surrounded by colonnades anywhere. Anyway, this magnificent building was destroyed in a fire set by a man named Herostratus, the night Alexander the Great was born. Later it was rebuilt after Alexander’s death on a smaller scale and destroyed again by the invasion of the Goths. Rebuilt, it was destroyed for the last time by the Christians, headed by Saint John Chrysostom.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was considered the most impressive structure ever raised by human beings

Artemisia II built this mausoleum as a tomb for her brother-husband Mausolus, during the 4th century BC. Halicarnassus was the capital city of Mausolus’ empire and the tomb should have been up to such magnificence. The structure was erected on a hill overlooking the capital and featured an enclosed courtyard in the center of which laid the king’s tomb. On the top thirty-six slim columns held the pyramidal roof, topped by a statue of a quadriga. This beautiful building determined the name “mausoleum”, from the king who was resting inside. It was destroyed by a series of earthquakes completely dismantled after two millenniums.

Artemisia II built this mausoleum as a tomb for Mausolus.

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue representing the god Helios, patron of the city, built during the 3rd century BC. The statue was 33 meters high and overlooked the harbour of Rhodes. The statue was commissioned after the defeat of the invading army of Demetrius, and the sale of the equipment left by the fleeing army. According to Strabo, despite the colossus was destroyed in a violent earthquake, the statue was so impressive that the ruins were still a tourist attraction. Theophanes reports that the bronze ruins were a Jewish merchant and melted down during the 7th century AD.

The Colossus represented the god Helios, patron of Rhodes.

Ptolemy I Sother commissioned this amazing lighthouse during his reign. The construction was built on the island of Pharos and completed in the early 3rd century BC. With a height of 134 meters was one of the tallest structures of the world, after the pyramids and its light could be seen from different miles out to sea. The lighthouse was made by three different parts: the first part was a square base, followed by a middle octagonal section up to a circular top. Seriously damaged in an earthquake during the Middle Age, this wonder was gone before the end of the Renaissance Period.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was a lifesaver for ancient sailors.

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus - History

I have seen the walls of unbreachable Babylon, along which chariots may race, and the statue of Zeus by the river Alphaeus, the Hanging Gardens and the Colossus of the Sun, the great man-made mountains of the lofty pyramids, and the gigantic tomb of Maussolos. But when I saw the sacred house of Artemis reaching the clouds, the others paled.
–Antipater of Sidon, Greek Anthology 9.58

Theater in Ephesus
(photo courtesy Ministry of Tourism, Ankara)

Artemis of Ephesus
(photo courtesy Ministry of Tourism, Ankara)

The temple remains a place of refuge, now as it was before the limits of the refuge have often been changed, as when Antony doubled its size and included a part of the city in the sanctuary. Of course, this proved a disaster, as it gave the city to criminals, and so Augustus Caesar repealed the extension. The city has a dockyard and a harbor. and, because of its fortunate position, grows daily.
–Strabo, Geography 14.1.23-24

A man named Demetrius, a maker of silver shrines of Artemis, brought together those who worked in similar trades and said "Men, you know that our well-being depends on this work, and you can see and hear how this Paul says that there are no gods made by human hands. There is danger for us -- not only that our work, but also the Temple of the Great Artemis, will be reckoned as nothing. "
–Acts 19.23-27

phesus was the largest city in Asia Minor, and the center for criminal and civil trials. The city's theater sat facing the sea at the head of the main road from the harbor into the city. Ephesus had a troubled history with Rome. In the first century BCE, Roman tax collectors and businessmen had run roughshod over the province, outraging the locals with their exploitation and extortion. The Ephesians welcomed the challenge to Roman hegemony posed by an invading eastern king, and with his capture of the city in 88 BCE, its citizens joined in the massacre of the city's Italian residents. Rome responded with a characteristically firm hand, exacting huge penalties and taxes to keep the city without resources. The economy did not recover until the reign of Augustus.

And, as in Jerusalem, Corinth and Athens, Ephesus attracted a large number of tourists, though smaller than modern standards. Pilgrims came to Ephesus to see the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This temple had been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries. The temple Paul would have seen was erected in the fourth century BCE a forest of marble, it had 127 columns measuring 1.2 meters in diameter, standing 18 meters high. It was a refuge for runaway slaves, and was outside the city proper. The form of Artemis worshipped here was unlike anywhere else, perhaps because she had been assimilated with a local Anatolian earth goddess. Unlike the virgin huntress and twin sister of Apollo most familiar in the stories of the Greeks, Artemis at Ephesus was a fertility goddess, and her physical manifestation was a statue of the goddess festooned with oval protuberances -- probably representing testicles of sacrificial bulls -- and she wore a stole of bees. Acts repeats a story of how Paul's success threatened the livelihood of those citizens who relied on proceeds from visitors to the Temple of Artemis.

Acts also repeats stories of miracles Paul performed while in Ephesus. In this, too, there is a connection to the city itself. Ephesus had a reputation for magic. Paul's miracles were seen as a sign of the strength and truth of his Lord, and inspired Ephesians to burn their books of magic. But the success of Paul's mission was a threat to the city coffers. Acts notes that the books burned were worth 50,000 pieces of silver. And it also details a confrontation with the Ephesians who made their living from the tourists and pilgrims who came to the Temple of Artemis. While these stories provide vivid accounts of daily life in a city like Ephesus, it is likely that they exaggerate the threat Paul represented to the city's economic well-being.

When the time came to depart, Paul headed north and west to his congregations in Macedonia, then south to Corinth once again. It seems his primary purpose was to collect charitable offerings to take back to Jerusalem. Most of his return voyage to Jerusalem would have been by ship. Hopscotching across the islands of the Aegean, Paul sought further converts and contributions. From the ship's deck, in the channels between the islands and the mainland, sailing past rugged mountain forests and smooth open plains, the entire history of the Mediterranean would have been visible. Grand public buildings faced in marble, tenements and markets crowding the streets, theaters overlooking the sea, temples reaching for the sky, colossal statues of gods and emperors. Greek, Roman, Persian, Phoenician, and Egyptian. Ruins of cities and monuments destroyed by war, earthquakes, or worn away by time. Fortresses, farms and villages, vast commercial estates and palatial villas. Vineyards and quarries. The tent cities of nomads, and soldiers, and their fires in the night.

Analysis Of The Marble Column From The Temple Of Artemis At Sardis

The marble column from the Temple of Artemis at Sardis is from the Hellenistic period and can be visited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. It is part of the Ancient Greek exhibition. This column stands over fifty-eight feet high at the center of a room. Overall, it looks smooth and very large. At the capital, the delicate foliate is symmetrically decorated with fine details. The capital is slightly smaller than others found at the site, indicating that it does not belong to the outer colonnade


– I know people like you, he said to me. Herostratus is an example.
In an attempt to immortalize his name, he burnt down the temple in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
– Well, what was the name of the temple's architect?
– I don't remember, he confessed. I even do not suppose his name is known.
– Really? But you remember the name of Herostratus. You see, he might not have miscalculated his actions…

Artemision: The quiet and the peace in the night of 20th July in year 356 BC shattered with the screams of the night watch team first, which combined with those of the priests and nuns shortly and finally cries of thousands added to the chaos. The home of their Lady was on fire, bursts of flames illuminated the night creating scary scenes. All the men and women in the city, even children engaged in putting the fire off all night long. They built lines to pass buckets of water hand by hand from the nearby Cayster River and any water source they could find. Their efforts lost in vain. The sight of the damage under the first light of the morning was devastating.

The criminal was immediately under custody where he confessed he was seeking immortality by setting the temple on fire. He was executed in a couple of days and the Ephesians started rising a new temple right away.

The cult of Artemis Ephesia which got its roots from the earlier Mother Goddess Kybele worship of Anatolia had become the most powerful and effective cult in the world. The Goddess Artemis revered here was no different than the former Mother Goddess of Anatolia, also known as Kybele and Kubaba who was adopted to Rome under the name Magna Mater ("Great Mother"). Although the peripteros shrine that was unearthed in the excavations could be the first colonnaded temple in the world which was dated to the second half of the 8th century BC or the beginning of 7th century BC, it is verified that the sacred site of Mother Goddess which housed a series of shrines in the history had been initiated in the Bronze age.

The marble dipteral building that replaced the earlier peripteral one was a milestone in temple architecture and was allegedly set on fire by Herostratus. The temple was either under construction when Lydian King Croesus incorporated the region into his kingdom in 6th century BC or was built completely by his orders. In any case, his gift to the temple, the column bases decorated with reliefs are in the British Museum today.

Artemision was home to the goddess and people used to leave their valuables to her for protection. As a result, an immense amount of treasure piled up at the temple and priests began lending money to merchants with high interests, making the Temple of Artemis the first bank in Asia. It makes one wonder the priests might be responsible for the fire that was inflicted on Herostratus because it provided a perfect excuse for the disappearance of the treasury. To maintain people's loyalty to the goddess and the temple, the tradition stated later that Alexander the Great was born in Pella on that same night, July 20, 356 and Artemis was busy attending to Alexander’s birth, thus she failed to protect her temple. Regardless of the cause, the new house of Artemis erected after the fire was crowned as one of the Seven Wonders of the World in the list of Antipater of Sidon.

The temple was not finished yet when Alexander the Great arrived the city in 334 BC. Obviously, he was impressed with what he saw and offered Ephesus immunity from the past and future taxes in return of his name be mentioned in the temple inscription. However, Ephesians did not want his name on the temple and turned him down politely saying that it would not be proper for a god to build a home for another god.

The temple was devastated twice in the 3rd century, once by the earthquake and then by the raids of the Goth invaders. It was repaired partially and was used until the end of the 4th century before it was completely destroyed. The colossal marble blocks were used to erect the nearby Basilica of St John at a further walking distance.

J.T. Wood who had discovered the remains of the temple in 1869 after six years of research, was amazed when he saw that a masterpiece like this had been built on such an unnoticeable flat ground. By then it was not known that the location of the temple was a former sacred site of the Mother Goddess, therefore it was related to the Ionic order of the temple which reveals itself better due its light and slender structure in the flatlands despite the Doric order.

By the way, the architect of the subsequent Artemision which was supposedly set on fire by Herostratus was perhaps Cheirokrates, as Strabo has it, or Deinokrates according to Vitruvius and the Archaic 6th century BC Artemision was built by Chersiphron and his son Metagenes.


The sacred site at Ephesus was far older than the Artemision. Pausanias understood the shrine of Artemis there to be very ancient. He states with certainty that it antedated the Ionic immigration by many years, being older even than the oracular shrine of Apollo at Didyma. He said that the pre-Ionic inhabitants of the city were Leleges and Lydians. Callimachus, in his Hymn to Artemis, attributed the origin of the temenos at Ephesus to the Amazons, whose worship he imagines already centered upon an image (bretas).

Pre-World War I excavations by David George Hogarth, who identified three successive temples overlying one another on the site, and corrective re-excavations in 1987-88 have confirmed Pausanias' report.

Test holes have confirmed that the site was occupied as early as the Bronze Age, with a sequence of pottery finds that extend forward to Middle Geometric times, when the clay-floored peripteral temple was constructed, in the second half of the eighth century BC. The peripteral temple at Ephesus was the earliest example of a peripteral type on the coast of Asia Minor, and perhaps the earliest Greek temple surrounded by colonnades anywhere.

In the seventh century, a flood destroyed the temple, depositing over half a meter of sand and scattering flotsam over the former floor of hard-packed clay. In the flood debris were the remains of a carved ivory plaque of a griffin and the Tree of Life, apparently North Syrian. More importantly, flood deposits buried in place a hoard against the north wall that included drilled amber tear-shaped drops with elliptical cross-sections, which had once dressed the wooden effigy of the Lady of Ephesus the xoanon itself must have been destroyed in the flood. Bammer notes that though the flood-prone site was raised by silt deposits about two metres between the eighth and sixth centuries, and a further 2.4 m between the sixth and the fourth, the site was retained: "this indicates that maintaining the identity of the actual location played an important role in the sacred organization" (Bammer 1990:144).

The new temple, now built of marble, with its peripteral columns doubled to make a wide ceremonial passage round the cella, was designed and constructed around 550 BC by the Cretan architect Chersiphron and his son Metagenes. A new ebony or grapewood cult statue was sculpted by Endoios, and a naiskos to house it was erected east of the open-air altar.

This enriched reconstruction was built at the expense of Croesus, the wealthy king of Lydia. The rich foundation deposit of more than a thousand items has been recovered: it includes what may be the earliest coins of the silver-gold alloy electrum. Fragments of the bas-reliefs on the lowest drums of Croesus' temple, preserved in the British Museum, show that the enriched columns of the later temple, of which a few survive (illustration, below right) were versions of the earlier feature. Marshy ground was selected for the building site as a precaution against future earthquakes, according to Pliny the Elder. The temple became a tourist attraction, visited by merchants, kings, and sightseers, many of whom paid homage to Artemis in the form of jewelry and various goods. Its splendor also attracted many worshipers.

Croesus' temple was a widely respected place of refuge, a tradition that was linked in myth with the Amazons who took refuge there, both from Heracles and from Dionysus.

The Temple of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis (Artemision) - A column and scanty fragments strewn on the ground are all that remains of the Seventh Wonder of the World. According to Strabo, the Temple of Artemis was destroyed at least seven times and rebuilt just as many times. Archaeological findings instead attest to at least four rebuilding of this temple, starting in the 7th century B.C. . Chersiphone and Metagene erected an Ionic dipteral temple in the 6th century B.C. and its building required was set on fire by Herostratus the successive majestic structure, built entirely of marble, was begun in 334 and was finished in 250 B.C. It aroused the admiration of even Alexander the Great who would have liked to have taken charge - at his own expense - of the continuation of the work. Among others, Scopas and Praxiteles worked there, while the design is attributed to Chirocratus.

The Hellenistic temple was built on a podium, to which one ascended by a plinth formed of thirteen steps. A double colonnade encircled the peristyle and the inside space (105 x 55 m) . The relief of the columns were believed to be the work of Scopas, while Praxiteles worked at the realization of the altar. The decadence marked by the Goths ( 3rd century) continued in the Christian era, when materials for the nearby Basilica of St.John and for is left of numerous works of art which at one time used to adorn it, although interesting tokens are kept at the local Museum at the British Museum in London.

The foundation of the temple was rectangular in form, similar to most temples at the time. Unlike other sanctuaries, however, the building was made of marble, with a decorated facade overlooking a spacious courtyard. There were 127 columns in total, aligned orthogonally over the whole platform area, except for the central cella or house of the goddess. Marble steps surrounding the building platform led to the high terrace which was approximately 80 m (260 ft) by 130 m (430 ft) in plan. The columns were 20 m (60 ft) high with Ionic capitals and carved circular sides.

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.

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