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THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS

 AT EPHESUS

We continue our tour of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in Ephesus ( in modern day Turkey). 

 

The Ehphesian Artemis and the classic Greek.

Column base at the British Museum

The temple ruins today

The silver cistophoric tetradrachm illustrated above is from the early reign of Claudius and was issued in Asia. It depicts the decorated tympanum of the temple pediment, which was pierced by three openings or windows, by which the goddess may have been displayed.

The pediment exists only in fragments. But there also was a Temple of Artemis at nearby Magnesia on the Meander, and another coin, issued there by Hadrian, shows similar rectangles. The frames and cornices of those openings do survive and confirm that the same openings must have appeared on the temple at Ephesus. It is numismatic evidence such as this that provides the means to reconstruct such architectural features.


 

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Known to historians as the Artemisian, this giant Greek temple was a wonder in itís time not, just because of itís size but because of its beautiful decoration and statuary. Other temples were built hoping to emulate itís beauty but none ever really achieved the same notoriety as the Artemisian. This quote was written by Antipater of Sidon, ďBut 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.Ē

The myths and misunderstanding that surround this wonder are many. The first is just whose temple this was. To simply say ďArtemisĒ is a mistake. The traditional mother goddess of this area was Cybele, and the Greeks living in Ionia associated Cybele with their mother goddess Artemis. The resemblance lay mainly in the fact that both goddesses gave fertility to fields, humans, and animals. The goddess came to be called the Ephesian Artemis. Instead of the traditional Diana/Artemis figure of a beautiful woman with a bow that many of us recollect from studying mythology, the Ephesian Artemis is very different in appearance. Her statue in the temple wore a hat in the shape of a temple to show she was the patron goddess of the city and her body is covered with scores of breasts. All along the statue are carved bees and birds in very intricate work. Many reproductions of this figure were made and sold at the temple.

The next question is which temple was a wonder? Some Greek historians claimed that the temple was destroyed and rebuilt seven times. Archeological research has shown at least four temples were built on the same spot. In the 6th century BC the third temple appears to have fallen out of repair. The trouble was that the foundations constantly showed a tendency to sink in the marshy ground.. The city of Ephesus, then at the height of its power and wealth, determined to rebuild the temple on a scale of unexampled magnificence, and many neighboring States sent contributions of material and money. In particular we are told of the liberality of Croesus, King of Lydia, whose reign (560-546 BC) indicates the date for this rebuilding; besides other offerings, Croesus presented most of the columns. The reason why such special honor should be paid to what had hitherto been an unimportant sanctuary is unknown; but the result was that the temple at once took rank as one of the marvels of the age.

In the next century the traveler Herodotus compares this Croesus temple to the Pyramids. It covered four times the area of its predecessor, and was surrounded by Ionic columns with a portico of eight columns at each end. The columns had a peculiarity of great rarity in Greek architecture: at the base they were encircled with a band of sculpture. Part of such a band has been restored in the British Museum. This temple was burnt down, accidentally, about 400 BCE, but it was quickly rebuilt. Then, one night in 356 BC, the Artemision was burnt down again. This time by arson. The culprit was asked what possible motive he could have had for so senseless an act. He replied that he had done it in order to make his name immortal. Immediately it was decreed that his name be expunged from all records and that no one ever pronounce it. In vain! His name (or some name that purports to be his) is known. It is Herostratus and is still remembered over two thousand years later.

   Some Greek historians were fond of telling a the story that the night on which the Artemision was burnt down was the very night on which Alexander the Great was born -- though in view of the lack of accurate records in those days, it seems doubtful that this interesting coincidence can ever be verified. Eventually the Artemision was rebuilt. The world of Macedonian monarchies was far richer than the earlier world of Greek city-states had been, and the temple was rebuilt on a much larger scale and with much more elaborate ornamentation. This was the temple that it came to be considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is probable that by about 323 BCE the new temple was finished.

  The Artemisianís place in history continued. The city of Ephesus was still prosperous in 57 AD and was the destination for many pilgrims coming to view the temple. A souvenir business in miniature Artemis idols, had grown up around the shrine. It was one of these idol makers, a man named Demetrius, that gave St. Paul a difficult time when he visited the city. 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. Eventually the great Temple of Artemis was destroyed during a raid by the Goths in 262 A.D. The city itself had been declining because itís port had been silting up and the attempts to improve the city had fallen apart. The religion of Artemis was in disappearing just as the idol make Demetrius had feared 200 plus years earlier. When the Roman Emperor Constantine rebuilt much of Ephesus a century later, he declined to restore the temple. He also had become a Christian and had little interest in pagan temples.
 

 

   

This model is a simple seven piece construction and includes a temple interior.

It is in 1/3000 scale.

 

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