Saturday, November 16, 2013

Temple of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was constructed around 550 BC about 50 km or 31 miles south of the ancient city of Smyrna. In modern Turkey it would have been about 75 km or 47 miles south of Izmir. It was also known as the Artemesium, Temple of Artemision and the Temple of Diana. It was a place of worship devoted to the Greek goddess Artemis who was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and also the twin sister of Apollo. She was the goddess of hunting, night, the moon, fertility, childbirth, virginity and wild animals. Her counterpart in Roman mythology was Diana.

There had been a temple on the site that was destroyed by a flood. King Croesus of Lydia sponsored the new temple and brought in Cherisiphron, an architect from Crete, to design and build it along with his son Metagenes. They chose to build it on flat, marshy ground in hopes to protect it from earthquakes.

The foundation of the temple measured 115  by 46 meters or 377 by 151 feet. It had 121 columns 13 meters or 40 feet high than were spread across the platform. The majority of the structure was made of marble except for a wood roof covered with marble tiles. 

The temple was damaged in 356 BC when an arsonist named Herostratus set the roof on fire in an attempt to seek fame. By coincidence the burning of the temple was also the day Alexander the Great was born on July 20. Roman historian Plutarch concluded that the goddess was too busy over seeing Alexander's birth to be concerned with her temple. Alexander later offered to rebuild the temple but the Ephesians refused. 

After Alexander's death they rebuilt the temple and made it even grander. The bigger temple was 137 by 69 meters or 450 by 225 feet and had 127 columns that were 18 meters or 60 feet high. It was adorned with painting and sculptures while the columns were decorated with gold and silver. There were many images of Amazons which legend states were the founders of Ephesus. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and Greek poet Antipater of Sidon considered it the most impressive of all of them when he wrote in 140 BC.

The temple was destroyed by raiding Goths in 262 AD. The Ephesians vowed to rebuild but in the following years many converted to Christianity and the temple lost most of its appeal. The Archbishop of Constantinople had the remaining structure tore down in 401 AD. The Archbishop was Saint John Chrysostom. 

Ancient Seven Wonders page

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