Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus also known as the Temple of Diana at Ephesus located near the Ephesus Ancient City, on the edge of the modern town of Selcuk. The location is also known as where the second ancient city of Ephesus is located. Due to its historical importance, it became one of the most preferred sites for Private Ephesus Tours.

Virtual Reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis
Virtual Reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis
Who Built and Designed the Temple of Artemis?

The Temple of Artemis was designed and built around 550 BC, largely of marble, sponsored by Croesus, the legendary king of Lydia. It was 46 m (151 ft) wide and 115 m (377 ft) long. Its columns were double rows and 13 m (40 ft) high, forming a wide ceremonial passage around the cult image of Artemis. The pillars with sculptured bases and the roof opened to the sky around a statue of Artemis in the cella.
temple of artemis at ephesus

Who Burned the Temple of Artemis?

This magnificent structure could only stand for 200 years. In 356 BC, the temple was burned down by Herostratus who was a Greek citizen seeking notoriety. He set fire to the wooden roof beams of the temple, attempting to immortalize his name at any cost. Herostratus was executed and also condemned by forbidding the mention of his name under the penalty of death. However, ancient writers such as Theopompus and Strabo mentioned his name and finally, Sir Thomas Browne in his work Hydotaphia stated as; 

…..But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity. […] Herostratus lives that burnt the Temple of Diana, he is almost lost that built it […] Who knows whether the best of men be known? or whether there be not more remarkable persons forgot than any that stand remembered in the known account of time?

Eventually, Herostratus’ name lived on in classical literature and in language, the term “Herostratic fame” refers to Herostratus and means “fame at any cost”.temple of artemis burned by herostratus

Why is the Temple of Artemis a Wonder?

The project funded by Croesus took 10 years to complete. It was included on an early list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Herodotus in the 5th century BC. Temple of Artemis seven wonders of the ancient world

According to tradition, the fire that destroyed the second temple was set on the day Alexander the Great was born, 21 July 356 BC. The historian Plutarch coincided with the burning of the temple with the birth of Alexander. According to Plutarch Artemis was preoccupied with Alexander’s delivery that night so she couldn’t protect her temple from destruction. This was interpreted as the extinction of the Persians.

A Relief of Alexander the Great
A Relief of Alexander the Great

Accordingly, 22 years later, Alexander the Great defeated the Persian army (the battle of Granicus in 334 BC). King Alexander liberated the Greek cities of Asia Minor and greeted them warmly in Ephesus. Alexander the Great was aware of the rumors of Goddess Artemis overseeing the delivery of his birth and was not able to protect her temple. According to the legend Alexander offered to cover the cost of rebuilding the destroyed temple with his name mentioned on columns. However, the citizen of Ephesus did not want a mortal’s name written on their temple. But it would be inappropriate to say “no” to a king as Alexander in the face of such generosity. Eventually, Ephesians turned down King Alexander’s offer with a wise answer. They said;

“ lt was not fit for a God such as himself to build a temple for another God”. In the end, honored Alexander gave special privileges to the city of Ephesus.

Temple of Artemis Then And Now
Temple of Artemis Then And Now

Ephesians started to rebuild the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus after Alexander’s death, in 323 BC, at their own expense and continued for many years. The last temple was larger than the second one; 69 m (225 ft) wide, 137 m (450 ft) long, and 18 m (60 ft) high, with 127 columns. 

Antipater of Sidon puts the temple on one of the earliest known lists of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. He describes the Temple of Artemis in one of his poems as; 

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus, by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colleseus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, "Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.

Artemis of Ephesus in the Christian Records

The third reconstruction by Ephesians survived for 600 years. It appeared multiple times in early Christian accounts of Ephesus. It is also known that the appearance of the Christian missionary caused fear of Ephesians for the temple’s dishonor.  

The Acts of John in the 2nd century AD including a tale of the temple’s destruction; 

Conversion at the Temple of Artemis (ActsJohn 37–47)

During the celebration of the birthday of Artemis, citizens of Ephesus intended to kill John because he wears black, rather than white. John threatened the mob to have his god kill them if their goddess can not make him die on the spot with her divine power. 

The crowd witnessed the miracles of John at the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, begging John not to destroy them. Then John decided to use the power of God to break the altar of Artemis into many pieces, break the offerings and idols inside the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and collapse part of the structure itself. Upon seeing this destruction, the people of Ephesus immediately see the error of their faith and acknowledged the God of John as the only true god.

The Great Artemis of Ephesians

The Temple was also important on account of its mention in the New Testament, when St Paul was shouted down by the crowd, repeating; “Great is Diana of the Ephesians”. (Acts 19:34).

Silversmith Riot in Ephesus A.D 56

During the missionary work of Saint Paul in Ephesus, the people of Ephesus were worried that the rise of the Christian faith would overtake the fame of the Goddess Artemis. They started a riot, in the year A.D 56, under the leadership of Demetrius, the silversmith, who made a living by selling silver statues of Mother Goddess Artemis. Demetrius and others collected thousands together in the Grand Ephesus Amphitheater. The crowd was shouting “The Great Artemis of Ephesians”.

John Turtle Wood

Wood was an English architect, and engineer who eventually become an archaeologist because of his interest in the remains of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. 

Excavations at Ephesus: The Archaic Artemisia
Excavations at Ephesus: The Archaic Artemisia

John Turtle Wood received a work on designing railway stations between Izmir and Aydin provinces of Turkey. But he was more interested in the temple of Artemis on account of its mention in the New Testament. In 1863, he relinquished his railway station construction and began the search for the support of the British Museum.  The British Museum granted the permission to excavate the sight and allocated a budget for his research on condition that he bring the finds to the museum. 

Excavations at Ephesus: The Archaic Artemisia
Excavations at Ephesus: The Archaic Artemisia

On 31 December 1869, by following the Greek inscription, giving clues about the location, he discovered the temple buried beneath 20 feet of sand. The temple was totally destroyed and nothing more than wreckage. Nevertheless John turtle Wood managed to recover a number of sculptured pieces and architectural items to be sent to the British Museum.

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If you want to explore the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus on-site with us, you can reach us at the links below.

Private Ephesus Tours from Port of Kusadasi and Hotels.

Private Ephesus Tours from Port of Izmir and Hotels.

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