The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in the Archaic Period

Archaic Period of Artemision :

About the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Strabo notes that the temple was destroyed and rebuilt seven times and that even in those days it was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. Although the temple was located by the sea in antiquity, today, it is found at 5 km. inland, on the right of the Selçuk-Kusadasi road. So far, excavations have been revealed only for phases of construction. The oldest relics found were dated to the 7th century B.C. They are pieces of bowls decorated with geometric designs, decorative gold objects, and a group of ivory objects. The temple which is as old as these objects were probably destroyed by the Cimmerians.

Western Facade of The Temple of Artemis in Archaic Period
Western Facade of The Temple of Artemis in the Archaic Period

Just before 570 B.C., the architects Rhoichos and Theodoros completed the construction of the Temple of Hera in Samos. The popularity of this new temple must have encouraged the Ephesians to build a more magnificent temple than the Temple of Hera in the rival city of Samos. They engaged the architect Chersiphon and his son Metagenes of Knossos, and also invited Theodoros, because the area chosen as the site of the temple was swampy ground, like the location of the Temple of Hera. Also, they might have wanted their new temple to be similar to the Temple of Hera. The guest architects placed a laver of coal under the foundation, covered it with leather, and created a splendid temple measuring 55.10 meters by 115.14 meters. Don’t forget that visit to the Temple of Artemis is included in the itineraries of Best Ephesus Tours which organizes Private Ephesus Tours from Kusadasi, Istanbul, and Izmir.

Temple of Artemis in Ephesus - Then & Now
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus – Then & Now

It is evident that the Cretan architects were quite familiar with Egyptian, Hittite, and Assyrian architecture. The temple was the largest structure ever built of marble. The temple had a dipteral plan. On all four sides, it had two rows of columns. Each column was 19 meters high and measured 1.21 meters in diameter. Using a double row of columns instead of a single row, giving it a wider appearance, yet cut down on its length. Pliny stated that there were a total of 127 columns. This forest of columns created an ideal setting, suitable for the goddess. The number of rows of columns in the front and the back of the temple was disputed for many years, but recently it has been established that there were two rows of columns, both in the front and the back of the edifice.

Virtual Reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis
Virtual Reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Pliny, who lived in the 1st century, stated that the thirty-six columns in the front had reliefs on them. What he had seen was undoubtedly a Hellenistic temple. If we assume that the temple was constructed on the foundation of a previous structure and that Pliny based his remarks on older sources, then we can accept Pliny’s statements about the temple. The reliefs on the thirty-six columns called columnae caelatae were located just below the capitals. The columnae caelatae were presented by the King of Lydia, Croesus. One of these, which is in the British Museum, bears the inscription “presented by Croesus”. Herodotus, too, stated that the inscription was true. It has been calculated that the architraves supported by the columns weighed twenty-four tons.

A Footage from the excavations of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus - 1896
A Footage from the excavations of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus – 1896

It is not possible to understand how such heavy pieces could be lifted by twenty meters and placed on the columns with the available types of equipment at that time. The people believed that Artemis herself had come and placed the architrave on the columns. No evidence has been found yet indicating the shape of the roof of the temple or how it was covered.

illustration of The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus
Another illustration of The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

After the Cimmerian attacks, the old altar in front of the temple was rebuilt with stairs. Many votive offerings made of gold, ivory, electron silver, and baked clay, as well as many electron silver coins, were unearthed near the temple. These coins are the first minted money. Pythagoras, the tyrant of Ephesus, enlarged the altar after consulting the Delphic oracle about the recovery of his daughter who had unexpectedly become mute.

If you would like to explore the Temple of Artemis, Ephesus Ancient City, and Sights Around with Best Ephesus Tours, you can reach us at the links below.

Ephesus Shore Excursions from Kusadasi Port

Ephesus Shore Excursions from Izmir Port

Ephesus Day Trip From Istanbul

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