The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Hellenistic Period

temple of artemis burned by herostratus
The Temple of Artemis Burned by Herostratus

Burning of The Temple of Artemis and Alexander the Great

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was burned by a mentally unstable man named Herostratos who wanted a place in history, in 356 B.C. On the night Alexander was born, the Ephesians decided to build a more magnificent temple. When Alexander came to Ephesus, the temple had not yet been completed. Although he wanted to assume all the past and future expenses of the construction of the new temple, the Ephesians did not accept his offer.

Then & Now - The Temple of Artemis
Then & Now – The Temple of Artemis

Architectural Features of the New Temple of Artemis

The Hellenistic temple was situated on a podium ascended by a crepis of thirteen steps, and it measured 105 meters in length and 55 meters in width. The columns were 17.65 meters high. The plan of the archaic temple was not changed, and the columns in the front, as in the archaic temple, were ornamented with reliefs. Both Pliny and Vitruvius state that the reliefs on one of the columns were created by the famous sculptor Scopas. It is assumed that the sculptor Praxiteles had worked on the altar of the temple. The altar has a cornered ‘U’ plan and it is located in front of the temple. It has two rows of slim and tall Ionic columns, and at the two corners in the back, there are statues of quadrigas.

Virtual Reconstruction of The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Virtual Reconstruction of The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

On one of the columnae caelatae in the British Museum, there is a relief depicting Akestis who had volunteered to be sacrificed in order to save the life of her husband. The woman in front of Hermes who is depicted naked is Alkestis, and the winged figure is Thanatos (death. In the 5th century B.C., a competition called the “Amazon Statue Competition” was held among the famous sculptors of the time, to choose the statue to be placed in the temple. According to Pliny, the most famous sculptors of antiquity, like Phidias, Polykleitos, Kresilas, and Pharadmon entered the competition. At the end of the competition, the sculptors themselves were asked to choose the best statue. Each sculptor named his creation the best and the Polykleitos statue as the second best. Hence, the statue created by Polykleitos won the competition and was placed in the temple. There are many Roman copies of the statue in museums all over the world. It is still not known definitely which one of these statues is the original one created by Polykleitos.

The Great Artemis and Beautiful Artemis Statues in Ephesus Arhaeological Museum
The Great Artemis and Beautiful Artemis Statues in Ephesus Archaeological Museum

The Temple of Artemis Destroyed Again by Goth Attacks

The temple of Artemis at Ephesus was destroyed for the last time by the attacks of Goths in 125 A.D. Although Christianity was partially spread in the area, The Temple of Artemis was reconstructed but it did not last long. Later, when it was destroyed, most of its architectural elements were used in the construction of the Church of St. John. Upon the orders of Emperor Justinian, some of the architectural elements were used in the construction of Hagia Sophia. Today, there is not much left of the Temple of Artemis indicating its magnificence. The excavations being carried out by Dr. A. Bammer of the Austrian Archaeological Institute, have unearthed very valuable finds which have added new dimensions to archaeology.

FAQ About 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 was double rows and 13 m (40 ft) high, formed 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, temple burned down by Herostratus who was a Greek citizen seeking for notoriety. He set fire to the wooden roof-beams of the temple, attempt to immortalize his name by any cost. Herostratus executed and also condemned by forbidding mention his name under 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 remembred 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

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.

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