Ancient Temple of Artemis – History, Location, and Exciting Facts
The Temple of Artemis was an impressive worship center at Ephesus (located in modern-day Turkey). Classified as one of the vanished Wonders of the Ancient World, the temple was used to honor and praise Artemis, the Greek goddess in charge of hunting and wild animals.
Also known as the Artemision, the Temple of Artemis’ final construction happened in the 6th century BC. The completion of the temple saw it stand with a massive size that was twice the size of other known Greek temples. At that size the temple even surpassed the Parthenon – a temple in Athenian Acropolis, Greece, which was dedicated to the goddess Athena.
The earlier version of the Artemision was destroyed in the 4th century BC by an arsonist named Herostratus. Existing with a doomed destiny, the iconic temple went through later reconstructions, but the efforts to preserve it couldn’t work forever. The rise of Christianity cast a spell on the Artemision and left it in tatters.
Here is a short history of the Temple of Artemis, it’s location and some exciting facts.
History of the Temple of Artemis
The Artemis Temple served as a religious building for worshipers from different backgrounds, including the Ephesians. The temple was also referred to as the Temple of Diana because, the Roman goddess equivalent of Artemis is Diana.
The composition of the Temple of Artemis included marbles, gold and silver decorations. Thus, it possessed the finest pieces of art that were available at the time.
The Great Temple
Somewhere in 550 BC, Chersiphron (an architect) and Metagenes (Chersiphron’s son) built the new temple in a more stylish way. Made of marble, the colonnades of the temple were increased twofold to make room for a wide passage around the center of the first temple.
Artemis was created a new statue from grape wood. Around east of the Great Temple’s open altar, a mini temple was erected to house the Artemis statue. But who was the financial sponsor of this new and flashy temple? It was Croesus; the rich King of Lydia (in southwest Asia Minor).
Precious items numbering over a thousand were collected from the temple site; this included coins suspected to be alloys of silver and gold (aka electrum). The temple attracted tourists to its location, many of whom were prominent people such as kings & merchants. Some visitors often paid homage to Artemis by way of jewelries.
The Amazons once sought refuge in the Artemis Temple. When the second temple was consumed by fire in 356 BC, it was again reconstructed on several occasions, including during Alexander the Great’s era. But none of the reconstruction efforts could give the temple an everlasting life. Regardless of this, the Temple of Artemis still made its way onto the list of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
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Location of the Temple of Artemis
Geographically, the Artemis Temple was situated in Selçuk, a city that’s about 50 km far from south of Izmir, Turkey. But why is the Artemis Temple said to be at Ephesus? The reason is that, the present-day Selçuk city was established close to the ruins of ancient Ephesus.
Around the third and eight centuries BC, Ephesus existed as a port city on the coastal area of Aegean Sea, close to the mouth of Cayster River. The watery location of the temple made it a flood prone area, resulting in occasional flooding of the temple.
The Cayster River deposited silt around its bay, hence the sea slowly drifted away from the city. In order to allow ships to arrive safely, canals were dug out to connect the city to the drifting sea. When the city was relocated some kilometers away to the south, the temple became more secluded.
Exciting Facts about the Temple of Artemis
To be classified as ancient wonder, the Temple of Artemis has some interesting facts behind its grand design. Here are some of the intriguing truths about the collapsed worship center.
It was a Greek Temple
In fact, this fact may get you to hold your jaws; it’s completely counterintuitive. The Artemis temple is situated in Turkey, but the fact is, it was built to honor a Greek goddess. Turkey only shares borders with Greece, but Artemis is not a Turkish goddess; she is for the ancient Greeks. According to ancient Greek mythology, Zeus (king of the gods) and Leto gave birth to Artemis and her brother, Apollo.
The Temple of Artemis underwent multiple reconstructions
The ancient administrators of the Artemis temple made enormous amount of determination to erect an eternally-lasting temple, but it all ended up in vain. Antagonistic forces (of nature and of humanity) threatened the existence of the religious building.
From the outset of the first foundation of the temple, it was reconstructed up to three times before its final demise around 401 AD.
Flood waters once damaged the iconic temple
Without being too incorrect, one can conclude that the temple was a square peg in a round hole. Due to the marshy area location of the temple, it was not at the right place to withstand floods. Unsurprisingly, in the 7th century or so, a catastrophic flood swept across the temple and caused serious damage to the area.
A notorious arsonist once destroyed the Temple of Artemis
By virtue of its popularity, magnificence and religious essence, the Artemis temple was targeted by evildoers such as Herostratus. While some people taught Herostratus was a madman, he set out to gain posthumous fame by setting the temple ablaze during 356 BC.
The intentional destruction of the temple was met with strong resentment. Ephesians vowed to erode Herostratus’ name from history. Unfortunately, through the pens of writers, the name narrowly escaped and rather entered into history. Today, Herostratus is a popular term for someone who commits crimes for the sake of fame.
The ruins of the fallen Temple of Artemis were rediscovered in 1869
When the temple finally fell and disappeared from public view, the British Museum later sponsored a search party to look for the remnants of the wondrous temple. In 1869, a search team led by John Turtle Wood, finally rediscovered the fallen temple.
From 1904 to 1906, further excavations carried out at the site led to rediscoveries of sculpture fragments. Even as we speak today, if you were to visit the Ephesus room of the British Museum, you would spot the recovered fragments of the beautiful temple.
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