The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus is one of the 7 wonders on the well known list. In the preface of my book, it shows a poem by Antipater, one of the only lists from the Classical time period that is still known today:

 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 Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labor 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.”

Antipater, Greek Anthology  IX.58

My book states that it is not known for sure if Antipater actually saw all of them, and definitely not in their prime, as the Colossus was no longer standing when he lived, but the frame might have been still there. But besides that, it is obvious this list is not disinterested. It clearly states Antipater’s favorite wonder, The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

The spot in which this wonder was built was used as a temple before. The first temple, of which worshiped the Lady of Ephesus, was destroyed in a flood, but even though there was the risk of flooding, a second temple started construction almost immediately in the same location.  However, the Lydians and their king Croesus captured Ephesus in 550 B.C.E. Croesus then used his wealth to start construction of a new temple, and the Lady of Ephesus was associated with the Greek goddess Artemis.

The temple was considered a great wonder for two reasons, size and decoration. The dimensions of the temple are varied among ancient sources, but it was about 360 ft. long and 164 ft. wide. That makes it about 3 times the size of the Parthenon. The columns were also large, as they couldn’t be carried by carts. They instead had to be rolled along their sides by oxen just to get to the site. There were 120 of these columns in the temple. One of the people who carved those columns was Scopas, who also carved the east side of The Mausoleum. Besides columns, there were also paintings and sculptures from the best artists and sculptors in the world, such as Phidias, who also made the Statue of Zeus at Olympia. Ancient sources say that the temple took 120 years to construct.

However, the temple stood for only about 75 years before it was destroyed, meaning it took less time to be finished than it did to construct. On July 21 356 B.C.E., a man named Herostratus burned the whole thing for one reason: immortality. And unfortunately for the Ephesians, his plan succeeded, as his name is known to this day. The Ephesians tried their hardest to keep the conflagration a secret so that no one else would be inspired by the arsonist to do the same. The surviving parts were later restored, but it could not match the original. It turns out The Temple of Artemis was also not in its prime when Antipater was alive. All that remains today is one column.

 

Ephesus_temple_of_Artemis

 

By Rita1234 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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One thought on “The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

  1. What an image: that one lonely column…

    Thank you for this interesting history. I learn so much by visiting your blog, Ian!

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