Temple of Artemis
Antipatros of Sidon, 2nd century A.D
Artemis Temple, the paramount beauty and splendour that is mentioned by Antipatros of Sidon, is the first marble temple of the ancient ages. It is the first example of monumental buildings of the ancient era. Commissioned by the rich Lydian King Croesus in honour of the goddes, Artemis, the temple was built by the most important architects of its time and was embellished with the bronze statues made by the most famous sculptors. It took 120 years to build the 130 m x 68 m structure and around 356 BC, Herostratur, a fame seeking lunatic, set fire to it. The arson took place on the very day that the Great Alexander was celebrating his birthday and he offered financial help to rebuild the temple, but the Ephesians declined the gesture. It was only after Alexander’s death in 323 BC, that they started the restoration work. There is detailed information on the architecture of the temple, which happens to be one of the seven wonders of the world, in Plinius’ (23-79 AD) book, Naturalis Historia.
Artemis Temple kept its distinguished place all through Hellenistic and Roman periods, hosting visitors from all around the world on its vast lands and also functioning as an international bank. It’s status as a financial center became the reason for the invasion of the Goths in 623 AD, who pillaged and burnt it down, however, the temple’s actual destruction was after 400 AD, when its marble blocks were looted to be used in Christian churches.
Artemis is the chief goddess of Ephesus and played a major role in the fame of the city. The rites for Artemis has reflections from Eastern religions, therefore spoke to the Anatolian population like no other god. She embodies characteristics of multiple gods and that is the reason why pagan cultures of the time embraced her. Ancient pagans believed Artemis to be the continuation of Hittite Kubaba and Phrygian Kybele.
It is not very clear how the mother goddess of Anatolia, Kybele, came to Ephesus to start the cult of Artemis, however, the concensus among historians is that Kybele had transformed into Artemis over time, phase by phase.
Artemis figure looks more like the Egyptian and near-east gods than the Greek ones, her body is covered with a column-like structure that narrows towards the feet, leaving them out.
The temple was first discovered by J.T Wood in 1869 to be followed by excavations in 1904/05 by D.G Hogarth and A. Henderson from British Museum, then, A. Bammer from Austrian Archeology Institute discovered the oldest sacred building in 1965. Most of the finds during the British Museum excavation were smuggled to Britain and some were used in the construction of St. Jean Chruch and Hagia Sophia Mosque. The temple is still exibited in the British Museum, whereas on its original location, only two columns were left standing, both of which, now, home to storks. What was once one of the most magnificent, breathtaking holy temples is now a somewhat woeful, lonely sight.