Apr
26
2009

What was the Temple of Artemis?

Temple of Artemis - courtesy heydrienne - CC-BY

Temple of Artemis - courtesy heydrienne - CC-BY

One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis, also known as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis and completed in 550 BC at Ephesus. Only foundations, which are in a rather swampy hole, and some sculptural fragments remains from the temple. Artemis was a Greek goddess, the virginal huntress and fraternal twin of Apollo.

Antipater of Siden was the compiler of the ancient Seven Wonders list, and he said of the temple, “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 labour 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.”

Pliny describes the temple as 377 feet (115 meters) long and 180 feet (55 meters) wide, made almost entirely of marble, making its area about three times as large as the Parthenon. The temple’s cella was enclosed in colonnades of 127 Ionic columns, each 60 feet (18 meters) in height.

On July 21, 356 BC, the night that Alexander the Great was born, legend has it that a psychopathic arsonist wanting his own form of immortality set fire to the temple. Plutarch remarked that Artemis was too preoccupied with Alexander’s delivery to save her burning temple. “A man was found to plan the burning of the temple of Ephesian Diana so that through the destruction of this most beautiful building his name might be spread through the whole world.” – Valerius Maximus

Today, in the swampy basin between Selcuk and Ephesus in Turkey are the pitiful remains of that Wonder of the Ancient World.

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