Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis was located near the ancient city of Ephesus, about 75 km south from the modern port city of İzmir, in Turkey. Today the site lies on the edge of the modern town of Selcuk.
The sacred site at Ephesus was far older than the Artemision itself. Pausanias was certain that it antedated the Ionic immigration by many years, being older even than the oracular shrine of Apollo at Didyma. He said that the pre-Ionic inhabitants of the city were Leleges and Lydians. Callimachus, in his Hymn to Artemis attributed the earliest temple at Ephesus to the Amazons, whose worship he imagines already centered upon an image of Artemis, their matron goddess. She would look like the Great Mother Cybele.
|Artemis: Goddess of the Moon and Hunt|
The archaic shrine beneath the later Temples clearly housed some form of "Great Goddess" but nothing is known of her cult. The literary accounts that describe it as "Amazonian" refer to the later founder-myths of Amazons who developed the cult and temple of Artemis Ephesia. The wealth and splendor of temple and city were taken as evidence of Artemis Ephesia's power, and were the basis for her local and international prestige: despite the successive traumas of Temple destruction, each rebuilding – a gift and honor to the goddess – brought further prosperity.
Construction of the Great TempleShortly after the fire, a new temple was commissioned. The architect was Scopas of Paros, one of the most famous sculptors of his day. By this point Ephesus was one of the greatest cities in Asia Minor and no expense was spared in the reconstruction. According to Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian, the new temple was a "wonderful monument of Grecian magnificence, and one that merits our genuine admiration."
The temple was built in the same wet location as before. To prepare the ground, Pliny recorded that "layers of trodden charcoal were placed beneath, with fleeces covered with wool upon the top of them." Pliny also noted that one of the reasons the builders kept the temple on its original marshy location was that they reasoned it would help protect the structure from the earthquakes which plagued the region.
|Amazons: Founder of Ephesus|
The great temple is thought to be the first building completely constructed with marble. Like its predecessor, the temple had 36 columns whose lower portions were carved with figures in high-relief. The temple also housed many works of art including four bronze statues of Amazon women. The Amazons, according to myth, took refuge at Ephesus from Heracles, the Greek demigod, and founded the city.
Under Hellenic rule, and later, under Roman rule, the Ephesian Artemisia festival was increasingly promoted as a key element in the Pan-Hellenic festival circuit. It was part of a definitively Greek political and cultural identity, essential to the economic life of the region, and an excellent opportunity for young, unmarried Greeks of both sexes to seek out marriage partners. Games, contests and theatrical performances were held in the goddess' name, and Pliny describes her procession as a magnificent crowd-puller; it was shown in one of Apelles' best paintings, which depicted the goddess' image carried through the streets and surrounded by maidens. In the Roman Imperial era, the emperor Commodus lent his name to the festival games, and might have sponsored them.
Christianity Brings an End to Artemis Worship
St. Paul came to the city to win converts to the then new religion of Christianity. He was so successful that Demetrius feared the people would turn away from Artemis and he would lose his livelihood. He called others of his trade together with him and gave a rousing speech ending with "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" They then seized two of Paul's companions and a near riot followed during a meeting at the city theater. Eventually, however, the city was quieted, the men released and Paul left for Macedonia.