The Temple of Artemis refers to a Greek temple devoted to the Greek Goddess Artemis situated in a marshy basin between Selcuk and Ephesus in Turkey. Also known as Temple of Diana, its first construction dates back to approximately 650 B.C. after which it was demolished and rebuilt several times. Although it was among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, today, you can only see its basic details and sculptural remains of the temple. It is really exciting to know that this wonder was built on the site of previous temples out of which a sanctuary belongs to the Bronze Age. The first temple was the home of a sacred stone, a meteorite that is believed to be fallen from Jupiter.
The Ephesian Artemis
Known as the virginal Goddess of hunt and twin of Apollo, Artemis was respected as an ancient icon who substituted the Titan Selene as the Goddess of the Moon. Her statue was made here from wood holding many breast-like projections from waist to shoulders symbolizing fertility. A most surprising aspect was that her body and legs are surrounded with a narrowing pillar-like structure from where her feet project, which is similar to Egyptian gods and dissimilar to Greek deities.
The many-breasted Goddess was decorated completely in jewelry including a mural crown. On the coins she rests either arm on a force of tangled serpents or of a mound of ouroboroi the eternal serpent. Further, she was served by hierodules (‘hiero’ means holy and ‘doule’ means slave woman) under the guidance of priests and virgins called korai.
An inscription of the 3rd century BC links the goddess with Crete stating To the Healer of diseases, to Apollo, Giver of Light to mortals, Eutyches has set up in votive offering (a statue of) the Cretan Lady of Ephesus, the Light-Bearer.
Recognized as the first edifice to be made completely from marble except for the roof supported by 127 ionic columns, today only a single column stands on the marsh that tells about the vastness of this wonderful temple. I would recommend you to go especially in summer months when the water levels go down and the previous structural remains can be explored better.
The original temple’s explanation is given in detail by Pliny according to whom the temple was full of marble whose cella was within the colonnades of quite tall columns carved ornately. He has given such measurements of the area that it makes it three times larger than that of Parthenon in Athens. The Temple of Artemis was also the home of much superb artworks wherein the sculptures of famous Greek sculptors such as Polyclitus and Pheidias were in the temple along with the paintings and columns of gold and silver.
Many of the sculptors competed for creating the finest art out of which many belong to the Amazons who were the founders of the Ephesus city. Pliny states that Scopas of Paros who was the most famous artist of his times contributed to the Mausoleum of Maussollos also carved reliefs onto the columns here. Further, the statue of the goddess was sculpted by Athenagoras of Athens names Endoeus.
Further Pliny tells us that intentionally, a marshy ground was chosen for erecting the temple to ensure safety during the period of future earthquakes. According to a legend, an artisan once in tension to level the stone was relieved mystically when the goddess in a dream told him not to worry and that this was true when in the morning he found everything all right. Since then, the temple soon was a major attraction drawing not only pilgrims but also merchants, kings, and sightseers who worshipped Artemis by offering jewelry and other items.
The Temple of Artemis was enclosed by priests, priestesses, musicians, dancers, and other entertainers and that it was equipped with its own mounted police. Some stones were taken away to erect a close by mosque and much of the archaeological finds are now seen in the British Museum.