Artemision Turkey


One of The Seven Wonders of the World...

– I know people like you, he said to me. Herostratus is an example.
In an attempt to immortalize his name, he burnt down the temple in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
– Well, what was the name of the temple's architect?
– I don't remember, he confessed. I even do not suppose his name is known.
– Really? But you remember the name of Herostratus. You see, he might not have miscalculated his actions…

Jean-Paul Sartre, "Erostratus", Le Mur

Artemision: The quiet and the peace in the night of 20th July in year 356 BC shattered with the screams of the night watch team first, which combined with those of the priests and nuns shortly and finally cries of thousands added to the chaos. The home of their Lady was on fire, bursts of flames illuminated the night creating scary scenes. All the men and women in the city, even children engaged in putting the fire off all night long. They built lines to pass buckets of water hand by hand from the nearby Cayster River and any water source they could find. Their efforts lost in vain. The sight of the damage under the first light of the morning was devastating.

The criminal was immediately under custody where he confessed he was seeking immortality by setting the temple on fire. He was executed in a couple of days and the Ephesians started rising a new temple right away.

The cult of Artemis Ephesia which got its roots from the earlier Mother Goddess Kybele worship of Anatolia had become the most powerful and effective cult in the world. The Goddess Artemis revered here was no different than the former Mother Goddess of Anatolia, also known as Kybele and Kubaba who was adopted to Rome under the name Magna Mater ("Great Mother"). Although the peripteros shrine that was unearthed in the excavations could be the first colonnaded temple in the world which was dated to the second half of the 8th century BC or the beginning of 7th century BC, it is verified that the sacred site of Mother Goddess which housed a series of shrines in the history had been initiated in the Bronze age.

The marble dipteral building that replaced the earlier peripteral one was a milestone in temple architecture and was allegedly set on fire by Herostratus. The temple was either under construction when Lydian King Croesus incorporated the region into his kingdom in 6th century BC or was built completely by his orders. In any case, his gift to the temple, the column bases decorated with reliefs are in the British Museum today.

Artemision was home to the goddess and people used to leave their valuables to her for protection. As a result, an immense amount of treasure piled up at the temple and priests began lending money to merchants with high interests, making the Temple of Artemis the first bank in Asia. It makes one wonder; the priests might be responsible for the fire that was inflicted on Herostratus because it provided a perfect excuse for the disappearance of the treasury. To maintain people's loyalty to the goddess and the temple, the tradition stated later that Alexander the Great was born in Pella on that same night, July 20, 356 and Artemis was busy attending to Alexander’s birth, thus she failed to protect her temple. Regardless of the cause, the new house of Artemis erected after the fire was crowned as one of the Seven Wonders of the World in the list of Antipater of Sidon.

The temple was not finished yet when Alexander the Great arrived the city in 334 BC. Obviously, he was impressed with what he saw and offered Ephesus immunity from the past and future taxes in return of his name be mentioned in the temple inscription. However, Ephesians did not want his name on the temple and turned him down politely saying that it would not be proper for a god to build a home for another god.

The temple was devastated twice in the 3rd century, once by the earthquake and then by the raids of the Goth invaders. It was repaired partially and was used until the end of the 4th century before it was completely destroyed. The colossal marble blocks were used to erect the nearby Basilica of St John at a further walking distance.

J.T. Wood who had discovered the remains of the temple in 1869 after six years of research, was amazed when he saw that a masterpiece like this had been built on such an unnoticeable flat ground. By then it was not known that the location of the temple was a former sacred site of the Mother Goddess, therefore it was related to the Ionic order of the temple which reveals itself better due its light and slender structure in the flatlands despite the Doric order.

By the way, the architect of the subsequent Artemision which was supposedly set on fire by Herostratus was perhaps Cheirokrates, as Strabo has it, or Deinokrates according to Vitruvius and the Archaic 6th century BC Artemision was built by Chersiphron and his son Metagenes.