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Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Temple of Artemis at EphesusThe Temple of Artemis (Diana), called Artemision, was reckoned one of the seven wonders of the world. The temple of Diana was the chief glory of the city of Ephesus. Before the discovery in the 19th century of the long-buried site, the Temple of Diana was chiefly known by its reputation as one of the Seven Wonders of the world, and from a few short notices by ancient writers. According to Vitruvius, it was Ionic, dipteral, octastyle, and had a cedar ceiling.

Pliny says that it was of the enormous and improbable size of 425 feet by 220 feet, that it had 127 columns, the gifts of kings. The structure was thus four times as large as the Partheon at Athens. The columns were 66 feet high, and about 6 feet in diameter above the base. Thirty-six of the columns and their pedestals were enriched with sculpture, as were also the antae. It had been destroyed several times before Pliny wrote, particularly by the notorious Herostratus, 356 BC. The temple, however, was rebuilt by the Ephesians with more magnificence than ever, whose women contributed their trinkets to the general fund raised for this purpose.

The temple was of the Ionic order, and was adorned with many pillars, each 60 feet high by one account, and with numerous statues and paintings by the most celebrated Grecian masters. The statue of the goddess was one of the finest works of art ever produced. It was wrought of ivory and gold, and was a marvel of costliness and beauty. The temple was decorated with sculptures by Praxiteles and one of the masterpieces of Apelles.

In many respects this was the most magnificent and celebrated of all Greek temples; the last temple built on the site ranked as one of the seven wonders of the world. The great size of the Artemision was a very important factor in its celebrity. In point of beauty it was far surpassed by earlier Greek temples. Between the seventh century BC and the time of Alexander the Great three successive temples were built on the same site. (1) The original temple built by Theodorus of Samos, probably about 630 B.C. (2) The temple begun by Chersiphron and finished by his son Metagenes about the end of the sixth century BC. This temple was burnt by an incendiary on the night when Alexander the Great was born, in 856 BC. (3) The last temple, built during the reign of Alexander, was designed by his favourite architect, Deinokrates.

There is a tradition that in the early days a wooden statue of a goddess fell from heaven into a thicket, and that vines, twining about it, held it upright; that men found the goddess standing in the thicket, and began to worship her. Some say that the goddess was Artemis, and that the place where she fell was near the coast of Asia Minor, where the river Cayster empties into the sea. Her statue was of wood; upon the head was a mural headdress to represent the wall of a city. The upper part of the body is said to have been entirely covered with breasts, as we see her in the Naples alabaster figures, for she was the mother of all the earth. The lower part of her body terminated in a pillar all carved with the figures of animals, or perhaps wrapped about with an embroidered cloth.

The thicket where the statue fell was transformed into a grove. In the grove was an aged cedar tree, perhaps more venerated than the others about it, and in its great hollow trunk the statue was placed. The hollow cedar tree was the first temple of the goddess. Not far from the grove where the sacred temple tree used to stand, was the Greek city of Ephesus. Its story is long and eventful, for the city, lying by a good harbor at the entrance to Asia Minor, became the center of trade and wealth and culture, and more than that; it was the great religious center of the Orient.

How long the goddess was contented to live in the hollow tree, history does not record. Perhaps the old tree was blown down by the wind, for in the eighth century BC a platform of greenish stones was built about the place where it had stood, and upon the platform were placed her statue and an altar. A stone wall was then built about the platform or sacred Temenos. The fame of the goddess spread, for by the year 650 BC she had outgrown her little shrine, and it was enlarged and placed at a higher level. The wild Cimmerians then overran the country and burned the temple, but at once another temple, larger and on a higher foundation, was built to the goddess. It was of a Greek type, and took the form of a temple in antis, but no evidence of a colonnade was found.

Theodoras advised the laying of a layer of charcoal covered with fleeces in the foundations of the third temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus, begun by him about BC 600. By one account Theodorus's temple was 300 feet in length and 150 feet wide with an area four times the size of the previous temple. At Sparta was a circular edifice which according to Pausanias was said to have been erected by Theodoras, and was reputed to be the oldest known odeion; it was called "skias". Theodorus of Samos, assisted his father Rhoekos and his brother Telekles about BC 580, in the labyrinth at Lemnos; and wrote a treatise on the temple to Rhea, Hera, or Juno at Samos, BC 640-600. This Theodorus is considered to be of a later age than the first Theodorus, for there was perhaps a Theodorus son of Telekles.

The increasing fame of the goddess brought larger numbers of pilgrims. Her gifts increased, and a still greater temple was required, and it was decided that all the people should have a part in building it. Croesus, the wealthiest man of the ancient world, had been told that his riches and power were so great that they might arouse even the jealousy of the gods, and to prevent such a calamity he contributed liberally to the building fund of the new temple, and his name appears on some fragments of the columns as dedicator. It stood in the same place where all of the earlier temples had stood, but at a higher level. Its stone was the white marble from the hills seven miles away.

In the temple were offerings of animals and grains and fruits. Once each year the statues of the goddess were taken about the city. The procession took place on the 25th day of May, the day when the statue of the goddess is said to have fallen from heaven. There were hosts of statues, great and small, of wood and clay and stone and silver and gold.

The temple stood somewhat more than a mile from the city, but connected with it by a great highway 35 feet in width, and paved with marble blocks. Damianus, a wealthy Roman, built along this Via Sacra an arched stone stoa to protect the priests and the statues from the rain and the sun. The procession, with long lines of priests marching to the accompaniment of the weird music, and perhaps with dancing priestesses, and with chariots laden with the statues, entered the city by the Magnesian gate. Before the great theater it halted. The images were carried to the stage where the audience, which might have numbered nearly thirty thousand, could see them.

Pilgrims flocked to Ephesus from all parts of the world, vying with each other in the costliness of their gifts. There were treasures of gold and silver and ivory. Sculptors and artists devoted their best works to the goddess, and among the objects most highly treasured were the statues of the Amazons, which Phidias, Cresilas, Polyclitus, and Phradmon made in competition and a painting of Alexander by Apclles. In time the temple became a great museum, perhaps the first great museum in the world's history.

The more acceptable gifts were of money, and the wealth of the temple became prodigious. To care for the money, there were expert financiers in the priesthood. Vast business enterprises were carried on; large tracts of land were purchased and cultivated; mines were developed; estates were administered; fisheries were controlled; the temple ships traded with all the world. The temple lent money to those who required it, and borrowed it from those who had it to lend, and deposited for safe-keeping treasures of every kind. At one time the temple controlled a great part of the wealth of the Orient.

The temple was also an asylum, a place of refuge for the fugitive or the criminal. Perhaps in the early times the right of asylum was confined to the temple itself. Mithridates enlarged it to the distance of a bow shot from the temple. Mark Antony extended it to include a part of the city, and so the city became a haunt for ciminals of all sorts. Augustus therefore confined the sacred space to within a quarter of a mile of the temple, and surrounded it with a wall, traces of which may still be seen.

The first serious attack upon the Goddess Diana was by St. Paul, who established a Christian church at Ephesus. For a time the Christians were imprisoned and martyred, yet Christianity spread. The trade of the silversmiths began to fall away. The old books of sorcery were burned. The very existence of Diana was threatened, and yet the struggle between Christianity and paganism continued for more than two centuries. In 262 AD the invading Goths destroyed the city and burned the temple. A smaller temple, built on its site, was destroyed by the Christians, and the followers of the goddess were persecuted. Finally, about 350, the Roman emperor commanded that all pagan temples be closed. The Goddess Diana, who had ruled supreme, for 1500 years, was dead, and few were left to mourn her.

Slowly the little that was left of Ephesus fell to ruins with the help of earthquakes. The stones of the temple were used in the construction of a Christian church. A tradition says that some of the great columns supporting the dome of St. Sophia in Constantinople were taken from the temple. The river, overflowing its banks, transformed the temple site into a malarial swamp. The city soon became a haunt for the Greek pirates who plied their trade along the coast.

The ruins have long been overgrown with shrubbery, and their only inhabitants are a few miserable peasants. In the year 1863, Mr. J. T. Wood, representing the British Museum, obtained permission to search for the lost temple of Diana. There were ruins in abundance, but not a trace of the temple. For six long years he searched. Finally there appeared an inscription on the theater wall saying that the sacred processions came from the temple to the city by the Magnesian gate, and returned by the Coressian gate. He identified the gates, and from the Magnesian gate he followed the marble paving of the sacred way, later buried deep beneath the fields. It led him to a swamp a mile away, and there on December 29, 1869, 20 feet beneath the surface of the swamp, he found all that was left of the temple. Only its foundation and a few scattered stones remained.

The work of excavation was continued until 1874. In his excavations he found that the building measured about 343 feet by 164. and stood on a raised platform measuring 418 feet by 239. Important excavations have since been carried out here, and the theatre, important buildings connected with the gymnasium, and a splendid semicircular marble portico round the east side of the harbor have thus been disclosed.

For fifteen years from 1894 the Austrian Archaeological Society conducted excavations in the city with valuable results. Of more importance to our story are the excavations by D. G. T. Hogarth for the British Museum, which owned the site. For six months in 1904, he labored at the old temple site. Down beneath the foundation of the temple, which Wood had discovered, he found foundation stones of the Croesus temple, and beneath them were traces of three smaller temples of still earlier dates. Wood discovered the remains of three distinct temples at Ephesus, the last but two, the last but one, and the last. The former was probably built 500 BC, for which the foundation described by Pliny, Vitruvius, and Diogenes Laertius, was laid. He found that under the walls of the cella a layer of charcoal 4 ins. thick was placed between two layers of a composition about 3 ins. thick, similar to, and of the consistency of glazier's putty.

Thus the ruins repeat the long-lost story of the temple, which, because it was great and beautiful and rich; because it was a place of refuge, a museum, a bank; because it was revered more widely than any other, was one of the seven wonders of the world.

Temple of Artemis Parthenon U.S. Supreme Court

Temple of Artemis Parthenon U.S. Supreme Court

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Page last modified: 29-09-2012 18:38:01 ZULU