Ephesus was the greatest Temple City in Asia Minor. It was dedicated to the Great Goddess Artemis Diana. This Temple was the last of the
Great Goddess Temples to remain open and was the site of Goddess worship well into the christian era.
When the Greeks first arrive under the leadership of
Androklos, Kybele (Rhea) was the major deity in all of Anatolia (the Asian part of Turkey). The Greeks introduced the worship of Artemis. Artemis and Kybele eventually became the same goddess. The Ephesus Goddess Artemis, sometimes called Diana, is not the same figure as the Artemis worshipped in Greece. The Greek Artemis is the goddess of the hunt. The Ephesus Artemis was a goddess of fertility and was often pictured as draped with eggs, or multiple breasts, symbols of fertility, from her waist to her shoulders.
||According to the famous historian
Strabon, the Temple of Artemis was built and destroyed seven times. The first shrine to the Goddess Artemis was probably built around 800 B.C. on a marshy strip near the river at Ephesus. It was always rebuilt on the same site. Some of the different architects were Theodoros from
Samos, Chersiphon and his son Metagenes from Knossos of Crete, and
The temple was located in the Greek city, Ephesus, which is now part of the west coast of Turkey, today. The temple foundations date back to the 7th century BC. At first, it was a small shrine to Kybele. In around 550 BC Cretan Chersiphron, a Greek architect, designed the final temple. This initial building was sponsored by the Lydian king Croesus.
Built on the River Selinus, the building was made completely of marble except for a tile-covered wooden roof. It had 127 (some sources say 117 or 128) columns that were 20 meters high with Ionic capitals. One source says that the dimensions were 55 x 115 meters; another says the temple was 80 x 130 meters. Marble steps surrounded the temple leading to a terrace. The temple was decorated with bronze statues and other art works created by Pheidias, Polycleitus, Kresilas, Phradmon, and Praxiteles.
On July 21, 356 BCE Herostratus burned the temple to the ground. Interestingly, Alexander the Great was born on this same night. The Roman historian Plutarch wrote that Artemis was "too busy taking care of the birth of Alexander to send help to her threatened temple".
The temple was rebuilt and restored by another architect Dinocrates, who kept almost the same proportions. Supposedly, this temple lasted anywhere from 120 to 220 years. In 262 BC, the temple was finally destroyed by a Gothic fleet. By the time the great Temple of Artemis was destroyed during a raid by the Goths in 262 A.D., both the city and the religion of Artemis were in decline. When the Roman Emperor Constantine rebuilt much of Ephesus a century later, he declined to restore the temple. He had become a Christian and had little interest in pagan temples.
Today the site of the temple is a marshy field. A single column is erect to remind visitors that once there stood in that place one of the wonders of the ancient world.