top of page
  • Writer's pictureTurkey Tour Agency by Megale Travel

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Temple of Artemis: Unraveling the Ancient Marvel

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus - Tours For Ephesus
Temple of Artemis - Tours For Ephesus

The Temple of Artemis, also known as Artemision or the Temple of Diana, stood as a remarkable testament to the ancient world's architectural prowess and religious devotion. Dedicated to the goddess Artemis, it represented a local form of the deity, later identified with the Roman goddess Diana. Located in Ephesus, near the modern town of Selçuk in Turkey, the temple's grandeur was unrivaled until its demise in the 4th century AD. In this article, we delve into the history, destruction, and lasting legacy of this extraordinary structure.

Timeline, and map of the Seven Wonders. Dates in bold green and dark red are of their construction and destruction, respectively.


The Early Origins and Destruction

The origins of the Temple of Artemis trace back to the Bronze Age temenos, pre-dating the Ionic immigration by several years. Legend attributes its construction to the Amazons, as described by Callimachus in his Hymn to Artemis. However, during the 7th century BC, disaster struck when a devastating flood ravaged the temple, leading to its destruction.

A Magnificent Reconstruction

Undeterred by the calamity, the reconstruction of the temple commenced around 550 BC, under the skilled hands of Chersiphron, a renowned Cretan architect, and his son Metagenes. This time, the project received substantial funding from Croesus of Lydia, one of the wealthiest rulers of the time. Over the course of a decade, the temple took shape in a more grandiose form, a testament to the devotion and architectural brilliance of its builders.

The Fiery Demise

Despite its resplendent revival, the temple's fate took a tragic turn in 356 BC when an arsonist set it ablaze, reducing it to ruins once more. This devastating event marked the end of the second iteration of the temple, shattering the dreams of those who admired its magnificence.

Temple of Artemis - Tours For Ephesus
Temple of Artemis - Tours For Ephesus

Have specific questions or requests? Speak directly with our knowledgeable experts at Turkey Tour Agency by clicking here.

The Greatest and Last Incarnation

Refusing to let their beloved temple fade into obscurity, the Ephesians rallied together to fund the creation of the next and final version of the Temple of Artemis. This incarnation, described by Antipater of Sidon in his list of the world's Seven Wonders, surpassed all previous iterations in splendor and grandeur.

Antipater's account speaks volumes about the awe-inspiring nature of the temple: "I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the

Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labor of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, 'Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.'"

The Legacy and Influence

The Temple of Artemis stood as a testament to human ingenuity and devotion for centuries. Its grandeur and architectural marvel drew visitors from far and wide, leaving them in awe of its beauty. The temple also played a significant role in the promotion and spread of the cult of Artemis, leaving an indelible mark on religious practices of the time.

The Renaissance Era -Tours For Ephesus
The Renaissance Era -Tours For Ephesus

Don't miss out on an extraordinary experience at the The Temple of Artemis. Get in touch with Turkey Tour Agency today and let our guides create a memorable journey for you.


Unveiling the Mysteries: The Sacred Site and History of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The Temple of Artemis, also known as Artemision, was situated near the ancient city of Ephesus, approximately 75 kilometers (47 miles) south of the modern port city of İzmir, in present-day Turkey. The site of the temple now lies on the edge of the modern town of Selçuk.

The history of the sacred site (temenos) at Ephesus predates the construction of the Temple of Artemis itself.

According to accounts by Pausanias, the temenos existed even before the arrival of the Ionian immigrants and was older than the oracular shrine of Apollo at Didyma. Pausanias mentions that the pre-Ionic inhabitants of Ephesus were the Leleges and Lydians. Callimachus, in his Hymn to Artemis, attributes the earliest temenos at Ephesus to the Amazons, legendary warrior-women who were devoted to Artemis as their matron goddess. Pausanias, however, believes that the temple pre-dated the Amazons.

David George Hogarth
David George Hogarth

Excavations of the site, carried out by David George Hogarth before World War I, suggested the existence of three successive temple buildings. Re-excavations in 1987-88 and a re-appraisal of Hogarth's findings confirmed that the site was occupied as early as the Bronze Age.

Pottery finds extended to Middle Geometric times, and in the second half of the 8th century BC, a peripteral temple with a floor of hard-packed clay was constructed, making it one of the earliest examples of this type of Greek temple in Asia Minor.

Unfortunately, in the 7th century BC, a devastating flood struck the area, leading to the destruction of the temple. The flood deposited over half a meter of sand and flotsam over the original clay floor. Among the flood debris were the remnants of a carved ivory plaque depicting a griffin and the Tree of Life, which were likely part of a wooden effigy (xoanon) of the Lady of Ephesus. The effigy must have been either destroyed or recovered from the flood.

Despite the site's vulnerability to flooding and various challenges over the centuries, it remained in use, emphasizing the importance of preserving the sacred location's identity for the religious community. The rich history and antiquity of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus continue to captivate archaeologists and historians, making it an enduring wonder of the ancient world.

After The Devastating The Temple of Artemis

The Lydian King Croesus - Tours For Ephesus
The Lydian King Croesus - Tours For Ephesus

After the devastating flood in the 7th century BC, the temple was rebuilt to its former grandeur. The new temple, sponsored in part by the Lydian king Croesus, was an architectural marvel. Designed and constructed around 550 BC by the Cretan architect Chersiphron and his son Metagenes, it was an impressive structure measuring 115 meters (377 feet) in length and 46 meters (151 feet) in width. Notably, this version of the temple was the first Greek temple built entirely of marble.

The temple featured a peripteral design with 127 grand columns, each about 13 meters (40 feet) in height, arranged in double rows that created a ceremonial passage around the cella, the inner chamber housing the goddess's cult image. Pliny the Elder described how 36 of these columns were adorned with intricate carvings in relief, adding to the temple's grandeur.

Inside the temple, a remarkable ebony or blackened grapewood cult statue sculpted by Endoios stood, and an exquisite naiskos was built east of the open-air altar to house it. The Temple of Artemis became a renowned attraction, drawing visitors, merchants, and kings from distant lands who came to pay homage to the goddess, often offering precious jewelry and various goods.

The temple also served as a sanctuary for those seeking protection from persecution or punishment, with a tradition linked to the legendary Amazons who sought the goddess's refuge from both Dionysus and Heracles.

In 356 BC, tragedy struck again when the temple was ravaged by fire in an act of arson by a man named Herostratus, driven by a desire for fame at any cost. The Ephesians were deeply outraged by this sacrilegious act and sentenced Herostratus to death, forbidding the mention of his name. The destruction of the temple coincided with the birth of Alexander the Great, and some saw it as a sign of Artemis's preoccupation with the significant event.

Statue of Alexander the Great, whose fame popularized the name's use throughout Europe and Asia
Statue of Alexander the Great, whose fame popularized the name's use throughout Europe and Asia

Following this calamity, the Ephesians respectfully declined Alexander's offer to finance the temple's reconstruction, as it was deemed improper for one god to build a temple for another. Instead, they rebuilt it themselves after Alexander's passing, and the third version of the temple was even larger than the previous ones. The reconstruction, which began in 323 BC, lasted for many years.

Throughout its existence, the Temple of Artemis was a symbol of religious and cultural identity for the Ephesians. The annual Artemision festival attracted numerous visitors and was celebrated as one of the most magnificent religious festivals in Ephesus' liturgical calendar. The temple's prestige and prosperity remained intact despite the challenges it faced over the centuries.

In later years, the temple faced various periods of decline and destruction, and eventually, its identity as the Temple of Artemis faded away with the rise of Christianity. Today, only ruins and fragments of the once-great temple remain, standing as a testament to the ingenuity and devotion of the ancient world. The site continues to be an archaeological marvel, preserving the memory of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World for future generations to appreciate and learn from.

The foundation deposit of the Temple of Artemis, also known as the "Artemision deposit," was a

The earliest known inscribed coinage, from the foundation deposit of the Temple of Artemis
The earliest known inscribed coinage, from the foundation deposit of the Temple of Artemis

rich collection of items from the 7th century BC, discovered during excavations at the site of the temple in Ephesus. This deposit contained over a thousand objects, including what are believed to be some of the earliest inscribed coins ever found.

Among the artifacts in the deposit were coins made from electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. One of the most notable coins from this deposit was an electrum coin of Phanes, dating back to 625-600 BC. On one side of the coin, there was an image of a stag grazing to the right. On the other side, there were two incuse punches, each with raised intersecting lines. The coin bore the legend ΦΑΕΝΟΣ ΕΜΙ ΣΗΜΑ (or similar variations), which can be translated as "I am the badge of Phanes."

This discovery was significant as it provided valuable insights into the early use of coins in trade and commerce. The coins served as a mark of authenticity and were likely used as a form of currency during that period.

The Temple of Artemis was not only a religious center but also an important attraction for visitors from various parts of the ancient world. Merchants, kings, and sightseers visited the temple, offering homage to the goddess Artemis in the form of jewelry and various goods.

The temple also had a tradition of providing sanctuary to those seeking refuge from persecution or punishment. This tradition was linked to the myth of the Amazons, legendary warrior-women who sought the protection of Artemis from the wrath of Dionysus and later Heracles.

Even philosophers were not immune to the allure of the temple. Diogenes Laertius, a Greek biographer and philosopher, mentioned that Heraclitus, a philosopher known for his misanthropic views, played knucklebones with the boys in the temple and later deposited his writings there.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was a place of religious significance, cultural prominence, and historical importance. It attracted people from all walks of life, leaving a lasting impact on the ancient world and continuing to captivate the interest of archaeologists and historians to this day.

Destruction of Temple of Artemis

Herostratus Ἡρόστρατος - Tours For Ephesus
Herostratus Ἡρόστρατος - Tours For Ephesus

The destruction of the Temple of Artemis occurred in 356 BC, when the temple burned down in a devastating fire. According to various historical sources, the fire was set by a man named Herostratus, who sought fame at any cost. He reportedly set fire to the wooden roof-beams of the temple, resulting in its destruction. The act of seeking fame through infamous deeds is now known as "herostratic fame," named after Herostratus.

The Ephesians were outraged by this act of arson and sentenced Herostratus to death. In an attempt to prevent him from gaining the notoriety he desired, they also forbade anyone from mentioning his name. However, Theopompus, a historian, later recorded the event, preserving Herostratus' name in historical records.

Interestingly, the temple's destruction coincided with the birth of Alexander the Great, who would go on to become one of the most famous figures in history. Plutarch, a Greek historian and biographer, noted that Artemis, the goddess of the temple, was preoccupied with Alexander's delivery and did not intervene to save her burning temple.

In modern scholarship, there have been questions and speculations about the true motives behind the temple's destruction and Herostratus' role in it. Some researchers have pointed out that setting fire to the temple would have required access to the wooden roof framing, suggesting the possibility of assistance from others. Dieter Knibbe and Stefan Karweise have proposed alternative theories, such as the involvement of temple guards or administrators aware of the temple's structural issues.

Dieter Knibbe even considers Herostratus to be a "useful idiot" manipulated by the temple's priesthood for their own purposes. The true cause and motivation behind the fire remain a subject of debate among historians and scholars to this day.

Despite the temple's destruction, its sacred location remained significant throughout successive rebuildings, despite challenges such as flooding and foundation issues. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus remains one of the most iconic and historically significant ancient structures, capturing the fascination of people and scholars throughout the ages.

After The Destruction of the Temple of Artemis

After the destruction of the Temple of Artemis by fire in 356 BC, Alexander the Great offered to fund the temple's reconstruction. However, the Ephesians politely declined his offer, stating that it would be inappropriate for one god to build a temple for another. Instead, they undertook the rebuilding themselves, starting in 323 BC. The third temple was larger than the previous one, measuring 137 meters (450 feet) in length, 69 meters (225 feet) in width, and 18 meters (60 feet) in height, featuring over 127 columns. Athenagoras of Athens attributed the main cult image of Artemis to the sculptor Endoeus, a pupil of Daedalus.

The reconstructed temple stood for about 600 years and became an important religious and cultural center. Early Christian accounts of Ephesus mention the temple, with the presence of Christian missionaries causing fear among the locals for the temple's dishonor. The Acts of John, an apocryphal text, includes a tale of the temple's destruction, attributed to Apostle John's prayers and exorcism.

In 268 AD, a raid by the Goths led to the temple's destruction and the devastation of many other cities. The extent of the damage is uncertain, but the temple may have fallen into disrepair and eventually closed during the late Roman Empire's persecution of pagans. The temple's official closure is believed to have occurred as early as 407 CE or no later than the mid-5th century. After the city of Ephesus became Christian, inscriptions mentioning Artemis were erased.

Cyril of Alexandria credited Archbishop John Chrysostom with the temple's destruction, calling him the "destroyer of the demons and overthrower of the temple of Diana." Later, Archbishop Proclus mentioned John's achievements, but there is limited evidence to support this claim.

Some of the stone from the abandoned temple may have been used in the construction of other buildings. However, the legend that some columns in the Hagia Sophia were taken from the Temple of Artemis is not true.

The main primary sources for information about the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus are Pliny the Elder's Natural History, Pomponius Mela, and Plutarch's Life of Alexander.

Rediscovery of the temple

The location of the Temple of Artemis was rediscovered in 1869, following a six-year expedition led by John Turtle Wood and sponsored by the British Museum. The search for the ancient temple had been ongoing for several years until the expedition finally succeeded. The excavations at the site continued until 1874. During the 1904-1906 excavations directed by David George Hogarth, a few more fragments of sculpture were unearthed.

Among the findings were sculptured fragments from the 4th-century rebuilding of the temple and some remnants from the earlier temple, which had been used in the rubble fill for the reconstruction. These recovered fragments were assembled and exhibited in the "Ephesus Room" of the British Museum, where visitors could see and learn about the historical significance of the temple.

Additionally, the British Museum houses part of what is possibly the oldest pot-hoard of coins in the world, dating back to 600 BC. These coins had been buried in the foundations of the Archaic temple as a deposit or offering.

Today, the site of the Temple of Artemis, situated just outside Selçuk in Turkey, is marked by a single column constructed from the dissociated fragments that were discovered during the excavations. This column stands as a testament to the once-great temple that was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Enigmatic Cult of Ephesian Artemis: Power, Prestige, and Prosperity

The archaic temenos (sacred precinct) beneath the later temples in Ephesus housed a form of the "Great Goddess," but not much is known about her cult. Literary accounts referring to the temple as "Amazonian" are related to later founder-myths created by Greek emigrants who developed the cult and temple of Artemis Ephesia.

The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was known for its wealth and splendor, which was seen as evidence of Artemis Ephesia's power. This prestige contributed to her local and international significance, and despite the destruction of the temple in successive events, each rebuilding was considered a gift and honor to the goddess, leading to further prosperity for the city.

While shrines, temples, and festivals dedicated to Artemis could be found throughout the Greek world, Ephesian Artemis was considered unique to the Ephesians, and they resented any foreign claims to her protection. When Persia replaced their Lydian overlord Croesus, the Ephesians played down his contribution to the temple's restoration, as they considered Artemis Ephesia to be primarily their deity.

The Persians, although generally fair in their dealings with Ephesus, did remove some religious artifacts from the temple and brought Persian priests into her cult, which the Ephesians did not forgive.

When Alexander the Great conquered the Persians, he offered to finance the second rebuilding of the temple, but the Ephesians politely declined. They saw it as inappropriate for a god (Alexander) to dedicate offerings to another god (Artemis). This refusal demonstrated the powerful religious edge of Ephesian diplomacy, supported by their devotion to the goddess.

Under Hellenic and Roman rule, the Artemisia festival in Ephesus gained prominence as a key element in the pan-Hellenic festival circuit. It became an essential part of the region's economic life and cultural identity. The festival provided an opportunity for young, unmarried Greeks of both genders to seek potential marriage partners.

Various games, contests, and theatrical performances were held in honor of the goddess during the festival, attracting large crowds. The festival also received support from Roman emperors like Commodus, who lent their names and possibly sponsorship to the games.

Ephesian Artemis: Unraveling the Mystique of the Greek Goddess

Traditional many-breasted interpretation in a 16th-century fountain of Diana Efesina,
Traditional many-breasted interpretation in a 16th-century fountain of Diana Efesina,

In Greek mythology, Ephesian Artemis emerges as a unique manifestation of the revered goddess Artemis. Twin sister to Apollo, Artemis is celebrated as a virgin deity associated with the hunt, wilderness, and the moon. Despite her divine role in childbirth, she is renowned for her unwavering chastity. In the city of Ephesus, the Greeks venerated a goddess closely linked to Artemis through an ancient, pre-Hellenic wooden cult image, which they cherished and adorned with precious jewelry.

The Near-Eastern and Egyptian Influences

Interestingly, the depiction of Ephesian Artemis bears a striking resemblance to Near-Eastern and Egyptian deities rather than the typical Greek representations. Enclosed within a tapering, pillar-like structure, the goddess reveals only her feet to the world. On Ephesus' minted coins, she dons a mural crown, symbolizing her role as a city protector, akin to Cybele's polos.

Unraveling the Symbolism: The Controversial Many-Breasted Interpretation

One of the most controversial aspects of the Ephesian Artemis statue is the oval objects covering her upper body, leading to various interpretations. Traditionally, these objects were thought to represent multiple breasts, signifying fertility, and she was referred to as "Diana Efesia Multimammia." However, modern scholarship has challenged this view, asserting that these ovals may not depict any part of the goddess's anatomy. Instead, they could have been ceremonial decorations, such as eggs or the scrotal sacs of sacrificed bulls, incorporated as carved features on later copies.

A groundbreaking discovery during archaeological excavations in 1987-1988 adds to this intrigue. Oval-shaped amber drops with elliptical cross-sections and drill holes for hanging were found, suggesting that the "breasts" could have been inspired by these ancient pieces of jewelry, developed during the Geometric Period.

The Enigmatic Attributes and Attendants

On Ephesian coins, Artemis can be seen resting her arms on a staff, formed either by entwined serpents or a stack of ouroboroi—the eternal serpent consuming its tail. Historical accounts mention her attendants as "Megabyzoi," assisted by young, virgin girls known as "korai." The unique practice of ritual self-emasculation as a qualification to serve the goddess was akin to the Galli, the eunuch mendicant priests of Cybele.

Ephesian Artemis and Her Connection to Crete

An inscription dating back to the 3rd century BC associates Ephesian Artemis with Crete, indicating that she was known as the "Healer of diseases" and linked to Apollo, the Light-Bearer. The ancient Greeks often assimilated foreign gods into their pantheon, and while the identification of the "Lady of Ephesus" with Artemis was not robust, later Greeks and Romans associated her with both Artemis and Diana, even drawing connections to the goddess Isis.

The Clash of Beliefs: Christian Perspective

The advent of Christianity introduced a stark contrast to the syncretistic approach of pagan worship. A Christian inscription found at Ephesus speaks of the demolition of the Artemis image as a deceptive demon, replaced with symbols of truth and the victorious sign of Christ. The Ephesians' origin myth that their cult image descended from the sky, mentioned in Acts 19:35, is unique to their city and showcases the distinctiveness of their beliefs.

The Enduring Legacy of Ephesian Artemis

Modern scholars find themselves entangled in deciphering the origins and iconology of Ephesian Artemis. They strive to construct a comprehensive account of her character, drawing evidence from a vast span of history. However, to her ancient adherents, the essence of Ephesian Artemis was imbued with mystique and enigma, transcending time and resisting a singular interpretation.

In conclusion, the worship of Ephesian Artemis stands as a testament to the complexity of ancient beliefs and the richness of Greek mythology. Her image, veiled in symbolic significance, continues to captivate historians and archeologists, serving as a window into the multifaceted tapestry of ancient religious practices.


For more information or booking, contact Tours For Ephesus at:

Tours For Ephesus

Address: Camikebir Mahallesi İnönü Bulv. Nuri Bilgin Apt No:68 Ic Kapi No:206 Kusadasi / Aydin

Phone: +90 (543) 565 6799

40 views0 comments


bottom of page