Temple of Artemis

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The Artemis Temple was one of the seven wonders of the Ancient world. Artemis of Ephesus was a goddess of fertility who was depicted with eggs or multiple breasts. She is different from the Greek goddess of the hunt. She is depicted as a multi-faceted figure with a temple crown on her head and a crescent moon on her brow. She was the protector of the city and people who came to Ephesus would see her temple before anything else.

The temple was destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout history. It was first constructed around 800 BC on marshy land near the Kayster River to help prevent earthquake damage. That temple was destroyed by the Cimmerians. The temple was restored in 600 BC, but was badly damaged during the continual invasions and the wars with the cities in Asia Minor. The temple may have also fallen victim to a flood.

When Alexander the Great passed through Ephesus he learned that the temple had been destroyed and burnt down on his birthday. It was said that the goddess had been too busy attending the leader’s birth to take note of the destruction of her temple. Alexander offered to assist with the re-construction of the temple if the new one was dedicated to him. The Ephesians declined his offer and undertook the reconstruction of the temple without his aid.

The new temple of Artemis was a massive structure covering an area of 6000 square meters. It measured 105 metres by 55 metres, and was 25 metres in height and was the first sanctuary made of marble. Alexander extended the temenos make the inhabited area surrounding the temple part of the sacred compound. 127 Ionic columns supported the structure. 36 of these were decorated with reliefs. The facade was adorned with four bronze statues of Amazons. After this reconstruction the temple was preserved and expanded by several kings. Worship of Artemis was abolished by the emperor Augustus and in 263 AD the temple was sacked and destroyed by the Goths.

In 1867 a British railroad engineer by the name of John Turtle Wood began searching for the ancient temple. Remains found at the site were taken back to England to be preserved under the research conditions of the British Museum. The findings and sculptured fragments revealed during excavations are still on display at the British Museum. Visitors can still see one of the Ionic columns and some ruins where the temple once stood.

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