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Ephesus :: Artemision


To the right of the road leading to Kusadasi can be seen the ruins of the Temple of Artemis (Diana), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Artemis, the virgin goddess of nature, and protectress of women in childbirth is mentioned in the Iliad with the phrase: Praise be to Artemis! She, who would water her horses at the reed-filled Meles river, then pass speedily through Smyrna on her golden chariot towards the vineyards of Coloros."

The mention of Smyrna in this description would suggest that the goddess Artemis is of Anatolian origin. At another point in his Iliad, Homer gives the birthplace of Artemis as Ortygie. Ortygie" means quail in ancient Greek, and might also have been related to the Mount Nightingale (Bulbuldag) which was the site of the original city of Ephesus. Furthermore, the Ephesians at one point had a resolution passed in the Roman senate stating that their place of origin was Ortygie, and Artemis their patron goddess. It is perhaps for this reason that the Ephesians erected such a magnificent temple to this goddess. Artemis is not, in fact, a word of Greek origin, but a derivative of "artems", meaning "untouched", or 'unspoiled' in an ancient local tongue.

In Ephesus, Artemis was considered as one and the same as Cybele, the goddess from whom the land of Anatolia is said to have been born. She is depicted as a multi breasted figure with many facets, and bears the model of a temple on her head, in the form of a crown. This triple-storeyed crown indicates that she is the protector of cities, while the crescent on her forehead indicates that she is the moon goddess. The breasts, at the same time, link her to the fertility cult. Artemis also bore the symbol of the bee, the emblem of Ephesus, which indicates that she is a unique product of Anatolian mythology. The ruined Artemision contained a total of 127 columns, the 36 facade columns being decorated with reliefs. It was 115 metres long, 55 metres wide and 18 metres high.

The earliest traces of the Artemision building date to the 7th century B.C. The original temple was destroyed by the Cimmerians, and was re-built during the 6th century B.C Destroyed once more during the reign of the mad king Herostratos in the year 356 B.C, Ephesus began to rebuild its cult centre on an even grander scale after that date. Alexander passed through Ephesus at about that time and learning that the temple had been destroyed and burnt down on his birthday, he expressed the Desire to assist with its re-construction.

He wished, the new temple to be dedicated to him. But the Ephesians could not assent to this and undertook the reconstruction of the temple without his aid. The new temple of Artemis measured 105 metres by 55 metres, and was 25 metres in height, covering an area 6000 square metres in all. Alexander extended the temenos to include an inhabitated area around the temple as part of the sacred compound. This sacred area was preserved through the rule of several different kings and governors, was expanded and finally abolished by the emperor Augustus. In 263 AD., the temple was sacked and destroyed during the invasion of the Goths.


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