The Temple of Artemis (Artemission)

The Temple of Artemis, considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World by ancient writers, was situated by the marshes to the southwest of Ayasuluk Hill. Its first construction was by the seaside. However this temple that stood by the seashore is today 5 km. inland, due to the alluvial infilling of the bay. Today there remains a 14 m. high column (its original height was 18.40 m.) in the northeast, which was erected in 1973 with the aid of pulleys, an archaic column pedestal, a part of which can be seen, and a pedestal dating from the Late Classical period, which stood insitu right above the column. On the western side, the court walls of the Archaic temple, the point where the doorpost were attached, the traces of the Archaic marble stylobates, the southern anta in the classical covering of the Archaic temple, the West and North edges of the Archaic and Late Classical temples and the foundations of the hekatompedos can still today be seen. The structures connected with the foundation of the stairs leading to the platforn of the Late Classical temple from the western court, the structures in the South of the foundation of the hekatompedos (naiskos, channel, road and the apsed structure) and the Archaic and Late Classical altar foundations can be seen. In the excavation area covered with ground water, from time to time earlier structures in the court, the traces of Temple C., the naiskos of the Temple or Kroisos and the cella walls of the peripteros can be seen but this depends upon the level of the water within this excavated area. According to Strabo this temple had been repeatedly ruined and reconstructed. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World. The oldest traces of the temple, which underwent many construction phases, date from the 8th century B.C. This first temple was a peripteros planned structure with 4 columns on its short sides and 8 columns on its long sides. In this peripteros, the tetragonal platform surrounded by 6 columns functioned as the pedestal (baldaken) for the religious statue. From this earliest structure only the pedestals of green schist that supported the wooden columns were found during the excavation. This temple was believed to have been ravaged by the Cimmerians.

The dipterous plan of the magnificent Temple of Hera in Samos made the Ephesians jeleous and it was then that they decided to construct a temple more magnificent than the Temple of Hera at Samos. Herodotus indicates this structure was called the Temple of Kroisos because of the financial and mortal support of the Lydians including the columns that were donated by Kroisos during the construction of this Temple. Around 560 B.C. the construction of the first great marble dipterous began on the east-west axis, known to have been the Temple of Kroisos. The architects of the Archaic temple were from Samos, Theodoros, Metagenes and Khersiphron. The Temple was situated in the marshes and in order to create foundations in this marshy ground the recommendation of the most prominent Samian artist, architect and sculptor, Theodoros, to put wood charcoal and fleece under the foundations (temeun), was followed and traces of charcoal and ash remains were found in the excavations. The foundation were created by putting big slates on these chunks of charcoal. Above this layer, polygonal marble panels, which constituted the surface of the Stylobate, were bonded and the floor of the temple was created, measuring approximately 55×115 m. Each of the columns (approximately 106 in number) were adorned with carved patterns on their lower sections (Columnae Caelatae), with the load system on the Stylobate carrying the weight, each section weighing more than 100 tons, with the marble roof pediments carrying carved figurines and with carved marble roof tiles. However this roof didnt cover the whole of the temple but only covered the peristyle. The inner area, called the Sekos, was open to the sky and this was where the covered structure containing the religious statue in the naos was kept. The construction of this 6th century temple, that which is considered to have been one of the Seven Wonders of the World, lasted for 120 years. However in 356 B.C. it was burned down by someone who wanted through this action to immortalize his own name. Herostratos and this layer of fire damage was found during the excavations.

After the temple was burnt, the Ephesians began the reconstruction of the temple. The architects of the new temple were Paionios, Demetrios and Kheirokrates. In the 4th century B.C. due to be rising sea level, a platform was constructed to prevent the ground water from flooding the temple. Another line of columns was added to this structure with stairs. In addition an opisthodomos was added to the West facing rear side of the temple for the protection of the gifts that were donated to the Goddness Artemis. Thus there were three lines of 9 columns in the rear by the short sides and three lines of 8 columns in the front facing West. When observed from the sides, it had 21 columns on each side in two rows. This temple had in total 117 columns. In the depictions of the temple on coins, a door in the roof was observed and it is said this door was made and functioned as the place through which the Goddess Artemis watched the sacrifices that were made in her honnor. According to the writings of Plinius (Pliny), the columns of this Hellenistic Temple of Artemis were 18.40 m. high. When Alexander the Great visited Ephesus, he offered to help in the construction of the temple and requested that an inscription with his name be put in the temple. Thus Alexander the Great would be famous, just like Kroisos was with his temple. However the proud Ephesians politely turned down his offer, flatteringly replying to his offer with the words “One God cannot give present to another”. Despite this reply, Alexander the Great made financial contributions to be construction of the temple and this wonderful temple was completed before the end of the 4th century B.C. The commotion caused by the civil wars in Rome, the economic problems and the alluvial infilling of the bay strained the financial resources of the Temple of Artemis. The organized precautions, began under the Council in the 6-5th centuries B.C., came into effect during the reign of Emperor Augustus and all the borders, paths and drainage within the temenos wall, which was made of ashlar stone blocks covered in inscribed notices, were inspected and repaired. According to Strabo, the temenos wall was 1 stadion’s distance from the temple and the temnos wall marked the border for those people seeking sanctuary under the protection of Artemis. Later during the reign of Emperor Titus (79-81A.D.), large scale renovations were conducted in the sacred place.

The Artemision was ravaged by the Goths in 263 A.D. but the real devastation came in 400 A.D. when the cult of Artemis ended and the altar, along with the surrounding colonnade and pediment were destroyed. The torn down temenos wall was reused during the Late Antique period in the construction of the Church of Mary and the erection of the Bishop’s Place. Much material from the Artemision was reused in the Basilica of St. John and in the construction of its outer walls. The Temple of Artemis was discovered for the British Museum in 1869 by the English railroad engineer J.T. Wood after a seven year seacrh, during which he suffered badly from malaria. In these lengthy searches Wood found another classical platform upon an Archaic podium, in the traces of the foundation of the Late Classical temple and sent them to England, to the British Museum. His successor on behalf of the British Museum, the Englishman D.G. Hogarth recommenced excavations in 1904/05. Not only did he investigate the temple of Artemis, but also the older foundations within the court of the temple. New excavations, initiated by the Australian Museum of Archeology in 1965, continue today.