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The Temple of Artemis
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The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Known to historians as the Artemisian, this giant Greek temple was a wonder in it’s time not, just because of it’s size but because of its beautiful decoration and statuary. Other temples were built hoping to emulate it’s beauty but none ever really achieved the same notoriety as the Artemisian. This quote was written by Antipater of Sidon, “But when I saw the sacred house of Artemis that towers to the clouds, the [other Wonders] were placed in the shade, for the Sun himself has never looked upon its equal outside Olympus.”
The myths and misunderstanding that surround this wonder are many. The first is just whose temple this was. To simply say “Artemis” is a mistake. The traditional mother goddess of this area was Cybele, and the Greeks living in Ionia associated Cybele with their mother goddess Artemis. The resemblance lay mainly in the fact that both goddesses gave fertility to fields, humans, and animals. The goddess came to be called the Ephesian Artemis. Instead of the traditional Diana/Artemis figure of a beautiful woman with a bow that many of us recollect from studying mythology, the Ephesian Artemis is very different in appearance. Her statue in the temple wore a hat in the shape of a temple to show she was the patron goddess of the city and her body is covered with scores of breasts. All along the statue are carved bees and birds in very intricate work. Many reproductions of this figure were made and sold at the temple.
Some Greek historians were fond of telling a the story that the night on which the Artemision was burnt down was the very night on which Alexander the Great was born -- though in view of the lack of accurate records in those days, it seems doubtful that this interesting coincidence can ever be verified. Eventually the Artemision was rebuilt. The world of Macedonian monarchies was far richer than the earlier world of Greek city-states had been, and the temple was rebuilt on a much larger scale and with much more elaborate ornamentation. This was the temple that it came to be considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is probable that by about 323 BCE the new temple was finished.