There are many wonders of the world, but many travelers may not agree on which ones should be on the list. To complicate matters, there are the 7 ancient wonders of the world, and 7 wonders of the modern world. The Temple of Artemis may have been on the first list, but is now in ruins. But until you learn its history and see it in person, you may not understand just how much of a wonder it is.
What is the Temple of Artemis?
The temple of Artemis is located in Selcuk, Turkey. It’s also known as the Temple of Diana. It’s a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis. This temple is no longer standing, and we can only speculate what the different structures on site looked like.
The original temple was located in the ancient city of Ephesus. Today, this site is on what is now called the modern town of Selcuk. This original temple was one of the wonders of the ancient world. It has been rebuilt twice, until its complete destruction. Today, if you visit the original site, only a foundation and sculptural fragments remain. Still, visitors may be interested in visiting this site.
If you do your research, the depiction of the temple can vastly vary. There is a model of the temple at Miniaturk Park in Istanbul that is representative of the Parthenon in Greece, with a rectangular-shaped structure with tall columns and a tapered roof. But in a 16th century engraving by Martin Heekmskerck, the temple is depicted more like a building with tiers and actual walls.
One thing that can be agreed on, the temple was surrounded by colonnades all around, and was one of the finest of its kind in its era.
Who is Artemis?
Artemis was a Greek goddess, and known by the Roman name of Diana. She was the twin of Apollo in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto. In some stories she was born first and assisted in the birth of Apollo, while in other stories he was born first. She is often depicted wearing a column hat and jewelry around her bodice. Her gown is made like a tall pillar or column, with many carvings surrounding it. You can only see her feet protrude from the bottom.
It’s uncertain what her name really means, beyond “safe” or “butcher”.
Artemis was the goddess of the hunt, chastity, and the moon. She also assisted women in childbirth, but could bring sudden death with her arrows. She could also inflict plagues, but also had the power to heal.
Artemis is perhaps the most well-respected of all the Greek deities. It’s believed that her name may even be dated prior to Greek times. It’s said that Artemis rides in her chariot of stags across the sky each evening. Her bow and arrow depict her love of hunting, and as the Goddess of the Hunt. Her bow and arrows have a silver color.
Artemis was in love with Orion, but her brother Apollo tricked her into killing him to restore her honor.
The First Fall of Artemis Temple
It seems tragic that this temple is no longer standing. While you can visit the site on your tour of the old part of the city, you can only imagine what it might have once been. Sadly, in the 7th century BC, a bad flood destroyed the first version of this temple. This flood spread sand and debris all over the floor, which had been made of clay.
It was known that this site was prone to flooding, and it had been raised up on silt deposits for about two meters during the sixth to fourth BC centuries, but it hadn’t been enough.
After the fall of the Temple, some objects were preserved, including a griffin, a wooden effigy, and the Tree of Life.
Rebuilding the Temple
This first flooding wasn’t the end of the temple. Its rebuilding was sponsored by Croesus, the overlord of Ephesus. It was completed around 550 BC. There are records that this temple was about 115 meters long and 46 meters wide, and was the first Greek temple ever made of marble. It had at least 36 columns.
This version of the temple was a popular destination for travelers, merchants, kings, and the general public. Many people left gifts of jewelry and other items in homage to Artemis. It was also a sanctuary for those who were fleeing strife in their own cities.
In 356 BC, a man called Herstratus burned the temple to the ground. He was sentenced to death and almost all records banished his name—but obviously not every record, as today we still know who he was.
The Third Temple
Artemis Temple underwent another rebuild. It was offered to be paid for by the famous Alexander of history, but he was refused. After he died, the Ephesians had it rebuilt. Work began in 323 BC and continued for many years. It’s perhaps during this time that we have our most knowledge of the building, and some of the column drum depictions.
This newer form of the temple survived for 600 years. But it’s destruction has been likened to the apocalypse. The altar of Artemis split in many spots, and half the Temple fell down, according to legend.
But what really happened was that there was a raid by the Goths, an East Germanic Tribe, in 268 AD. Most of the Temple was destroyed or damaged during this time. And if there was anything left after the raid, the Temple was set alight. After the raid, the tribe took flight and left for Asia.
It’s possible that the Temple may have undergone another rebuild after that time. The stone blocks were taken from the site and used to rebuild other buildings. In the Hagia Sophia, some of these blocks were taken from the Temple of Artemis. There are also some statues from the Temple that are now throughout Constantinople.
Everyone forgot about the Temple until the 19th century. During this time, digging commenced to find the remains of this legendary temple. It took them six years, but they eventually found the site in 1869, from a British Museum expedition. Excavations continued until 1874.
Besides the site, there were some sculpture fragments found around 1904-06. These have been assembled to the best of their abilities and are now displayed in the Ephesus Room of the British Museum.
Besides the temple remains on the site, there have been many other interesting artifacts found. Excavations done in 1988 found objects from as early as the Bronze Age. Pottery fragments from the middle Geometric Times have been found too. There are records that objects even started being found as early at 8 AD. have been found too. Many old coins have been found on site.
What Visitors Can See Today
If you’re visiting Turkey, you may wish to take an ancient tour of Ephesus, which will take you to all the sites of note. About all you can see of the Artemis Temple today is a single column of random fragments that have been found on the site. However, this is still more than worth seeing. There are also other fragments and ruins around the site, so you’ll get to see plenty.
There is also the miniature museum, or Miniaturk Park in Istanbul where you can see a smaller scale model of the Temple in person.
And if you’re even in London, visiting the British Museum is always a must.
So, it’s recommended to visit the Temple of Artemis as part of your day tour, but to not focus your entire day on it, as you could be sadly disappointed.
One of the Seven Wonders of the World?
Most of the seven ancient wonders of the world are gone, Pyramids not included, but there is little to see of the Artemis Temple. If you’re willing to imagine its past splendor, then perhaps it is one of the seven wonders. But don’t go visiting here to see the Artemis Temple in all its glory. One day, the ruins will disintegrate to dust and there will be nothing left to see. But that certainly doesn’t take them away from being classified as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Plan Your Vacation to Turkey Now
It’ll be exciting if there are any more wonders excavated from the site of the Temple of Artemis. Likely there are still many hidden secrets waiting to be excavated. But since there are so many sights to see in Turkey, do add the Temple of Artemis ruins to your itinerary. Keep it as a short stop to get out and stretch your legs for a bit.
Perhaps you can stand on the site where the Temple of Artemis once stood and imagine it being one of the original Seven Wonders of the World!