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Artemision - Temple of Artemis, Selcuk: 18 reviews and 33 photos


The Greek goddess Artemis was among the most widely venerated Gods in the centuries leading up to Christianity, worshipped throughout the eastern Mediterranean - but in vastly different ways. In Greece, the illegitimate daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin sister of Apollo was a virgin huntress with silver bow and arrows and with a proclivity for changing those who displeased her into wild animals, often stags and bears, and killing them. But in the larger cities of the eastern regions and particularly Ephesus Artemis was the mother goddess of fertility and childbirth and source for one of the greatest cults of the time. So devoted were the people of Ephesus that the early Apostles who preached here found considerable resistance and as much as 200 years would pass before Christianity became the dominant religion of the area.

Archaeologic explorations at the site of the temple suggest that the first of many was built in the 8th C BC. Most authorities believe there have been seven temples on this site. It would be destroyed twice before a massive reconstruction by Croesus, the famed overly rich king of the Lydians in 550BC, becoming one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The centerpiece was a marble statue of the goddess covered in ivory and gold. At 45000 square feet it was supported by over 100 columns and the walls were covered with art and gifts from all over the known world.

In 356 BC, the temple was burned to the ground by Herostratus, a young man seeking as he put it fame at any cost ( hence the phrase " herostratic fame ", on the night Alexander the Great was born. The replacement temple was even larger than the Parthenon and may have taken anywhere from 60-129 years to construct. It was the first temple constructed entirely of marble, richly decorated, with Artemis at the center. The temple was destroyed by the Goth invaders in 262 AD and never really rebuilt. The Romans regained control but the emperor Constantine was a Christian and had no interest in restoring pagan temples. The site was plundered for materials used in the construction of the Ayasofia in Istanbul as well as many other buildings, and the Wonder of the Ancient World was no more. By the time of the Crusades, there is abundant documentation that the local inhabitants had no knowledge whatsoever of the existence of the maginificent Greek temple the Crusaders had anticipated.
The Temple would not be re-discovered until the mid 19th Century when British Museum architects first discovered the ruins after an incredible 6 year effort. Many priceless artifacts were removed to the British Museum, but enough remain locally to be represented at the local Selcuk museum which is small but highly recommended.

Today the site is a low-lying unattractive marshy field containing scattered marble blocks and a single faux column - not an original but just multiple pieces of debris piled on on top of the other. Several miles inland, it is actually located at the former site of the Ephesus harbor, long since filled in by debris and silt. The site is on the main expressway from Selcuk to Izmir, with a simple sign. There are no admission fees or facilities and the single attendant is a vendor with a few shabby souvenirs. Looming in the background is the Basilica of St. John, but the temple itself requires only a short stop to appreciate the size of the building and the passage of time for what must have been a remarkable shrine.

Address: Selcuk
Directions: 100m from Tourist Info, just off Dr Sabr? Yayla Bulvar?
Website: http://www.selcuk.bel.tr/icerik/57/18/artemision.aspx

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Nov 1, 2008
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