She presided over the transition of a woman from virgin (parthenos) to married woman (gyne) and protected the virginity of those who were unmarried or wished to remain virgins (2). Artemis also oversaw marriage, childbirth and assisted with child-rearing (3). Virginity was especially emphasized in the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus: only virgins and men were allowed access and married or sexually active women were excluded under penalty of death. Artemis is commonly regarded as a fertility goddess, mostly because of the multitude of ‘breasts’ that cover her cult image (4).
This essay will discuss three aspects of the Ancient Temple of Artemis, the style, the restoration of its architecture and its importance. The temple of Artemis was built around 550 BC and was the first temple to be entirely of marble and the largest temple ever built. The temple was financed by the wealthy king of Lydia and was designed by the Greek architect Chersiphron. Marshy ground was selected for the building site as a precaution against future earthquakes.
The foundation was laid on a bed of packed charcoal and sheepskins, the column drums and architraves moved from the quarry, relates Vitruvius, by fitting them with large wheels and then, like rolling axles, having them pulled by oxen (5). It resembles the classical Greek temple: a stoic rectangular structure with mighty columns (6). The temple measured 350 by 180 feet and from the outside, its most striking feature was its more than 100 marble columns. Since it was built in the Ionic architectural style, the columns were decorated with sculptural reliefs at their bases and rosettes in their capitals (7).
There were two rows of columns stretched across the front of the temple, standing about 21 feet apart and extending from the front to the back of the temple at 17 feet apart. The door in the pediment — along with two windows — was intended for Artemis’ own use (8). Inside the temple was the statue of Artemis herself, which was built from gold, silver, ebony and other stones. The temple brought in merchants, kings, and sightseers, many of donated jewellery and other treasures to Artemis and her temple. Its splendor also attracted many worshipers and pilgrims, strengthening the cult of Artemis (9).
Since she was an influential figure, her fame went higher as soon as her temple was built. The Temple of Artemis was a very famous and attracted visitor from far and near. Its purpose was both a religious institution and market place. The market place itself had small models of the temple and its goddess Artemis for the fellow tourists as souvenirs to take with them. The columns at the front were decorated with intricate sculptures. It was built to honor Artemis as inside the temple was an inner room called the sanctuary that housed a magnificent statue of the goddess.
The temple was destroyed and rebuilt several times, each time it was built more impressively than the time before it. The first time it was destroyed was on the night of July 21, 356 BC, a man named Herostratus set fire to the temple in an attempt to immortalize his name (10). It caused the roof to cave in, the columns collapsed, and the statue of the goddess crashed to the ground. After the town created a law stating whoever mentioned his name would be put to death immediately. In the following two decades the temple was restored with the help of Alexander the Great.
But then again in 262 AD, the temple was destroyed by the Goths and later swamped by floods, but still the residents of Ephesus vowed to rebuild it (11). However this time it was not rebuilt due to the high construction costs. A little later the temple began to lose its importance and many people were switching to Christianity and the town was completely isolated. There were attempts made to reconstruct the temple, but so far only a couple columns have been erected upon the remaining foundation.
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