In the name of fame

On July 21, 356 B.C. the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was destroyed. Its size, grandeur and location found it a place among the Seven Wonders of the World.

Published - July 20, 2017 05:00 pm IST

ARTIST IMPRESSION: An oil painting of the temple.

ARTIST IMPRESSION: An oil painting of the temple.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (modern Turkey) was built in mid sixth century BC and is considered as one of the seven wonders of the world. The temple was also referred to as the Artemesium. King Croesus of Lydia built it to honour the Greek goddess Artemis, goddess of the moon and the hunt.

Built in the Greek style, the temple was decorated with 127 Ionic columns that stood 60 feet high. The temple was a large marble building, measuring 377 feet by 180 feet. It attracted merchants, kings, and sightseers, many of whom donated jewellery and other treasures to Artemis. Its splendour also attracted worshippers strengthening the cult of Artemis.

On July 21, 356 B.C., Herostratus, an arsonist (a person who starts fires), wanting to be remembered in history, set the temple to the fire. Not much is known about him but that he destroyed it on the day Alexander the Great was born. He was later captured and punished. He then admitted to having destroyed the temple in an attempt to immortalise his name.

His act prompted the creation of a damnatio memoriae — a law, forbidding anyone to mention his name. Nevertheless, his name has now become a metonym (a word, name, or expression used as a substitute for something else with which it is closely associated) for someone who commits a criminal act to be noted.

What remains ...

The temple was reconstructed, but the Goths (a member of the Germanic people who invaded the Roman Empire) destroyed it in 262 CE. Today, little remains of the temple.

It was found in 1869. Several artefacts were excavated, and are now housed at the British Museum in London. At the site, a lonely reconstructed column stands reminding one of the grandiose of this temple whose religious and architectural significance elevated it to the position of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

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