Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ephesus: The Temple of Artemis

   One of the seven wonders of the world.

   This temple was built for Artemis (Diana was the goddess' Roman name) at Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey for the past 600 years, but always Greek) around 356 B.C. Its building was sponsored by Croesus, the Lydian king, and it was designed by the Greek architect Chersiphron

   In and around it were bronze statues sculpted by some of the most famous artists of the time. The temple itself was made of marble. It was 425 feet high and 225 feet wide, and was held up by 127 columns, each of which was 60 feet high!
   From the Greek point of view, Ephesian Artemis is a distinctive form of their goddess Artemis. 
   In Greek cult and myth, Artemis is the twin of Apollo, a virgin huntress who supplanted the Titan Selene as goddess of the Moon. At Ephesus, a goddess whom the Greeks associated with Artemis was venerated in an archaic, certainly pre-Hellenic cult image that was carved of wood and kept decorated with jewelry. 
   Robert Fleischer identified as decorations of the primitive xoanon the changeable features that since Minucius Felix and Jerome's Christian attacks on pagan popular religion, had been read as many breasts or "eggs" — denoting her fertility (others interpret the objects to represent the testicles of sacrificed bulls that would have been strung on the image, with similar meaning). 
   Most similar to Near-Eastern and Egyptian deities, and least similar to Greek ones, her body and legs are enclosed within a tapering pillar-like term, from which her feet protrude. On the coins minted at Ephesus, the apparently many-breasted goddess wears a mural crown (like a city's walls), an attribute of Cybele. On the coins she rests either arm on a staff formed of entwined serpents or of a stack of ouroboroi, the eternal serpent with its tail in its mouth.
   Something the Lady of Ephesus had in common with Cybele was that each was served by temple slave-women, or hierodules (hiero "holy", doule "female slave"), under the direction of a priestess who inherited her role, attended by a college of eunuch priests called "Megabyzoi" and also by young virgins. 

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