The Temple of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis March 23, 2014

I’m out of the country on a 12-day trip that’s part vacation and part pilgrimage.  Yes, you’ll hear all about it when I get back.  Until then, enjoy this report and pictures from my visit to the Temple of Artemis in 2012.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today all that’s left is one column and a few low stones; the result of fires, earthquakes, plundering and the centuries of neglect that accompanied the shift from Classical Greek religion to Christianity and then to Islam. At first glance it is far less impressive than other temples I visited on my trip in 2012. But when you stop looking for awe-inspiring architecture and start seeing, you notice something important.

The Temple of Artemis is alive.

The former temple floor is now a marsh surrounded by tall grasses. A birds’ nest tops the remaining column. I saw a turtle in the pond, ducks on the water, and blackbirds on the stones. Trees surround the site and flowers grow among the grasses. And the sounds of birds and insects fill the air.

We generally think of Artemis as the Virgin Huntress and Goddess of the Moon, but Artemis Ephesia was depicted as having many breasts – a Goddess of abundance. The current temple is as if Artemis said “if people will not honor My abundance, I will.”

There is no need to debate the merits of temples vs. groves vs. wilderness. They all have their place and they all have their beauty – you can experience wonder and awe and hear the Gods in any of them. We create problems for ourselves when we ignore the possibility that a Goddess may appear in more than one way.

I must take this opportunity to thank Artemis for my safe and pleasant travels. I had four flights on this trip – all four arrived early. I can’t remember the last time that happened – and I don’t fly that often. Drivers were on time, customs officials were efficient, lines were reasonable… everything worked the way it was supposed to work. The longest and most complex trip of my life was also the easiest. A coincidence? Perhaps, but…

I was the only Pagan in a traveling party of ten. We all have an interest in history, but I knew the itinerary would be a compromise and I would not be able to see everything I wanted to see. The only place I insisted on visiting during our trip planning was the Temple of Artemis. While it would not be accurate to call this trip a pilgrimage, I felt called to visit this temple. I’m not sure why – Artemis is generally considered the patron deity of young girls, not of 50-year-old Druids.

I knew there wasn’t much left of the original temple but other than that I wasn’t sure what to expect. I walked around the site and took pictures, then paused close to the water. I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the good travels, relayed a message from a friend at home, and offered the few American coins I was carrying. Monetarily they were insignificant – I offered them as a token of the worship of the old Goddesses and Gods in our new land.

On the day we visited Ephesus, thousands of people crowded the stone streets of the excavated city. There were less than a dozen at the Temple of Artemis. I suppose that’s understandable – turtles and birds and flowers can’t compete with 2000-year-old buildings and statues.

But those thousands of tourists missed something a few of us experienced: an ancient Goddess, very much alive.

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  • Guest

    Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!

    This is a poem that I wrote for Her in 2008.

    Artemis of the Ephesians

    Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!
    Her many breasts, the Anatolian hills
    giving forth the sweetness of fragrant spices.
    Her many names resounding in the streets
    and temples of Ephesus where women
    call to Her, calling Her name to the night.

    Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!
    The milk from Her breasts abundantly fills
    the thirsty earth, and its scent entices
    shy beasts of the hills to taste of its sweets
    at twilight, like the Amazon women
    who by Achilles’ shade were put to flight.

    Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!
    Her aura, the golden light of dawn on the hills,
    the gleam of silver under the hammer
    of a smith forging Her image, who taps
    his hammer to an archaic music
    out of a forgotten and nameless rite.

    Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!
    She lies in the furrow where the plough tills
    the moist earth. Her cries are heard in the yammer
    of small birds in spring, and the rising sap
    is the leap of Her heart, the ancient magic
    of the love of the Earth for the Sun’s light.

    Yvonne Aburrow, 7 am, 28-6-2008

    When I wrote this, I picked the Anatolian Hills as being a range of hills in Turkey,
    without knowing what they looked like. I then searched for a picture of them and found they look pointy, rather like the breasts of Artemis of Ephesus. The first line of each stanza comes from the speech of Demetrios the silversmith recorded in Acts 19: 28, where it is claimed that he was only concerned for the loss of his livelihood. What rubbish! It is also recorded that he gave a rousing speech, which must have been convincing in order to encourage the silversmiths to shout for two hours; and to be convincing it must have been about more than the loss of livelihood. The demise of ancient pagan religion was the loss of a whole philosophy and way of life, not just livelihood.

    Note: please do not copy this poem onto other websites.

  • Lovely pictures & perspective! One of my favorite things about visiting ancient ruins, particularly the less traveled ones, are seeing how nature has taken back over. Enjoy your trip!