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The Later Temple of Artemis at Ephesos

The Archaic Temple of Artemis at Ephesos was burnt down in 356 BC. According to tradition this happened on the very night that Alexander the Great was born. Rebuilding was begun almost immediately, and the new temple was numbered among the Seven Wonders of the World. The temple was built to house the great cult image of Artemis Ephesia whose general appearance is known through later copies and from coins.

The ground plan of the temple is uncertain, but it may have had three rows of eight Ionic columns at the west end (the principle façade), two rows of nine at the east and twenty-one along the sides. According to the Elder Pliny, thirty six of these columns were decorated with sculpture, and excavation has yielded square plinths carved in relief and column drums. The sculptured plinths were only found at the west end (the principle side of the building), but the surviving carved drums were found in approximately equal numbers at the east and west ends. The precise arrangement of these sculptured architectural elements is unknown, but representations of the temple on coins show sculptured drums at the foot of the columns. A recent theory, however, suggests that the carved drums may have been positioned both at the lower end and upper end of the columns.

When Alexander the Great's army liberated Ephesos in 334 BC, the temple was still unfinished. Alexander wished to dedicate it but, as Strabo informs us, his offer was refused by the Ephesians, who cleverly stated that it was not fitting for one god to dedicate a temple to another.

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British Museum collections, £12.99

British Museum collections, £12.99