Herostratus

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July 21st 356 BCE: Temple of Artemis destroyed

On this day in 356 BCE, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Turkey - one of the seven wonders of the ancient world - was destroyed in an act of arson. The great temple was commissioned around 550 BCE by Croesus, king of Lydia, and designed by Cretan architect Cherisiphron, to worship the Greek goddess Artemis, daughter of Zeus and Leto, who was believed to have been born at Ephesus. The statue of Artemis that resided the temple, however, borrowed from depictions of Eastern goddess Cybele, demonstrating the religious syncretism common at Ephesus. The temple was famous for its marble construction, exquisite art, and sheer scale, measuring around 110 by 55 metres and including 127 sixty-foot columns. These physical features were described by Pliny, and, coupled with its importance as a pilgrimage site, led contemporary writers to declare the Temple of Artemis a wonder of the ancient world. The temple was set on fire by a madman named Herostratus, who sought personal fame; it certainly worked, though at the time Ephesians forbade anyone from mentioning his name. The date for this act of arson is largely based on the tradition that it coincided with the birth of Alexander the Great, with the story going that Artemis was too preoccupied delivering Alexander to save the temple. A reconstruction of the temple was destroyed by invading Goths in 262 CE, and another reconstruction was destroyed in 401, but as most Ephesians had by then converted to Christianity the pagan temple was not rebuilt. Now all that remains of the Temple of Artemis are fragments and individual items, many of which reside in the British Museum. 

“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy
- Antipater of Sidon on the ancient wonders