A bite from history

A bite from history

Posted by nag.rajan on Thu, 2008-04-03 01:00 in

Going through Issac Asimov's Chronology of the world, I stumbled upon this interesting and sad piece of history..

Antipater of Sidon, a poet of the ancient greek times, compiled the list of Seven wonders of the world around 140BC. The list included the "Temple of Artemis" at Ephesus (present day turkey) which had its share of glory but probably more than a fair share of tragedy.

Built for the first time in 550BC by Lydians, it was described as the grandest of the Seven wonders thus...

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, and I said, "Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught (anything) so grand".

The temple, made almost entirely of marble and about three times as large as the Parthenon, housed many fine works of art. Sculptures by renowned Greek sculptors adorned the temple, as well as paintings and gilded columns of gold and silver. The sculptors often competed at creating the finest sculpture.

The first of the tragedies struck the temple when it was destroyed by a fire on July 21, 356 BC in an act of arson committed by a vandal. According to the story, the vandal was caught and questioned about his motives behind the act. He replied that, through the act, it was his intention to make his name immortal in history.

The Ephesians, outraged, announced that his name never be recorded and struck off his name from the records and history books. Nevertheless, his name was recorded later by the historian Strabo. It was 'Herostratus'. From this act, the term 'herostratic fame' was born, to mean 'fame at any cost'. Ironically. he did get his wish.

In an interesting coincidence, that very same night, Alexander the Great was born. It was remarked that Artemis was too preoccupied with Alexander's delivery to save her burning temple. Alexander later offered to pay for the temple's rebuilding, but the Ephesians refused. Eventually, the temple was restored after Alexander's death, in 323 BC by the Ephesians. It was this reconstructed temple that was described by Antipater and included in the Wonders.

This reconstruction was itself destroyed during a raid by the Goths in 262 AD. The Ephesians rebuilt the temple yet again. Over the next century, many Ephesians were converted to christianity, and all temples were ordered closed by Theodosius I, the Roman Emperor, in 391 AD.

In 401, the temple was finally destroyed by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom, and was never rebuilt. Its stones were used in construction of other buildings.

Thus it came to pass that the temple was forever lost to the world.

History sure tastes good

History on the whole is extremely intriguing and seeped with oodles of memoirs.
Which is exactly why I find history very fascinating, every era, monument, artifact has a story behind it.

I've been inspired to travel to Turkey now, not only for the delicious food & the gorgeous men, but more so to visit the Temple of Artemis and savor the beauty & grandeur of this historic marvel of a temple.

After all our past is what shapes our future.

Posted by Pooja (not verified) on Wed, 2008-04-09 12:26

The travel to Turkey sure sounds inviting, but unfortunately, nothing remains of the temple today, except a stone pillar which marks its ancient location.

But while in turkey, one can still visit the Hagia Sophia, which means "wisdom of god", now a museum which is acclaimed to have a large and beautiful dome. Built after destruction of the temple, it has been through Islamic domination and hence has imbibed some islamic architecture as well. Also, some of the pillars in Hagia Sophia are built from the stones taken from the original Temple of Artemis, though I presume that they would have lost all originality.

This is, of course, in addition to the food and men :-)

Posted by nag.rajan on Fri, 2008-04-11 01:46
Pretty intriguing piece of history

>> Artemis was too preoccupied with Alexander's delivery to save her burning temple

That was funny!! :-P

>> 'herostratic fame' ...well, it rings into my ears the famous saying - " If you can not become famous, atleast become notorious. "

btw, Im the author of this 'famous' saying :-D I invented it.

ps: Enable the feedburner of the page. Im unable to subscribe!

Posted by prabha (not verified) on Thu, 2008-04-10 22:03
Greek Gods

>>>> Artemis was too preoccupied with Alexander's delivery to save her burning temple
>That was funny!! :-P

Sure sounds funny in modern times when Gods are supposed to be much more than Superman. But in ancient greek times, the gods were surprisingly human... they looked human, made mistakes, were monopresent (if there is such a word), got jealous, could probably die/be killed, etc.

Infact, the greek public was not too happy with the gods having such a low moral standing. This could have inspired the Christians later to have a God without a human face and body (Jesus is Son of God) and who was above all material greed and emotional pitfalls.

Though this made the God all powerful, but it did raise questions about God's power and intentions, considering that suffering and mal-intent existed in the real world. Hence, Satan was probably created. Of course Satan could not be made equally powerful to God, but he was somehow able to escape god's wrath and wreck the havoc of suffering and misery on this world. I would be interested in knowing how Christianity explains the coexistence of a benevolent and all powerful God with a vicious but less powerful Satan. How has Satan escaped until now? (probably God is forgiving him hoping he will one day confess and turn good).

Zoroastrianism (religion followed by Parsis) falls somewhere in the middle, and makes the good and evil Gods equally powerful. Infact, they are supposed to be perfectly matched in their abilities, and it is solely the actions of humans that can tip the balance in favor of either. Hence, it calls for humans to act right to help God in this fight.
Now, that does put good behavior in an awesome perspective. God needs my good behavior in order to win.

Lastly, Hindu Gods seem surprisingly similar to Greek gods (very human and numerous). Probably both the schools of thought are filtered down from a common root.

>>>>btw, Im the author of this 'famous' saying :-D I invented it.

My good friend Neeraj Tyagi used to recite a similar one "Badnaam honge to kya naam nahin hoga?"

>>>>ps: Enable the feedburner of the page. Im unable to subscribe!
I hope Aditya notices this. I thought RSS was enabled and working properly. Probably a glitch.

ps : This reply combines factual information with my own opinions, and I have tried to differentiate them with appropriate hints (probably, seem, etc). Kindly bear with me for any mistakes, and let me know about them. I would try to promptly correct them.

Posted by nag.rajan on Fri, 2008-04-11 02:17