previous | Index of Chapters | next

Coin 15

Coin 19

Coin 22

Coin 27

Coin 31

Coin 32

Coin 35

Coin 36

Coin 38

Coin 41

8. The image of Artemis at Ephesus

The story is told in the Acts of the Apostles 19.35, when Saint Paul visited Ephesus (around the years 52-54 C.E.), a certain Demetrios, a local silversmith who made his business out of selling silver images of the Temple of Artemis, roused the citizens against him, so that a riot erupted. The people flocked to the theater shouting "great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" but they were quieted by the city's secretary, who is quoted as saying "Who does not know that Ephesus is neokoros (temple-warden; see that heading) of the great goddess Artemis and of the heaven-fallen (statue of her)?"

The goddess Artemis was Ephesus' most potent patron and symbol ( 15 , 38 ). The Ephesians even claimed that the goddess had been born not far away, at a site called Ortygia, and showed off on their coins ( 19 ) the palm tree that her mother Leto had clung to while giving birth (though the residents of Delos contested this, with their own palm tree in a sanctuary of Apollo, Artemis' twin brother).

The theatre.

The patron god of Ephesus was identified with the Hellenic Artemis, called Diana by the Romans. She was most often shown as a huntress on Ephesian coins ( 35 ), though occasionally in other aspects (or identified with the goddess Hecate as Phosphoros, "bringer of light,"). But the goddess of Ephesus was originally a deity native to Anatolia, where the gods appeared differently from those of Greek mythology. Her sacred image is a stiff figure ( 22 , 27 , 36 ), wrapped closely in elaborate garments, adorned with decorative animal protomes ( 15 ), and wearing massive necklaces and pectorals that came to be interpreted as multiple breasts. Excavations on the site of her temple at Ephesus have revealed parts of ivory images of her, along with the bronze belts and bulbous amber pendants that may have decorated her.

This Artemis was Ephesus' protectress, so on her tall crown she sometimes wears the walls and temples of the city itself sacred woolen fillets fall from either hand ( 38 ), though they sometimes look like supports, while at her sides stand two deer, her particular animal ( 15 ). Coins show her standing in her temple, which was one of the largest structures ever built by the Greeks, acclaimed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and the model for Demetrios' little silver souvenirs. Even the Roman emperors paid homage to her ( 31 ).

One interesting coin ( 32 ) shows what may be a divination ritual taking place before the image of Artemis: two naked boys are throwing knucklebones, i.e., animal vertibrae used by the ancients for gambling (as if they were dice) or in sanctuaries like this one, for prophecy (Scholia to Pindar, Pythian 4.338; a and b). One of the early excavators of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, D. G. Hogarth, found many such knucklebones in the earliest levels; there were both natural bones and ivory imitations, many strung for suspension, and some studded with gold or amber decorations.

It is interesting to compare the representations of Ephesian Artemis with those of Artemis Leukophyrene, whose cult was centered at Magnesia ad Maeandrum ( 41 ). The representation of the two cult statues was very similar, but Leukophyrene had geese in place of the Ephesian deity’s deer, and is often flanked by crowning Nikes.

^ top of page

previous | Index of Chapters | next