Temple of Artemis

General Information

  • Location: Western slopes of the Acropolis, below the Tmolus Mountains in a broad valley opening into the ancient Pactolus River bed.
  • Size: Fourth largest Ionic temple in the world.
  • Orientation: Principal facade toward the west.
  • Historical Significance: The area might have been sacred to Artemis from the earliest days, evidenced by a large Archaic altar of limestone blocks at the west end of the temple.
  • Construction and Architecture
Temple of Artemis, looking west (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • Construction Periods:
    • Cella Construction: Developed between 300-175 BC, post-Alexander the Great.
    • Exterior Colonnade: Constructed during the Roman Imperial era, specifically in the first half of the second century AD.
  • Structure:
    • Eastern End: Better preserved due to deeper burial, with two intact columns.
    • West End: Entirely gone or never finished.
    • Dimensions: Peristyle dimensions are 44.58 m x 97.60 m, and the cella is 23.0 m x 67.52 m.
    • Design: Pseudodipteros (inner row of columns omitted), eight columns in front and back, twenty along the sides.
    • Column Spacing: Complex interaxial spacing, narrower at flanks and wider at ends.
    • Materials: Marble blocks with different construction techniques indicating Hellenistic and Roman phases.

Historical Use and Renovations

  • Initial Use: Active from ca. 300-175 BC, with no peripheral columns yet built.
  • Roman Imperial Cult: By the mid-second century AD, the cella was divided into two chambers for the Imperial Cult.
  • Later Periods: The temple was unfinished by the end of the fourth century AD, abandoned with the rise of Christianity, and a small church was erected at the southeast corner. Byzantine rebuilding and lime burning further altered the structure.

Excavations and Studies

  • Early Explorers:
    • Cyriacus of Ancona (1444): First recorded western traveler to visit the site.
    • Robert “Palmyra” Wood (1750): Recorded visible ruins and made the first excavation attempt.
    • C.C. Cockerell (1812): Made sketches of the standing columns.
  • Archaeological Excavations:
    • George Dennis (1850): Discovered a colossal head identified with Faustina the Elder.
    • Gustave Mendel (1904): Dug trenches revealing column bases.
    • Howard Crosby Butler (1910-1914): Conducted systematic excavations; results published in the American Society for the Excavation of Sardis.
    • George M.A. Hanfmann (1960-1970): Directed a partial study of the temple.
    • Fikret Yegül (since 1988): Comprehensive investigation and documentation.

Architectural Details and Innovations

  • Column Bases and Foundations:
    • Hellenistic technique: Marble blocks with I-shaped clamps, small square dowel holes, well-fitted and trimmed blocks.
    • Roman technique: Rougher fit, reused blocks, large lewis holes, butterfly clamps.
  • Design Features:
    • Elongated Cella: A ratio of 1:3, higher than porches and ambulatories.
    • East and West Porches: Prostyle porches with tall cubical volumes, probably open to the sky.
    • Pedestal Columns: Unique design with fluted shafts and tall, unfinished pedestal bases.

Cultural and Religious Significance

  • Imperial Cult: Housed colossal portraits of Roman emperors and consorts, incorporating the temple into the Imperial Cult.
  • Inscription Evidence: References to Queen Stratonike and dedications suggesting the temple’s importance in local and imperial religious practices.
  • Lydian Influence: Continuation of Lydian cultural elements in the temple’s design and inscriptions.

Reconstruction Efforts

  • Computer-Aided Studies: Current investigations use modern technology to document and reconstruct the temple’s architectural history.
  • Architectural Documentation: Detailed measurements and construction analysis reveal insights into the complex building phases and design.


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