I wanted to see the temple of Artemis, or what was left of it. Antipator of Sedon, who put together the original list of seven wonders of the world wrote of it:
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 so grand”.
Alas, today the sight is far from the shining splendor he witnessed. Frankly, I find it amazing that this surpassed the pyramids, but then, maybe it was the essence of the place. As I gazed down upon it from near the Basilica of St. John, I could almost feel a pulsing of power coming from the place. I’ve always believed that certain places do have power, whether that comes from so many worshipping in one spot or whther it comes from before that, it’s really impossible to say, though I tend to favor the idea that places of power predate humans. If it sounds outlandish, just consider how many mosques are built on churches which were built on temples, which were built in those spots for some reason. One thing is certain, this area around Selcuk is litttered with places of worship and powerful religious figures. One of the earliest we know of was Artemis, the virginal goddess of the hunt and the moon.
The Temple of Artemis was completed around 550 BC and now 2500+ years later just one column and some foundation stones remain. Archeologists have found remains of previous temples there that date back as far as the Bronze Age. The Greeks said the temple was originally constructed by Amazons, though this version was destroyed about 700 BC by a huge flood. In 550 BC the Cretans began reconstruction which took about 120 years to complete. The temple was made completely of marble It was a temple which was all about women and archeologists say that Artemis was simply a Greek reinterpretation of fertility Goddess worship which took place there long before the temple was built. The temple was run by a high priestess and plenty of vestal virgins along with female slaves.
So, how was this marble monumental structure destroyed? Arsons and Christians. First, a madman seeking fame burned the temple in 356 BC. It’s said that Alexander the Great was born on this night. The Temple was rebuilt after his death. Later the Christians came and they didn’t want any trace of this glorious wonder to remain, though they failed at pulling it apart completely. It’s said in the Christian bible that St. John prayed in the temple and caused half of it to fall. Much of the Basilica of St. John was built with materials pulled from the Temple of Artemis.
I walked around the site though it was closed. It’s remains were small, but perhaps I felt something. Certainly I felt energized.
From there I walked to the Isa Bey Mosque. Mostly I was intrigued by the unique hammams next to the mosque. They were fenced and I was unable to get inside or even as close as I wanted to.
A far better description than I can give of the mosque which was built in 1374 exists at Archnet.org . and a detailed description of the Isa Bey Hammam at Ayasoluk at the Austrian Archeological Institute’s website.
I would have enjoyed spending more time wandering around Selcuk but we had a bus to catch. Hanane had been dying to bathe in radioactive mud since she found out we were coming to Turkey and that was where we were heading next.