Ephesus: Artemis & the Cult of the Mother Goddess

I sing of Artemis, goddess of the golden shafts, the hallowed virgin whose hunting call resounds, who brings down stags, who pours out arrows, blood-sister to Apollo of the golden sword. She curves her golden bow across mountains deep in shadow, across windswept peaks, delighting in the chase, unleashing agonizing arrows. The summits of high mountains tremble and the matted undergrowth of woods resounds to wild beasts’ bellowing. The earth shakes and the fish-infested sea. Boldly she advances far and wide to destroy generations of wild creatures.

Ephesus: Artemis & the Cult of the Mother Goddess Photo Gallery

Basking in her nest atop the tall – if somewhat crooked – column, a white stork spreads her wings and gazes languidly around. Hers is an enviable vantage point. Close by to the east is the dusty modern town of Sel^uk, its low hill crowned by the towering walls of Ayasuluk Castle. Here too are the sun-washed ruins of St John’s Basilica, whose pure-white columns gleam in the early evening light, while, below, crows roost in the ruined minaret of the Isa Bey mosque. Stretching her neck, the stork looks south to where a ridge of mountains rises from flat farmland, with rich fields of cotton, vineyards, olive groves and orchards ripening with oranges and lemons. But her attention is focused closer and below. For in the low-lying hollow, strewn with tumbled masonry and flanked to the west by tall dark trees, is a reedy swamp, alive with frogs, the easiest of pickings for a lazy stork.

For most who come here, though, the site with its one reconstructed column, its submerged foundations and stray marble fragments has a quite different significance. For this was once the Temple of Ephesian Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, a place of awe and majesty, the echoing, glittering, incense-laden sanctuary of one of antiquity’s most powerful deities. Now it may be little more than a mosquito-haunted swamp, yet in a real sense Artemis is present still. The goddess of nature, the mistress of wild things, the unfettered force of newborn life, she has reclaimed her sanctuary to live on in the teeming reeds and marshland.

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