ISTANBUL - The site of the historic Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, looks more like a zoo these days as ducks, geese, chickens and sheep wander around its unfenced grounds.
Visited by approximately 1.5 million people a year, the temple lies within the boundaries of the Selçuk district in Aydın. Built by Croesus, the king of Lydia from around 560 to 550 B.C., it was burned down in 356 B.C. by a man called Herostratus who wanted to immortalize his name. Afterward, the temple was rebuilt on the same scale as the original, but three meters higher.
The temple, the biggest of the Hellenistic age, was also famous for its great marble statues, measuring 55 to 115 meters tall. The reconstructed building was razed by the Goths in 262 A.D. and was not rebuilt again.
The first excavations
J.T. Wood initiated the first archaeological excavations at Ephesus in 1869 on behalf of the British Museum. After 1904, Wood’s quest to discover the ancient Temple of Artemis was carried on by D.G. Hogarth. The excavations continue today under the supervision of the Archaeological Institution of Austria. Many artifacts found at the temple were brought to the British Museum, while others are housed at the Vienna Museum.
Antipater of Sidon, who listed the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, described the temple in this way: "I have gazed on the walls of impregnable Babylon along which chariots may race, and on the Zeus by the banks of the Alpheus. I have seen the hanging gardens and the Colossus of Helios, the great man-made mountains of the lofty pyramids and the gigantic tomb of Mausolus, but when I saw the sacred house of Artemis that towers to the clouds, the others were placed in the shade, for the sun itself has never looked upon its equal, outside Olympus."
Protecting the site
Though by its nature an important tourism spot, the Temple of Artemis retains little of its former glory. Only one column is still erect while remnants of others lie on the ground. Representatives of the tourism industry want to see this pitiful state improved. They are asking to have informational signs put up at the site to guide tourists and a mockup of the temple to be built there based on the building's known architectural structure. They also want to have a fence put around the area to keep animals and cattle from roaming around the ruins.