Monday, 21 April 2014

Day 394: The Temple of Artemis

There were seven original World Wonders, and only one remains: the Great Pyramid. The rest are lost to antiquity. Or almost.

This is the Temple of Artemis, or the meagre remains at any rate. The pillar is reconstructed from whatever could be found, following late 19th and early 20th Century excavations. First dating from the 8th Century BC, it was destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times until version no. 3, the definitive one, from the 4th Century BC. It lasted for 600 years and even makes an appearance in the New Testament (by its alternative name as the Temple of Diana).

In 268 AD, it was destroyed by Germanic Goth tribes, and thereby became lost to history. By the time it was rediscovered in the 19th Century, only fragments and rubble remained. Some of the columns are thought to have been used for the Hagia Sophia, and much of the rest would have been used for other constructions elsewhere - after all, a ruined temple makes for a very ready source of building material.

The single column that stands today was rebuilt in 1973, from pieces lying around, but placed on an original column base. It might not look like much, but this was where an original Wonder of the World once stood, just one column remaining from 127, four metres shorter than the original 18 metre height. It's rather a melancholy sight. Birds nest at the top of the column, and the rest of the area is just rubble, with a large square pond.

Nonetheless, for me, it is unmissable. An original World Wonder. Aside from the Pyramids, not much are left. Some of the blocks that comprised the Lighthouse of Alexandria are thought to now be in the city's Fort Qaitbay. Foundations remain from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum in Turkey, and I'd like to visit the site one day; the British Museum has some statues taken from there and they're very impressive. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes: nothing whatsoever remain from these. The Temple of Artemis is really about as much as you'll get from an original Wonder these days as soon as you stray away from Giza. It makes you wonder what state my eventual Top 7 will be in if we fast-forward 2000 years. Foundations only of the Taj Mahal, an excavated section of where the Great Wall once was, the Inca city of Machu Picchu thought to be mere legend and never actually existed? Or will we, as a civilisation, be better to our buildings, and to ourselves?

None of these things particularly crossed my mind as Danielle, Burness and I wandered through the ruins of the Temple of Artemis. I was more worried about the geese. Protecting young chicks, they looked vicious. I stayed clear. Never mess with swans or geese, that's what I say.

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