The tourist guide books of ancient Greece took the form of a list of wonders to be seen. When Antipater of Sidon put together the first such list in the 1st century BCE, the Alexandrian conquests had made it possible for Greeks to travel over most of the eastern Mediterranean. From the descriptions, these seven things were wonders because of their size. Only one of them, the pyramid of Khufu, is still intact. We visited the ruins of the temple of Artemis (Artemision) in Ephesus, in the modern day town of Selçuk in Turkey.
We pulled into a car park which was mostly empty, except for a large bus. About a hundred tourists had come to see the site of this ancient wonder. From the edge of the parking lot you can see the whole site (photo above). It was not clear to me why this was a wonder. Only when I walked to the base of the single remaining pillar did it became clear why. The pillar was tall, perhaps 20 meters high. The temple could have been one of the tallest in the world of the 1st century BCE. There were earlier temples at this place dating as far back as 8th century BCE, but the wonderful one was post-Alexander. It probably continued in use, despite mishaps, until the worship of Greek and Roman gods was banned in the 5th century CE by the Byzantine emperor. In the 6th century rebuilding of the Hagia Sophia some of the columns came from the Artimesion, and eventually the whole ancient wonder was dismantled.
The site was rediscovered in the late 19th century, and most of remnants were taken off to the British Museum. The memorial column was put together out of disjoint pieces of columns, up to a height which reproduced what we know from old records. A White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) nests there every year. White Storks are winter visitors to India, but from a different subspecies which breeds further to the east. This was my first sighting of the subspecies Ciconia ciconia ciconia. Apparently the temple lies inside a major corridor for migratory birds. Spring and autumn in this area are great times for bird watchers.
I also wondered what was so special about that column till I reached the end of the post 🙂
What one learns here is that nothing survives a couple of thousand years.
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