Artemis of Ephesus  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Temple of Artemis

Artemis of Ephesus[1] is a "multiple breast" cult statue in the honor of the fertility goddess Artemis. A 1st century CE Roman copy of the statue is housed at the Museum of Efes (Turkey), another interpretation is in a 16th-century fountain of Diana Efesina, Villa d'Este.

At Ephesus, a goddess whom the Greeks associated with Artemis was passionately venerated in an archaic, certainly pre-Hellenic cult image.

In mythology, attributes are exaggerated or multiplied to emphasize their efficacy. For example, Priapus has been depicted with an oversized penis, and Artemis of Ephesus has been portrayed as having tier upon tier of what may be breasts, as tradition has it, or sacrificed bull testes, as some newer scholars claim. Priapus' gigantic phallus underscores his virility and his fertility, while Artemis' tiers of breasts, if so they are, would highlight her ability to nurture.

Overview

The iconic images have been most thoroughly assembled by Robert Fleischer, Artemis von Ephesos und der erwandte Kultstatue von Anatolien und Syrien in 1973. It was carved of wood and kept decorated with jewelry. Robert Fleischer identified as decorations of the primitive xoanon the changeable features that since Minucius Felix and Jerome's Christian attacks on pagan popular religion had been read as many breasts or "eggs" — denoting her fertility (others interpret the objects to represent the testicles of sacrificed bulls that would have been strung on the image, with similar meaning). Most similar to Near-Eastern and Egyptian deities, and least similar to Greek ones, her body and legs are enclosed within a tapering pillar-like term, from which her feet protrude. On the coins minted at Ephesus, the apparently many-breasted goddess wears a mural crown (like a city's walls), an attribute of Cybele (see polos). On the coins she rests either arm on a staff formed of entwined serpents or of a stack of ouroboroi, the eternal serpent with its tail in its mouth. Something the Lady of Ephesus had in common with Cybele was that each was served by temple slave-women, or hierodules (hiero "holy", doule "female slave"), under the direction of a priestess who inherited her role, attended by a college of eunuch priests called "Megabyzoi" and also by young virgins (korai).

The "eggs" or "breasts" of the Lady of Ephesus, it now appears, must be the iconographic descendents of the amber gourd-shaped drops, elliptical in cross-section and drilled for hanging, that were rediscovered in 1987-88; they remained in situ where the ancient wooden cult figure of the Lady of Ephesus had been caught by an eighth-century flood (see History below). This form of breast-jewelry, then, had already been developed by the Geometric Period. A hypothesis offered by Gerard Seiterle, that the objects in Classical representations represented bulls' scrotal sacs cannot be maintained (Fleischer, "Neues zur kleinasiatischen Kultstatue" Archäologischer Anzeiger 98 1983:81-93; Bammer 1990:153).

A votive inscription mentioned by Florence Mary Bennett, which dates probably from about the third century BC, associates Ephesian Artemis with Crete: "To the Healer of diseases, to Apollo, Giver of Light to mortals, Eutyches has set up in votive offering [a statue of] the Cretan Lady of Ephesus, the Light-Bearer."

The Greek habits of syncretism assimilated all foreign gods under some form of the Olympian pantheon familiar to them— in interpretatio graeca— and it is clear that at Ephesus, the identification with Artemis that the Ionian settlers made of the "Lady of Ephesus" was slender.

The Christian approach was at variance with the tolerant syncretistic approach of pagans to gods who were not theirs. A Christian inscription at Ephesus suggests why so little remains at the site:

"Destroying the delusive image of the demon Artemis, Demeas has erected this symbol of Truth, the God that drives away idols, and the Cross of priests, deathless and victorious sign of Christ."

The assertion that the Ephesians thought that their cult image had fallen from the sky, though it was a familiar origin-myth at other sites, is only known at Ephesus from Acts 19:35:

"What man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the [image] which fell down from Jupiter?"

Lynn LiDonnici observes that modern scholars are likely to be more concerned with origins of the Lady of Ephesus and her iconology than her adherents were at any point in time, and are also prone to creating a synthetic account of the Lady of Ephesus by drawing together documentation that ranges over more than a millennium in its origins, creating a falsified, unitary picture, as of an unchanging icon.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Artemis of Ephesus" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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