From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"On July 21 356 BC, a young man called Herostratus set fire to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. His motif? Fame."

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Herostratus was a young man who set fire to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (in what is now western Turkey) in his quest for fame on July 21, 356 BC. The temple was constructed of marble and was considered the most beautiful of some thirty shrines built by the Greeks to honor their goddess of the hunt and the wild. The temple was also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Far from attempting to evade responsibility for his act of arson, Herostratus proudly claimed credit in order to immortalize his name in history. In order to dissuade similar-minded fame-seekers, the Ephesean authorities not only executed Herostratus, but condemned him to a legacy of obscurity by forbidding mention of his name under the penalty of death. This decree did not preclude Herostratus from achieving his goal, as the ancient historian Theopompus recorded the event and Herostratus in his history.

Literary and popular culture references

The name of Herostratus lived on in classical literature, and has been passed on into modern languages.

  • In German, for example, Herostrat is an individual in constant pursuit of fame.
  • The English term Herostratic fame, likewise, relates to Herostratus.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a short story titled "Erostratus" as part of his 1939 Le mur (The Wall). In the story, a man plans to commit a crime of random violence as a means of achieving fame.
  • The Japanese version of the Momus CD Oskar Tennis Champion contains a track titled "Erostratus" in which he gloats about his posthumous fame. It references the Sartre story in describing Erostratus's name as enduring "like a black diamond".
  • Herostratus is a 1967 British film by Australian film-maker Don Levy.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Herostratus" 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.

Personal tools