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  19 2 Out of a Dying World Comes a Light In 1863 the British Museum funded an architectural archaeologist , John Turtle Wood, to search for a site in the ancient city of Ephesus where once stood a temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis. Once considered the crown jewel of the world’s seven wonders, not a single trace of it remained to be seen when Wood and his team stepped into the hot sun on the first day of the dig. They lacked even a basic sense of where to begin digging. Six years later, having suffered a stabbing, a broken collarbone, insufficient capital, and unreliable workers , Wood followed cryptic directions inscribed on a post in the municipal amphitheater almost three-quarters of a mile beyond the city walls to a swamp that was inaccessible and clouded with insects. Undaunted, Wood’s crew began to dig. Twenty feet later, they struck the temple they had been commissioned to find.1 Eventually, they cleared a foundation footprint measuring 413 feet by 214 feet. From ancient sources and coin images, the British archaeologist knew that 127 huge columns once stood on this impressive foundation. The columns propped up a massive roof that hung 65 feet overhead. The temple had been populated with artistically carved, painted, and fully dressed statues of the goddess and her associates, and its sanctuaries and altars were decorated with vivid tapestries The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus  20 and bright frescoes depicting the legendary deeds of gods and mortals. Nothing of this former glory was left in the brown layers of mud, silt, and detritus. Even so, Wood must have understood that he had unearthed more than column pieces, coins, sculpture fragments, and a temple base—he had uncovered a lost world. Twilight of the Gods The idea that any person might have trouble locating the temple of Artemis would have struck a first-century Ephesian as absurd. Upon his entrance into the city, St. Paul of Tarsus, the missionary of Christ, could see for himself—as could anyone —the white-marbled edifice towering in the hazy distance, presiding over lesser buildings and weaker mortals. He did not enter the city by way of the bustling sea-harbor, but, coming from the regions of Galatia and Phrygia—present-day Turkey— “Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus ” (Acts 18:23, 19:1). He entered through the southeastern gate and proceeded up the street that merged with roads from Colossae, Sardis, and Smyrna. As he went deeper into the city, Paul lost sight of the temple for a time. Merchant canopies and the smoke from meat-vendors obscured his view. He reached the heart of the city and found the agora, the “market,” where everything could be bought and sold: Persian silks and Arabian carpets, Alexandrian glassware and locally produced clay pots, freshly baked artesian bread and beer loaves, olive oil, Syrian dates and fig cakes, wine, fresh and salted fish hooked on strings for display, live quail, leather belts, wooden staffs and handles, metal-fittings for horses and field equipment, and slaves. This was the bazaar of the greatest and most prosperous city in all of Asia Minor. For this reason, Ephesus was authorized to mint its own coins to feed the furnace of exchange and commerce. Greek, Syriac, Latin, Egyptian, and Hebrew voices vied for attention. Pushing through the intestinal coils of the market, Paul suddenly found himself outside the walls of the city, in  21 Out of a Dying World Comes a Light front of the white, geometric steps of the Temple of Artemis. He must have tilted his head back and allowed himself to gaze up, not forgetting to watch for pickpockets and purse-snatchers who preyed on disoriented sightseers. Yet even the savvy tourist could not help but be “captivated by pantomimes and occupied with the pyrrhic dance” that twirled in the temple’s plaza, as one eyewitness noted. “The whole place teemed with piping , with hermaphrodites, and with castanets.”2 Philosophers, politicians, and religious orators took their places on the steps and attracted crowds to their speeches. Civic announcements were pasted at eye-level onto the thick columns. Pigeons swooped in and out, scavenging food while unabashed streetboys tugged at the sleeves of tourists, offering guided tours of the temple’s splendor for a penny. The temple was unique for many reasons, including its architectural orientation. Most Greek temples faced east, so that the first fingers of sunrise...


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MARC Record
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