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Religions in Ephesus

Religions in Ephesus

From The Cults of Kybele and Artemıs To Christianity

The Temple of Artemis developed in contact with the religious traditions of Kybele, the most prominent goddess of antiquity. Önce it was one of the most important religious centers in the world. The world-wide fame of the Temple of Artemis endured throughout several epochs. The Church of Saint John and the İsa Bey Mosque were intended to have the same degree of fame as the Temple of Artemis, and should be understood as competitors with this ancient house of worship. Interestingly, both the Church of Saint John and the İsa Bey Mosque echo its characteristic orientation. Ali three houses of worship face west. The effectiveness with which the shrine of the major goddess, the Temple of Artemis, crystallized her various attributes and aspects is also perceptible in the case of the Virgin Mary. The statue of Artemis holds its hands in front of its body, palms facing forward, which symbolize surplus and fertility. The gestures and devotional attitude of the statues of Mary are astonishingly similar.

Neither the name Artemis, which comes from Greek mythology, nor Diana, her name in the Roman period, are ancient Greek names. Artemis derives her character and attributes from the chief goddess of Anatolia. The cult of the Anatolian goddess spread throughout Mesopotamia, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, the islands of the Aegean, Greece, Crete, and Italy, and even further, to the Scandinavian countries in the north. As a result of developments lasting for thousands of years, the goddess, who symbolizes fertility, found a new orientation, and her true personallty, in the Artemis of Ephesus.

Excavations in various regions of Anatolia have uncovered small terra cotta figurines of the goddess dating to the seventh century BCE; they come from a culture stili older than that of the Sumerians. This proves that the cult of the Anatolian mother goddess spread into Mesopotamia from Anatolia. The most ancient figures, found in the caves of Çatalhöyük and Hacılar, represent the goddess of fertility and honesty. They are plump and have well-defined, exaggerated sexual organs.

In the magnificent Central Anatolian culture of the Hittites, the worship of the mother goddess Kubaba gained new significance. According to Hittite inscriptions, there was a connection between the goddess and the bee. Both the bee and the motif of the Hittite solar disc are portrayed in the robe of the Ephesian Artemis, and show the connection betvveen her and the mother goddess.

The Phrygian “Kybele” belonged to the temple of Pessinus, an independent religious çenter. The cult of the Anatolian mother goddess, whose name the Phrygians gave to their goddess, is, hovvever, much older. The ancient Anatolian mother goddess gained such fame through the Phrygians that it was vvrongly assumed that she was an exclusively Phrygian goddess, vvhose fame had endured into the Roman empire.
The two chief priests, Attis and Mogabysos, play an important role in the legend of Kybele. Mogabysos, who comes from a foreign land, also appears in the legends about Artemis. The “potnia theron,” a goddess of wild beasts associated with Kybele, is, according to the Iliad, also an aspect of Artemis. This is further evidence that Artemis developed from the mother goddess.

The iconography of Crete maintains the mother goddess, as she appears in Anatolia, with all of her typical characteristics. According to the Cretans, the mother goddess, whom they call Rhea, gave birth to Zeus in the cave of Dikte.

To endure the birth pangs, Rhea pressed her hand into the earth, and the five sacred kouretes sprang from the prints of her fingers.

Artemis of Ephesus, who developed from the mother goddess, acquired a much larger range of povvers, with other, very significant duties. It is the unique personallty of the Artemis of Ephesus which allows her to relate to, and ünite, numerous aspects that are quite complex and extensive.

In this ne w image, Artemis was rebom as the daughter of Leto and Zeus, and the twin sister of Apollo, in Ortygia, near Ephesus. According to the legend, Leto gave birth to Artemis north of Bulbul Dagi, near a spring in Ortygia. The House of Mary was later constructed in this area, which the birth of Artemis had hallowed. The name of the spring, Kenkrios, vvas transformed into “spring of Mary.”

At the end of the second century BCE, colonists who came to Ephesus encountered a dignified temple there. They united the personallty of the mother goddess with that of Artemis, so that she became an even more Central deity, responsible for the woods, for the protection of nature, and for prosperity and fertility. She also gained the aspect and attributes of the protectress of animals and hunters, the goddess of the moon and human fate, and the ruler of the stars and the zodiac.

As Christianity spread, the Ephesians stili retained their faith and devotion to Artemis. When the evangelist Paul chose Ephesus as one of his important centers for spreading Christianity to the west, he gave a speech in the theater of Ephesus. The audience protested and shouted that Artemis was greater. Paul was then sent into exile. The Ephesians only began to take Christianity seriously when they perceived in Mary one of the typical attributes of Artemis, that is, her virginity.

In the Roman period, the prytaneion vvas, after the Temple of Artemis, the second- most-important house of vvorship. The statues of Artemis that were found in the prytaneion are Roman copies of statues from the archaic period. The archaic vvooden statue that the woodworker Endoios ereated went up in flames in 356 BCE, along with the rest of the temple. The Romans copied this statue in marble. Thus, with its upright figüre and its legs tightly held together, like a column, the statue has the same characteristics as the original. The various figures on her robe illustrate her attributes and abilities.

The crown on her head symbolizes her role both as the protectress of Ephesus, and as a virgin mother. The lions on her arm show that she is the successor of the mother goddess. The protuberances on her upper body were thought to be brcasts (the many-brcastcd goddess), but recently, the hypothesis has gained ground that they were the testicles of bulls sacrificed to Artemis. These are also symbols of fertility. The long robe looks like vvooden roof tiles, and is divided into squares, in vvhich sacred animals represent her aspect as protectress of nature and of the city, along with other symbols of the city and mythological figures.
Many of these statues have Nike and zodiac figures on her neckline, as vvell as a beehive and the sacred deer at her feet. Ali these figures shovv that Artemis is the protectress of nature and the stars. The arms held in front of her body symbolize fertility.