Roman Aqueduct near Ephesus

      There is an abundance of guides to the ruins of Ephesus. This blog is not intended to be another one. Instead, I’m offering a series of personal encounters with specific buildings, or mini-locations, throughout the site. For example, let’s start with Artemis, the great goddess herself. Although closely associated with Diana, the Roman hunter goddess, also known as Artemis, sister of Apollo, a bow in her hand and a deer in her sights. She is not that Artemis. She’s Anatolian Artemis, neither Greek nor Roman, but fondly adopted by the multicultural population of Ephesus. 

      Her statue can be seen in the Ephesus Museum. She is nothing like the hunter goddess. She is flanked on either side by two headless animals, probably deer, and her dress is decorated with images of wild animals—including bees, which show up elsewhere in the iconography of Ephesus. Her most prominent feature is a cluster of grape-like protrusions often described as “breasts,” but it is obvious upon casual inspection that these protrusions are not attached to her body, but to her long-sleeved bodice. 

      If they are not breasts, what are they? Grapes? Eggs? Or, as one theory suggests, bulls’ testicles? I put the question of my friend Islam, a wise and experienced tour guide.* He answered, “Breasts, grapes, eggs, bulls’ testicles, all of the above!” I got the point: they are not representational; they are symbols of fertility. This Artemis appears in the first story of Life and Death in Ephesus, “Herostratus,” the story behind the destruction of her temple.

       * Islam welcomes guests to his farmhouse B&B: www.villademeter.com. Tell him I sent you.