Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 19, 1968
NUMBER 20, PAGE 3b-5a

Diana Of The Ephesians

B. G. Echols

"But when they perceived that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out. Great is Diana of the Ephesians" (Acts 19:34).

When Paul visited Ephesus it was one of the three greatest cities of the eastern Mediterranean. It had many calls to fame not the least of which was the temple of Artemis or Diana.

The temple was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and was the fifth to be built in the city. It replaced one burned in 356 B. C. by Herostratus who desired to acquire eternal fame for his deed. Begun before 350 B. C., the temple was still under construction when Alexander the great came in 334. Alexander offered to bear the cost of its completion but was refused because he sought to have his name inscribed in the temple. The Artemisian, as it was called, was probably finished by the end of the century. It stood until 262 A. D. when it and the city were destroyed by the Goths.

The deity of the city of Ephesus was a fertility goddess who bore a close relation to the primitive Asiatic goddess of nature. She was similar in character to Cybele the mother goddess of the Phrygians and Astarte of the Phoenicians. The Greek settlers gave her the name of Artemis. To the Romans she was known as Diana.

In the ancient religions in which sexual and fertility symbols were prominent the figure of the mother goddess was almost universal. In early times she was represented as a crude figure with enormous or many breasts, big buttocks and a swollen belly. It was this ancient goddess that survived into historical times as Artemis or Diana of the Ephesians. Various changes in character and representation took place during the centuries through a fusion of Greek and Asiatic ideas. Nevertheless certain basic characteristics remained. In Ephesus she was still a fertility goddess.

The city was proud to be identified as the servant of the goddess as the reading of Acts 19 indicates. Demetrius a silversmith, who made silver shrines for Diana spoke of the "temple of the great goddess Diana...whom all Asia and the world worshippeth" (Acts 19:27). The town clerk quieted the multitudes by reminding the people that all men knew "that the city of the Ephesians is temple-keeper of the great Diana, and of the image that fell down from Jupiter" (Acts 19:35).

The pagan tradition of Artemis continued very strong and perhaps never became extinct in Ephesus. Following the destruction in 262 the city revived and the cult of Artemis continued. Neither however, recovered their former strength. The cult survived outwardly until the Edict of Theodoseus closed pagan temples about 389. The city of Ephesus gradually declined and was abandoned probably because of malaria epidemics. Today there is no city at all on the site of Ephesus.

It is possible, however, that the cult of Artemis lives on in another form. A general council was held in Ephesus in 431. Recognized as the third ecumenical council, it was called to determine whether Mary should be called "Mother of God."

After several underhanded tactics were employed to eliminate those who opposed, the decision was made that the title was proper. This caused rejoicing in the city which still held in some measure to the cult of Artemis. It was from this time that the process began which terminated in conferring upon Mary the old pagan title, "Queen of Heaven."

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