David Couchman
David Couchman is the Director of Focus and the producer of the 'God: new evidence,' 'God and the Big Bang,' 'After Life?' and 'Jesus Myths' video series. More...

Digital Evangelism blog

Worship of Artemis at Ephesus

Acts chapter 19 verses 23 to 41 describes how Paul visited the city of Ephesus, and the riot that resulted.

Ruins of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Ruins of the temple of Artemis
Picture: BiblePlaces.com

Ephesus was famous for the temple of the goddess Artemis (sometimes called Diana).

In 1869, J T Wood discovered the site of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

The first temple of Artemis was built in 550 BC, and was described as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was made entirely of marble, and was the largest building in the Greek world. According to Pliny, it was 115 metres by 55 metres in size, and some of its 127 columns were up to 17.65 metres high. The original temple was destroyed about 350 BC, and was rebuilt at the same size during the third century BC. It is this second temple that stood at Ephesus when Paul visited the city.

There was a close connection between the worship of Artemis and magic, and Ephesus gained a reputation as a center for the magical arts (see Acts chapter 19 verses 17-20)

First century statue of Artemis from Ephesus
Picture: BiblePlaces.com

Second century statue of Artemis from Ephesus
Picture: BiblePlaces.com

A major industry had grown up around providing shrines and statues of Artemis. As a result of Paul's visit, this industry was being damaged because so many people were becoming followers of Christ. A silversmith called Demetrius stirred up the craftsmen, leading to a riot.

Archaeologists have discovered a number of statues of the pagan goddess Artemis from Ephesus, dated to the first and second centuries AD. The picture left is of a second century statue; the one above is from the first century. Both are in the museum at Ephesus.

Acts chapter 19 verse 29 records that in the riot, the crowd dragged Paul's traveling companions Gaius and Aristarchus to the theater.

This new theater was built about 50 AD, only a couple of years before Paul was in Ephesus. It seated 25,000.

The Theatre at Ephesus
Picture: BiblePlaces.com

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