Engineering the 7 Wonders of the World: Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Before modern technology existed, civilizations built incredible structures and sculptures that would live on in infamy. This is the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

Built to honor the greek goddess, Artemis, the Temple at Ephesus was described as the most decadent and ornate of all of the 7 ancient wonders. Built on a hilltop in present-day Turkey, its construction took place not only once, but three times over the course of its existence. Destroyed each time by war or flooding, it was finally lost in 401 A.D. In its day, the temple would have been the pinnacle of society, and its engineering would have been unmatched. So, how was the massive stone building built?

Construction on the original temple began in about 800 B.C., where it was then destroyed around 200 years later. Used to worship greek gods and goddesses, the architecture was influenced by both Greek and Near-eastern styles. Supporting the building was 127 marble columns, each 60 feet high. Many speculate that these columns were rolled up to the location by teams of workers and animals, then a cantilevered crane, or more likely earthen ramps, was used to lift them into place.

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The temple was shaped in rectangular fashion, measuring 377 feet by 180 feet. The rectangular shape was the only aspect of the structure that wasn’t extravagant. Each marble column featured beautifully engraved caps and inside the temple, there were many highly detailed sculptures of Amazon warriors. Gold and silver adorned the details of the structure. It was a place built for extravagance and beauty over functionality. Most famously, Antipater of Sidon, the man who compiled the list of the 7 ancient wonders, spoke of the Temple as more marvelous than any of the other wonders.

Engineering such a place of extravagance has embedded the temple even further into the history books. Each time the structure was built, it was rebuilt in the same location on the same foundation. Every aspect of the structure was built using marble, which made the process nothing short of difficult. Construction is rumored to have taken over 120 years, although exact estimates are hard to confirm. Like many other large construction projects of this time, workers would have used large earthen ramps to roll segments of the columns to location. Other reports of the construction of the temple claim that engineers would have had access to large cantilevered crane technology which would have been used to lift stones into place. From a mechanical perspective, this method seems more plausible, but it is still questioned whether this technology would have existed at the time.

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For the most part, construction of the marble temple took place exactly like one would play with building blocks. The supporting columns were erected first, then marble beams were placed to span the gap and allow for a support for the roofing structure. While the construction would have been up to par to build the structure, it didn’t make it necessarily resistant to outside loading forces. Flooding, wars, and even possible earthquakes ultimately destroyed each version of the temple. Examining its history, it would seem that engineers could never build a structure that would last more than a few hundred years.

Of all of the 7 wonders, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was the most beautiful of all structures. Although it had a history filled with destruction, it stood for many years as the hallmark of ancient engineering.

Sources: UnmuseumUniversity of ChicagoSoft Schools

Image Sources: [1][2][3]

Profile photo of Trevor English
Trevor is a civil engineer by trade with an extensive background in internet media and marketing. He loves finding new and interesting topics and bringing them to the rest of the world.


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