The temple built for the worship of Artemis, the goddess whose cult dominated the religious and social life of Ephesus for centuries, stood where the fig gardens are today on the right side of the road to Kusadasi, some 400 yards from the mosque of Isabey. This is today called Ingiliz Cukuru (the British Pit) after excavations carried out here by British in the 19th Century. A few broken pieces of marble are, however, all that there is to be seen at this place where once stood one of the most illustrious temples of ancient times.
According to Pausanias, the Temple was superior in perfection and impressiveness,to anything else made by man. Another ancient writer says that he has seen the wall and gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the immense structures of the pyramids and mausoleums, but when his eyes were turned towards the Temple at Ephesus all the other wonders of the world lost their brilliance.
The foundation of the Temple goes back to the earliest period of the history of Greece. Some scholars hold that the cult of Artemis was first established by the Amazons, the alleged founders of Ephesus, while others claim that it was older than the Amazons, and that it was founded by a divine order following the birth of Artemis. Pliny relates that the Temple was sacked and destroyed seven times, but rebuilt each time on the same spot, more beautiful and impressive than before. The last Temple is said to be the most magnificent of them all.
Following its destruction by the Goths in 263 A.D., religious and economic conditions of the time permitted only a modest temple to be erected in its place, which was razed to the ground following the final victory gained by Christianity. Material saved from the debris of the Temple was used in various new buildings, and some of the columns were even carried as far as Costantinople to be used in St. Sophia. The rest of the works of architecture and sculpture were in time burried under a layer of sand, rubble and alluvion and so determing the exact position of the Temple was a very difficult problem for archaeologists until the 19th century.
According to Herodotus, the Temple was located a distance of seven stads, (three quarters of a mile) from the walls of Ephesus. There were two roads to the temple: one from the harbour in a northwesterly direction and passed through the Kaystros plain; the other ran from the Magnesia Gate in a northeasterly direction. In 1871, J. T. Wood, a British engineer, found the exact site of the Temple at a depth of 19 feet. Excavations later carried out by D. C. Hogarth threw light on many points not explained by Wood, and valuable data were collected about the various periods of the Temple. The rich architectural and sculptural find in both of these excavations are now in the British Museum, while temple offerings of gold, ivory and precious stones are in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul.