Dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of hunting and fertility and the daughter of Zeus and Leto, this temple was built between AD 150 and 170, and flanked by 12 elaborately carved Corinthian columns (11 still stand). The construction is particularly impressive given that large vaults, housing temple treasure, had to be built to the north and south to make the courtyard level. The whole building was once clad in marble, and prized statues of Artemis would have adorned the niches.
If you visit on a partly cloudy day, you’re in for a treat, as the sandstone pillars of the temple light up like bars of liquid gold each time the sun comes out. It’s a magical sight, and magic – or a sense of the world beyond – was exactly what the architects of this gem of a building would have been trying to capture in their design.
Alas, the edict of Theodorius in AD 386, permitting the dismantling of pagan temples, led to the demise of this once-grand edifice, as it was picked apart for materials to construct churches. The Byzantines later converted the site to an artisan workshop for kitchenware and crockery. In the 12th century the structure was temporarily brought back to life as an Arab fortification, only to be destroyed by the Crusaders.