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Herostratus (Ancient Greek: Ἡρόστρατος) was a young man who set fire to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (in what is now western Turkey) in his quest for fame on about July 20, 356 BC.[1] The temple was constructed of marble and considered the most beautiful of some thirty shrines built by the Greeks to honour their goddess of the hunt, the wild and childbirth. Four hundred and twenty-five feet long, and supported by columns sixty feet high, it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Far from attempting to evade responsibility for his act of arson, Herostratus proudly claimed credit in an attempt to immortalise his name in history. In order to dissuade similar-minded fame-seekers, the Ephesean authorities not only executed him but also condemned him to a legacy of obscurity by forbidding mention of his name under the penalty of death. This did not stop Herostratus from achieving his goal, however, as the ancient historian Theopompus recorded the event and its perpetrator in his history.

References in literature and popular culture

Herostratus's name lived on in classical literature and has passed into modern languages.

Notes

  1. ^ The birth of Alexander the Great is claimed to have occurred on the same day, although ancient historians may have manipulated it to coincide with the temple's destruction and thereby bolster his claims to divinity.

References

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