Remains of the Temple of Artemis, Selkuk, TurkeyIn May, I went to Istanbul for a writer's workshop. One of our writing exercises was to take a favorite picture from the trip and create an ekphrastic response, that is to use one art form, in this case words, to recreate and reinterpret another art form, in this case a photo. I chose to write about a picture I took at the Temple of Artemis, one of the many ancient sites in and around the city of Selkuk (Ephesus in ancient times), in southwestern Turkey.
The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once boasted twenty-one marble columns surrounding a large open-air platform. Now, all that remains is a single lonely column, bravely standing in a damp meadow, its broken pieces reassembled like a child’s tower of blocks.
On top, a pair of storks have built their messy nest, adding yet another level to the tower. While they wait for their eggs to hatch, one bird hunts for food, and the other stands watch, stretching its wide wings, flexing its long legs, periodically leaning over to rearrange the sticks of the nest furniture.
On the ground below, spring flowers bloom and grasses sway in the breeze. Pistachios ripen on hillside trees. Out of sight, a lizard scampers along a wall in search of a sheltered niche for sun bathing. A mother goose herds her fluffy goslings toward the safety of the pond, where clusters of turtles cling to rocks that rise like small islands in the water.
Two millenia ago, throngs of worshipers came here to pay homage to Artemis, goddess of the hunt and wild animals. Then, in 400 A.D. Artemis and her cult fell out of favor and her temple was destroyed. Its pieces were scavenged to build churches, roads, and forts. Little is left of the ancient wonder. And yet, like the single column rising to the sky, the spirit of Artemis remains. I think she would be pleased to know that so many wild creatures have made her temple their home.
Plan of the Temple of ArtemisNote: For information about the workshop that inspired this piece, go to my May 23rd post on my Art and Books blog. Other posts about Turkey on this blog were posted on June 28, July 2, August 6 and August 20.