Women were revered in ancient times it’s a shame that now everything is muddied and sullied, but here we see a snapshot of our distant ancestors’ love and reverence for the ever-evolving mother goddess through millennia.

In a darkened hall, two representations of Artemis overwhelm the visitor

Blue skies and hot sun in January in Selcuk, aka the famous Ephesus, home of one of the world’s seven wonders, and a great day to look into mother goddesses and their impact across the globe. After going to the Efe Museum and having an eye-opening proper look at the history there, and getting it sorted in my brain chronologically I walked over to the sad broken and pillaged site of this previously magnificent temple.

A last pillar resurrected

I had been to the actual Ephesus site previously and had marvelled at it but never really studied the place, only looking later at documentaries about Cleopatra’s sister having a mausoleum and the sinister side of that particular woman pharaoh.

Only there could I sit down and ponder the evolution and ramifications of a developing mother deity from ancient times.


A resplendent Artemis found at the temple and on show at the Efe Museum.
The two Artemis face off in a darkened room at Efe Museum.

Earlier Mother Goddesses

The crude terracotta little models, often found in people’s houses, were indeed protective talismen (or taliswomen) of mother goddesses and these are found worldwide. As time went on goddesses became more specialised and not necessarily very motherish or concentrated on fertility, they developed into the darker aspects of punishment and revenge. They were forerunners to the extended versions.

There is a strong estimation that the story of the Anatolian woman appears as a Goddess since the Neolithic age, progressing to Hattia, Hittite Kubaba, Phyrg Cybele, turning to Carians Hekate, then Aphrodite and raised to Artemia, finally to Virgin Mary.

Her name, shape and powers have been changing through time and cross-cultural interactions. But her basic persona, as the protector of all life and fertility, usually as a virgin had remained still.

Besides, plenty of moon temples were explored in Anatolia, mostly related to the mother goddess. While the sun and the bull were associated with the masculine principle, the moon and water cult was usually associated with the goddess. Because the moon, just like the female, has a cyclic character. If you are interested in the history of the Earth Mother, Anatolia has much to say about this outstanding Cult. Indeed the whole country is full of impressive relics about the Mother Goddess and related reflected beliefs.

16,000 Year Old Figurine

Archaeologists of Turkey, have recently unearthed a 16,000-year-old mother goddess figurine during excavations in Direkli Cave close to Kahramamaras province. This fired clay goddess figurine being the eldest in Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Near East, maybe a strong indication that the social status of women was very important 16,000 years ago.

8000 BCE Gobekli Tepe

In pre-Neolithic and Neolithic Anatolia there were several cultures which had female figurines associated with felines. The earliest yet found is in Gobeklitepe in southeastern Turkey, in which a female figure, dating to ca. 8000 BCE, was found carved on a rock in an area between pillars containing depictions of felines.

7000 BCE. Çatalhoyuk,

The double mound of Catalhoyuk, 45 kilometres south of modern Konya, dates from the eighth to the sixth millennia BCE. The famous figurine found at Çatalhoyuk, (Archaeological Museum- Ankara), is generally conceded to depict a corpulent and fertile Mother Goddess in the process of giving birth while seated on her throne, which has two hand rests in the form of feline (leopard or panther) heads. The similarity to later iconography of the Anatolian Mother Goddess is striking.

Kultepes Sun Goddess

Moving to the Bronze Age, at the end of the 4th millennium B.C., the mother goddess was now associated with the sun as we can see from finds at Kultepe in Cappadocia; where the sun goddess and her family had come to dominate the pantheon.

An Anatolian mother figure 2,500 / 2,000 BC


The Hittite pantheon can be characterized as a tolerant polytheism that included not only indigenous Anatolian deities but also Syrian and Hurrian divinities. The oldest god was Hattia, who lead the king to victory in battle. Later, especially in the 13th century BC under the influence of Queen Puduhepa, Hurrian deities entered the pantheon and the leading Hurrian pair, Teshub and Hebat, were identified with their Hittite counterparts, the goddess taking a subordinate place.

Artemis and her Artemission.


The cult of the mother goddess which had existed in Anatolia since the Neolithic Age dominated religious life in lonic settlements such as Ephesus in the 6th century B.C., where Artemis was the latest embodiment of the mother goddess. Test holes have confirmed that the site of the temple of Artemis in Ephesus was occupied as early as the Bronze Age.

Detail of the exotic and much-revered goddess.

Artemis was the Greek goddess, the virginal huntress and twin of Apollo, who substituted for the Titan Selene as Goddess of the Moon. At Ephesus, Artemis was passionately venerated in an archaic, certainly pre-Hellenic cult image that was carved of wood, and kept decorated with jewellery. Most similar to Near-Eastern and Egyptian deities, and least like Greek ones, her body and legs were enclosed within a tapering, pillar-like enclosure from which her feet protrude and her breast was covered with many egg-shaped forms. She wears a mural crown (like a city’s walls), an attribute of Cybele. Shrines, bulls’ horns, and goddess images were found in her temple, showing the continuation linked to other mother goddesses of classical times like Artemis (whose cult flourished at Ephesus, and thus preceded that of the Christian Mary, who was imaged there with a crescent moon, just as her predecessor), Cybele and Aphrodite.

Eggs or breasts or bulls testicles but definitely a fertility symbol

However, depictions of the Lady of Ephesus varied greatly over time. As demonstrated by her connection with Anaiti, Artemis Ephesia had a strong association with water. Bengisu calls Artemis Ephesia a “protectress of water sources, lakes and marshes” and reports that originally her worship may have been connected with a fish cult.

Perhaps the legend of the Amazons’ connection with the cult of Artemis Ephesia further serves to identify the goddess with women who have not taken on their normative social function as wives and mothers. The Amazons were a mythical race of female warriors who come from remote Pontic Asia Minor. Callimachus writes of how the Amazons were actually the founders of the cult; they set up an image of the goddess under an oak tree and performed a war dance around it, where later a sanctuary was built.

A tiny golden figure of a goddess as yet identified but found at the Artemis temple site

The Temple of Artemis was located in an economically robust region, visited by merchants and travellers from all over Asia Minor. Influenced by many beliefs, the temple was a symbol for peoples of all faiths from many lands. It was also known as the Temple of Diana, the equivalent Roman goddess to Artemis.

The temple was said to be a fantastic structure made of marble, with gold and silver decorations and the finest art and statuary of the age. It was burned down on July 21, 356 B.C.E. by agents of a man called Herostratus, who reportedly sought worldwide fame by destroying the world’s most beautiful building. It was later rebuilt several times. Its ultimate destruction occurred at the hands of a Christian mob led by St. John Chrysostom, then archbishop of Ephesus, in 401 C.E.

Thanks to:

Ephesus at the British Museum.

So I checked out what the British Museum managed to plunder from Ephesus and what they said about the scraps in an unassuming showcase as the main hall was closed for cleaning. This is all I’m afraid

Ephesus was a wealthy Greek city on the west coast of Asia Minor, endowed with a fine harbour and the rich hinterland of Lydia. Throughout antiquity, the sanctuary and the great temple of Artemis made Ephesus a place of pilgrimage. Before the Greeks arrived at Ephesus, the local inhabitants had worshipped an Anatolian mother goddess. The Greeks worshipped her as Artemis, but her cult still resembled her predecessor’s in its emphasis on vegetation and fertility.

Excavations at Ephesus have revealed traces of an early shrine dating back to the seventh century BC. The Basis, as it has been called, was later incorporated into the first large-scale temple, which was built during the sixth century BC. Croesus, the Lydian king renowned for his great wealth, contributed generously to the cost of the new building, which was among the most richly ornamented of all Archaic Greek temples. It was on a grand scale too, about 115m long and 55m wide, with a double row of columns all around.

The sixth-century temple was destroyed by fire in 356 BC. According to tradition, this was on the night that Alexander the Great was born in Macedon. A new temple was built on the same site. and it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Alert : Well, plenty more to be said on this topic but I’ll leave it to another day. My love to all the people in Turkey and Syria who have lost loved ones in Turkiye. My thoughts are with you.