Diana of the Ephesians
The Roman idol Diana (see Ancient Empires - Rome) was known to the pagan Greeks (see Ancient Empires - Greece) as Artemis. Her cult is mentioned in the Bible, where some translations call it "Diana of the Ephesians" while others use "Artemis of the Ephesians."
The idol's most extravagant temple was at Ephesus. It became one of the "seven wonders" of the ancient world. Constructed over the span of 220 years, of pure marble, it measured 345 feet / 105 meters long, by 165 feet / 50 meters wide, and was supported by massive columns each 55 feet / 17 meters high. Inside was a bizarre statue of the "fertility" idol, the original of which was apparently carved from a meteorite that had "fallen from heaven." (Acts 19:35) (Note: It is not uncommon for meteorites to strike the earth. For example, in 1922, a 20-ton piece of space rock entered earth's atmosphere and struck the ground near Blackston, Virginia - but no one made an idol out of it).
The cult of Diana, or Artemis, was so powerful and widespread (religiously and economically) in the first century that it caused a very dangerous environment in some places for those who preached the Gospel of God, as the apostle Paul found out during his third missionary journey (see Paul's First Missionary Journey and
Paul's Second Missionary Journey and
Paul's Third Missionary Journey).
The Riot In Ephesus
"So the word of The Lord grew and prevailed mightily."
"Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome." And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while."
"About that time there arose no little stir concerning The Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said, "Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only at Ephesus but almost throughout all Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable company of people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods [see Images and Idols]. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may count for nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship."
"When they heard this they were enraged, and cried out, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" So the city was filled with the confusion; and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul's companions in travel. Paul wished to go in among the crowd, but the disciples would not let him; some of the Asiarchs also, who were friends of his, sent to him and begged him not to venture into the theater."
"Now some cried one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, wishing to make a defense to the people. But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all with one voice cried out, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"
"And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, "Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? Seeing then that these things cannot be contradicted, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against any one, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls; let them bring charges against one another. But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, there being no cause that we can give to justify this commotion." And when he had said this, he dismissed the assembly." (Acts 19:20-41 RSV)
Fact Finder: What does God say about praying to, or worshipping, pieces of lifeless stone, plaster or plastic?
See also The Ten Commandments