Herostratus (Ancient Greek: Ἡρόστρατος) was a 4th-century
BC Greek arsonist, who sought notoriety by destroying the Temple of
Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. His acts
prompted the creation of a damnatio memoriae law, forbidding anyone to
mention his name. Nevertheless, his name has become a metonym for
someone who commits a criminal act in order to become noted.
2.1 In language
2.2 In media
3 See also
A modern model of the Temple of Artemis.
Archeological evidence indicates the site of the
Temple of Artemis
Temple of Artemis at
Ephesus had been of sacred use since the Bronze Age, and the
original building was destroyed during a flood in the 7th century
BC. A second temple was commissioned by King
Croesus of Lydia
around 560 BC and built by Cretan architects including Chersiphron,
constructed largely of marble, and measuring 337 feet long and 180
feet wide with its pillars standing 40 feet tall. The sculpted
bases of the pillars contained life-sized carvings and the roof opened
to the sky around a statue of Artemis. The second temple was
included on an early list of the
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by
Herodotus in the 5th century BC, and was well known to many people in
the ancient world.
Little is known about the life of Herostratus, though it is thought he
may have been someone of low social standing, a non-
Ephesian or a
slave. According to tradition, the fire that destroyed the second
temple was set on the day
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great was born, 21 July 356
Herostratus was then captured and tortured on the rack,
where he confessed to having committed the arson in an attempt to
immortalize his name. To dissuade those of similar intentions, the
Ephesian authorities not only executed Herostratus, but attempted to
condemn him to a legacy of obscurity by forbidding mention of his name
under penalty of death. However, the ancient historian Theopompus
mentions the name of
Herostratus in his Philippica, and it appears
again later in the works of Strabo. It is said that in fact his
name has outlived the names of his judges, and in his Hydriotaphia Sir
Thomas Browne said:
But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals
with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity...
Herostratus lives that burnt the Temple of Diana, he is almost lost
that built it... Who knows whether the best of men be known? or
whether there be not more remarkable persons forgot, than any that
stand remembred in the known account of time?
Work on a third temple at the site began in 323 BC, resulting in a
larger and more ornate temple that would be included by Antipater of
Sidon as one of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Herostratus's name lived on in classical literature and has passed
into modern languages as a term for someone who commits a criminal act
in order to achieve notoriety, thus winning herostratic fame.
The term "Herostratic fame" refers to
Herostratus and means "fame
[sought] at any cost".
Chaucer makes reference to Herostratus in The House of Fame: "I am
that ylke shrewe, ywis, / That brende the temple of Ysidis / In
Athenes, loo, that citee." / "And wherfor didest thou so?" quod she. /
"By my thrift," quod he, "madame, / I wolde fayn han had a fame, / As
other folk hadde in the toun..."
Many authors from sixteenth and seventeenth-century Spain refer to
Herostratus to represent someone who will do anything to gain
notoriety. He is discussed in Chapter 8 of the second part of
Don Quixote (1615), along with
Julius Caesar and Hernán
Cortés among others. Don García, the protagonist of Ruiz de
Alarcón's La verdad sospechosa (Suspect Truth), compares his feats to
the ancient character.
In the chapter titled "Dreams" in Herman Melville's Mardi, and a
Voyage Thither (1849), the protagonist states, "[W]hoso stones me,
shall be as Erostratus, who put torch to the temple..." 
Jaroslav Hašek in the preface of his last novel, The Good Soldier
Herostratus to Švejk (the protagonist) and praised
The protagonist of the 1967 film
Herostratus hires a marketing company
to turn his suicide-by-jumping into a mass-media spectacle.
In Gore Vidal's
1970 novel Two Sisters the real-life story of
Herostratus appears as a sub-plot.
In Grigori Gorin's
1972 play Forget the Herostratus! in which a
"theater man" from the present observes the judgement of Herostratus
in order to understand the source of the disaster that plagues
Jean-Paul Sartre's short story "Erostratus" is directly based on the
story of Herostratus.
Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 film Stalker makes reference to Herostratus.
^ Bammer, Anton (1990). "A
Peripteros of the Geometric Period in the
Artemision of Ephesus". Anatolian Studies. 40: 142.
doi:10.2307/3642799. JSTOR 3642799.
^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 7.7 - 8.
^ a b c Robert Wurtz II (2015). Love in Crisis: Modern Parallels to
the Church at Ephesus. Creation House. ASIN B014C54MU2.
^ Rawlinson, George (1859). The History of Herodotus. 1. New York: D.
Appleton and Company.
^ a b David S. Kidder & Noah D. Oppenheim (2010). The Intellectual
Devotional Biographies. Rodale. ISBN 978-1594865138. CS1
maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
^ Valerius Maximus, Memorable deeds and sayings, 8. 14. 5: "A man was
found to plan the burning of the temple of
Ephesian Diana so that
through the destruction of this most beautiful building his name might
be spread through the whole world."Valerius Maximus, VIII.14.ext.5
^ Albert Borowitz (January 2005). Terrorism for Self-glorification:
The Herostratos Syndrome. Kent State University Press. pp. 6–.
Strabo of Amaseia (13 February 2016). Delphi Complete Works of
Strabo - Geography (Illustrated). Delphi Classics. pp. 4279–.
^ The Works of Sir
Thomas Browne Volume III p. 139. Pub: Edinburgh
John Grant 1907 https://archive.org/details/cu31924064959640
^ Fawcett, Julia H. (2016). Spectacular Disappearances: Celebrity and
Privacy, 1696-1801. University of Michigan Press. p. 33.
^ James Bowman (April 18, 2001). "From Heroes to Herostratus".
JamesBowman.net. Archived from the original on October 12, 2011.
Retrieved September 19, 2011.
Chaucer (1379–1380). "The House of Fame". The Works of
Geoffrey Chaucer. Georgetown University. Archived from the original on
August 10, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
^ Frederick A. de Armas, "The Burning at Ephesus:
Alarcón's La verdad sospechosa," Studies in Honor of Gilbert Paolini,
ed. Mercedes Vidal Tibits. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta, 1996,
^ Herman Melville. "Mardi, and a Voyage Thither". Retrieved February
HEROSTRATUS in Smith, William, ed. (1870) Dictionary of Greek and
Roman Antiquities, V. 2, p. 439.