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For the 1967 British film, see Herostratus (film).
Native name Ηρόστρατος
Died c. 356 BC
Cause of death Execution
Known for Destroying the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Herostratus (Greek: Ηρόστρατος) — or Erostratus — was a 4th-century BC Greek arsonist, who sought notoriety by destroying one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. His acts then prompted the creation of a 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.


A modern model of the Temple of Artemis.

On 21 July 356 BC, seeking notoriety, he burned down the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, in the Persian Empire (now Turkey). The temple honoured a local goddess, conflated by the Greeks with Artemis, their goddess of the hunt, the wild, and childbirth. The temple was constructed of marble and was built by King Croesus of Lydia to replace an older site destroyed during a flood. Measuring 130 metres (430 feet) long and supported by columns 18 metres (59 feet) high, it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Herostratus claimed credit for the arson in an attempt to immortalise his name. To dissuade those of similar intentions, the Ephesian authorities not only executed him, but attempted to condemn him to a legacy of obscurity by forbidding mention of his name under penalty of death.[citation needed] However, this did not stop Herostratus from achieving his goal, because the ancient historian Theopompus recorded the event and its perpetrator in his Hellenics.


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.

In language[edit]

The English term Herostratic fame relates to Herostratus and means "fame sought by criminal or otherwise disreputable means".[citation needed]

In media[edit]


  1. ^ James Bowman (April 18, 2001). "From Heroes to Herostratus". JamesBowman.net. Retrieved September 19, 2011. 
  2. ^ Geoffrey Chaucer (1379–1380). "The House of Fame". The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Georgetown University. Retrieved September 19, 2011. 
  3. ^ Frederick A. de Armas, "The Burning at Ephesus: Cervantes and Alarcón's La verdad sospechosa," Studies in Honor of Gilbert Paolini, ed. Mercedes Vidal Tibits. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta, 1996, pp. 41–55.
  4. ^ Herman Melville. "Mardi, and a Voyage Thither". Retrieved February 12, 2014.