Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Wonders Burn

Louise Belcher Evil Laugh GIF by Bob's Burgers

Eye-witness video of Herostratus circa 4th century BC.

People suck. I’m confident that this is a definitive statement I can make without stating any evidence or backing citations since we’re all constantly exposed to the same examples in our day to day lives that proves it, from mass murderers on the news to that dude in a pick-up truck who cut you off on the road earlier this week.

And while there might be some cases where our modern world may be to blame, I can assure you that since civilization has been a thing, people have been finding all kinds of ways to be various levels of bastards to one another. And perhaps the most disrespectful and shitty thing you could possibly do to everyone is destroying one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World just for the helluva it.

Enter Herostratus, whose name I’m annoyed to even know.

Therefore only an utterly senseless person can fail to know that our characters are the result of our conduct.Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics; Book III [1]

In 4th century BC, Ancient Greece was still very much a playground for heroic mythos celebrated as true accounts, from the rippling pectorals of Heracles to Achilles’ famous anger, despite how much Plato wanted to ruin the fun for everyone by telling them otherwise. So, it’s perhaps understandable that a desire to cement oneself in these cool new things called “History Books” was a real thing people worried about. I mean, an entire cult of worship amassing after your death and obsessively placing pottery in your name everywhere does sound kind of nice. The only trouble is, how does one accomplish such a magnificent feat without being either a King, really good at wearing a toga and going around harassing the youth with your incessant “why” questions, or immortalizing yourself in a war when everyone was too busy inventing things and getting ready for the arrival of the next big thing since fermented grapes?

And perhaps it was out of a subconscious resentment for this last one in particular, Herostratus decided that being remembered in infamy was good enough for him and that to accomplish this, he would set fire to The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus on the day of Alexander the Great’s birth on July 21st, 356 BC. [2]

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.14.5) [2]

 

The people of Ephesus were not having any of this bullshit. Capturing Herostratus, torturing his ass until he admitted to his stupid reason for torching the only thing that put their city on the map, and executing the shit out of him, they also decreed it a capital offense to even mention his name, effectively inventing the phrase He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in an attempt to show everyone that pulling stuff like this would get you nowhere in history, god dammit.

Artemis Temple Illustration

Cry emoji

Unfortunately, his name still managed to survive and we know it today because those pesky ancient historians like Theopompus and Strabo [3] just couldn’t help themselves. Now we all get to hate ourselves for knowing it and, effectively, making sure that Herostratus came out of this whole ordeal as the winner.

You’re welcome.

Fact Check it, yo!

[1] Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics; Book III. Retrieved: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.3.iii.html

[2] Valerius Maximus, Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium; (VIII.14.5) Retrieved (Also Google Translate): http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/L/Roman/Texts/Valerius_Maximus/8*.html#14.ext.5

[3] Smith, William, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. Retrieved: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0104%3Aalphabetic+letter%3DH%3Aentry+group%3D11%3Aentry%3Dherostratus-bio-2

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