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Herostratus ( ) was a young man who set fire to the Temple of Artemismarker at Ephesusmarker (in what is now western Turkeymarker) in his quest for fame on about July 20, 356 BC. The temple was constructed of marble and considered the most beautiful of some thirty shrines built by the Greeks to honour their goddess of the hunt, the wild and childbirth. The temple was also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, 425 feet long and supported by columns sixty feet high.

Far from attempting to evade responsibility for his act of arson, Herostratus proudly claimed credit in an attempt to immortalise his name in history. In order to dissuade similar-minded fame-seekers, the Ephesean authorities not only executed him but also condemned him to a legacy of obscurity by forbidding mention of his name under the penalty of death. This did not stop Herostratus from achieving his goal, however, as the ancient historian Theopompus recorded the event and its perpetrator in his history.

References in literature and popular culture

Herostratus's name lived on in classical literature and has passed into modern languages.
  • In German a Herostrat is a criminal out of thirst for glory.
  • The English term Herostratic fame, likewise, relates to Herostratus, and means, roughly, "fame at any cost". Such men as Mark David Chapman, who murdered John Lennon,"The result," said Chapman, "would be that I would be famous; the result would be that my life would change and I would receive a tremendous amount of attention." may be considered modern examples of the Herostratically famous. (See Mark David Chapman#Motivation and mental health for further details.)
  • In Finnish, herostraattinen kunnia ("Herostratic honour") means being known only because of one's infamy or notoriety.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a short story entitled "Erostratus" as part of his 1939 Le mur (The Wall). In the story, a man plans to commit a crime of random violence as a means of achieving fame.
  • The Japanese version of the Momus CD Oskar Tennis Champion contains a track titled "Erostratus" in which he gloats about his posthumous fame. It references the Sartre story in describing Erostratus's name as enduring "like a black diamond".
  • Herostratus is a 1967 British film by Australian film-maker Don Levy.

See also


  1. The birth of Alexander the Great is claimed to have occurred on the same day, although ancient historians may have manipulated it to coincide with the temple's destruction and thereby bolster his claims to divinity.


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