Herostratus (Ancient Greek: Ἡρόστρατος) was a young man and historic arsonist seeking fame who burned down the Temple of Artemis in ancient times.
On July 21, 356 BC Herostratus set fire to the Temple at Ephesus (in what is now west coast of Turkey) in his quest for fame. The temple was constructed of marble and considered the most beautiful of some 30 shrines built by the Greeks to honour their goddess of the hunt, the wild and childbirth. Measuring 130 metres long (425 feet), and supported by columns 18 metres high (60 feet), it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Far from attempting to evade responsibility for his act of arson, Herostratus proudly claimed credit in an attempt to immortalise his name in history. 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 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 Hellenics.
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 Alexander's claims to divinity.
References in culture
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 bask in the resultant notoriety.
* 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.)
（Ἡρόστρατος). An Ephesian who set fire to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus on the same night that Alexander the Great was born, B.C. 356, in order to immortalize himself. The Ephesians passed a decree condemning his name to oblivion, but as might naturally be expected, this only increased his notoriety, and made him more absolutely certain of the attainment of his object (Plut. Alex. 3; Val. Max. viii. 14, 5; Gell. ii. 6).