Erostratus Complex: Art of Appearance

To more appearances, more excess of deficiencies. That is at least what is hidden behind the so-called complex of Eróstrato, an increasingly common phenomenon where the classic postureo hides in reality a personality lack of self-esteem when striving to pretend what one is not.


We are all witnesses of the Erostratus complex. We see it in those people who make the art of appearance their way of life. They are the likes’ seekers in social networks, personalities that make the appearance a sophisticated mask behind which to hide their inferiority complex.

Some people say that in this new era of technological culture, we have become a little more vain. For many, why not, we like to exhibit some aspect of our lives on the walls of Facebook or Instagram stories. Doing it from time to time is not bad, not at all, but need daily that like and that constant approval no doubt leads to pathological realities more worrisome.

Now, the Erostratus complex does not only inhabit the cybernetic universe. We see it, for example, in the posture of that acquaintance who monopolizes the communication of a group, also in the ‘ghost’ roommate of the office who strives to appear to be a winner and in a host of people (and characters) who Orlan, with his obsessive self-worship, the social landscape.

Who lives to pretend not only ends up conforming an existence as hollow as unhappy. Beyond the anecdotal, there is a detail that we can not ignore: pursuing notoriety, erostratism can lead many people to generate very harmful and debilitating behavior in order to acquire notoriety.

“If fame only comes after death, I’m in no hurry to get it.”

-Marco Aurelio-

Complex of Erostratus, the man who destroyed one of the seven wonders to be famous  says that the night of July 21 of the year 365 a.C. It was an unfortunate event that would go down in history. The protagonist of that act was Eróstrato, a young pastor of Ephesus; Even as a child, he had the blind obsession that he had been chosen by the gods to do something remarkable, something that would give him fame.

His aspiration was to become a priest of Artemis. Now, having no recognized father, he was denied that aspiration. Obsessed in his purpose for being famous, he had an idea, a plan that he undertook on the night of July 21. He went to the temple of Artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the world and, after kissing the statue of the goddess, set fire to the entire construction.

After that disaster, Artajerjes, king of Persia, ordered to torture it to understand the reason that had taken to him to commit such offense. Eróstrato then declared his purpose: to go down in history as the man who had burned the beautiful temple of Artemis. After hearing this, the monarch condemned him to ostracism and forbade, under pain of death, that the name of that man be registered and that it be related to the destruction of the temple.

However, that order did not help. The Greek historian Teopompo reviewed the fire and registered the name Eróstrato, so that today, we are aware of this fact. In addition, from the field of psychology, this figure was chosen to give name to the complex of Erostratus, and thus define those people capable of doing almost anything to excel, to acquire fame and renown.

The search for notoriety, low self-esteem and criminal acts

Alfred Adler, renowned Austrian therapist of the early twentieth century, conducted a very interesting study explaining what may lead to an underlying feeling of inferiority. In a good part of these profiles, the same pattern is usually evident that, in some way, could already be seen in the Ephesian Erostratus itself.

These people tend to draw a life plan full of idealisms that are hard to reach. They also present an exacerbated desire to excel projecting even a derogatory attitude towards all those who surround him. In many cases, desiring so desperately to be the center of attention and not achieving it, they end up accumulating a great hostility.

Something like that can be highly dangerous. It is known that in certain cases, these people suffering from the Eróstrato complex may commit criminal acts. Eróstrato himself did it on July 21, 365 BC when he burned Artemis’s temple. David Chapman, also did it on December 8, 1980 when killing John Lennon and John Hinckley, he also did it on March 30, 1981 when he attacked Ronald Reagan.

The inner rejection that leads to violence

All these characters evidenced clearly pathological behaviors when looking for notoriety. For this they did not hesitate to attack iconic figures and thus acquire a position in history. And they did it. We can not therefore trivialize or take as anecdotal the behavior of those who live only to pretend, of those who have the constant need to be the center of attention and idealize their self by belittling others.

Every appearance is a reflection of serious shortcomings. They are frustrated personalities who reject what they are and seek to cling to an invented image, which costs a lot to reaffirm before an audience. In view of the fact that they do not always achieve that goal, they can resort to more extreme acts, such as professionally sinking others, expanding hoaxes and avoiding without scruples, that divide between what is ethical and moral and what is not.

The Erostratus complex not only limits our potential to be happy, but in many cases, it can lead the human being to show his darker side. Let’s take it into account.