The ancient Ionian sanctuary of Didyma lies about fifty kilometers south of Söke, near the village af Akköy. The Büyük Menderes, formerly the Meander River, runs into the sea just north of Didyma, and the ancient Miletus is nearby. The site boasts one of the largest and most magnificent temples of the ancient world, the Temple of Apollo, It rivaled the loveliest of the Greek World. The view from the surrounding hills of Didyma is an exceptionally fine one. The Beş Parmak Mountain rises up out of the Meander Valley to the east, and to the west ¡5 the sea and the mouth of the Meander River. This was the country of southern lortla.
HISTORY OF DIDYMA
Unike the neighboring Priene and Miletus, Didyma was not a city. Throughout its long history, the site served as a religious sanctuary to the god Apollo, and for a long time had a greater religious significance than the sanctuaries at Claros and Delphi. The oracle at Didyma is thought to have existed long before the appearance of Ionian colonizers in the era. Oracular inscriptions date as far back as 500 B.C. The Persian Darius, during his assualt and subsequent destruction of Miletus in 494 B.C., also laid the temple and oracle of Didyma to ruins as well. Throughout the fifth and fourth centuries, until the arrival of Alexander the Great, Didyma lay in ruins. Legend has it that at Alexander’s arrival the sacred spring of the oracle, which had completely dried up years before, began to flow again. The temple at Didyma today was started around 300 B.C., under the influence of Seleucus. Construction was halted In 278, when the Gauls Invaded Southern Ionia. The neighboring peoples of Miletus worked on the structure for nearly 200 years, but It was never completely finished. Many of the columns have been left unfluted, and much of the stonework is rough. In the first century A.D., the Roman Emperor Trojan built a connecting road between Didyma and Miletus, o distance of about s twenty kilometers. During this period the sanctuary prospered. The oracle was one of the most famous in the ancient world.
Very few of the inscriptions recording oracular procedures and pronouncements have come to light at the sanctuary, Several of the ancient writers make mention of the oracle, especially a fourth century A.D. philosopher, lambiichus. He tells about the Didymean prophetess who received Apollo’s inspirations by means of the sacred springs. He further writes that the priestess was required to fast for several days as well as bathe before performing her oracular duties. We have discovered that people seeking advice from the oracle were not allowed to come Into contact with the prophetess. Another of the staff delivered the rhymed missives in writing. The prophet performing these secondary duties was appointed on a yearly basis, and held the highest rank in Miletus, the guardian of Didyma. Some of the inscriptions that hove been found relate successful predictions of the oracle. One was the forcast of Alexander the Great’s victory at Gaugamela; another was concerned with Apollo’s warning to Seleucus. The verses instructed the king not to proceed on toward Europe, but rather to remain in Asia. Shortly after Seleucus hod arrived in Europe, he was murdered. One of the oracle’s earliest responses regarded the question of piracy. An Inscription justifies the activity claiming, «It is right to do as your fathers did.»
The Goths struck the areo in 262 B.C. During this period, the Temple of Apollo was used as a fortress for defense. This was the start of the sanctuary’s decline. And the end came quickly for the worshippers of Apollo with the arrival of the Christian era. in 385 A.D., the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius pronounced a final death decree for the oracle. He declared that the consultation of these pagan oracles would be an offense punishable by death. Soon after this famous edict, a Christian church was erected inside the Temple,
RUINS OF DIDYMA
The most imposing of the site’s monuments is, of course, the Temple of Apollo. Little else remains today at Didyma with the exception of this temple and the stadium where a great festival was held every fourth year. The Temple of Apollo : The construction of the temple wos carried on for many years, ond the end result was, if not the loveliest temple in the ancient world, surefy one of the largest. The present Hellenistic temple was erected on thB site of an older one which had been renowned throughout the ancient world. The foundation of the ofder building can be seen within the present temple. The size of the remaining one is indeed impressive. It is nearly 120 meters long and 60 meters wide, and was built along Ionic lines. The temple Is composed of four main areas: the forecourt or Pronous, the hall of twelve columns or Dodecostylos, the hall of two columns, and the central area of the temple which is called the Auditon. More than one hundred columns, placed in a double row, surrounded the temple. What is believed to have been the sacred-spring may be seen in front of the stairway leading to the forecourt. These steps were the primary means of gaining entrance to the temple, but the steps on the south side are believed to have been reserved for high officials and the religious staff members. The inscriptions carved into the steps are names of important visitors.
The first section of the tempfe beyond the forecourt is known as the Hall of Twelve Columns. This large hall measures approximately 16×25 meters and is set with three rows of four fluted columns that are In line with those of the forecourt. The next area is the Hall of Two Columns. This room is about half the size of the previous one, and it served as the waiting room for persons seeking oracular advice. From this hall ore three doorways leading Into the main area of the temple. Since the floor of this hall Is nearly one and half meters higher than that of the forecourt, it is not likely that this area was entered from the front. The Auditon or main hall is reached by twenty-two white marble steps. The staircase measures fifteen meters in width; the bottom
two steps extend to the full width of the 22 meter wide hall, -serving as entranceways to the two side tunnels. The length of this halt measures almost fifty meters. Eleven buttresses were placed at each side of the Auditon to support the wooden roof. Three other supporting buttresses were used at the rear wall. Within the Auditor was constructed a small building, 15 x 8 meters large, that is belifcved to have served as an area for prayers and communications with Apollo. The roof of this small building was supported by twenty-four columns, and reached a height of about ten meters. This was less than half the height of the temple. Inside it was kept the cult-statue of Apollo,
The Auditon is connected to the forecourt by two sloping tunnels that run underneath the steps. These tunnels are just over a meter wide and continue for a length of about twenty meters. Entrances to the tunnels ore at either end of the large staircase that leads from the Hall of Two Columns into the Auditon. The decorations of the temple’s facade were elaborately carved to depict various motifs. Three of the main designs were the head of Medusa, a single flower, and a vase of flowers. Several sections of the frieze may still be seen at the site.
The Stadium : The remains of Didyma’s stadium are located just across from the temple’s south side. An interesting feature of this ruin is the starting-line for races. The stone blocks that marked this line remain In position at the eastern end of the field, consisting of three large blocks and six small ones. All of these stones had been bored out in the center so that they might hold upright marking poles, It is thought that a cord was stretched across the poles of the large stones to mark the start. The smaller stories apparently served to position and space the runners.