Temple of Apollo at Didyma

Didyma was famous for being an oracle center that was dedicated to god Apollo which served for a purpose like the one in Delphi of Athens. It was both a city and a sanctuary combined to the ancient city Miletus by the residents with 19 km sacred road.

didymaThe Temple of Apollo was one of the largest and most significant shrines of the Greek world after the Temple of Artemis, the Heraion of Samos and the Olympieion at Sicily. It was erected for the purpose of reverberating the characteristics of Didymaion as a Hellenistic tradition. The structure was dated back to the Hellenistic period. Anatolia land had a cult previously, which was Mother Cybele. According to the cultures and localities, Cybele had a variety of names. The most common one of these was Dindymus which is thought to have been derived from the month Dindymus and today remarkable for its name “Didyma”.

The word Didyma meant twins and is associated as being the meeting of Zeus and Leto to have their twins Apollo and Artemis by some scholars. The mother goddess Cybele was closely related to Apollo and Artemis. While the Temple of Artemis was located in the ancient Ephesus city, the temple of Apollo was in Didyma. The distance between the two sanctuarie is still visible today from the remainings of a “Sacred Way” connecting both of them. Flagstones on the road can still be seen dating back to the period of Roman Emperor Trajan.

A shrine is thought to have been located there site before the Ionians came in 1 BC, another temple at the same site was built in 6 BC, and later devastated through the invasions by the Persians in 494 BC. In 4 BC Milesians started to reerect the tempe but could not complete it due to the lack of financial problems. In 1 AD Roman emperors tried but could not accomplish to erect the whole temple, either. Later in Byzantine period, Teodosius II had a church built in the open air courtyard which was destroyed by an earthquake in 15 AD. Even it is in an uncompleted condition, the Temple of Apollo was regarded as one of the largest sanctuaries of the Hellenistic world, comparable to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. However, at the Temple of Apollo were 122 columns whereas at the Temple of Artemis were 127 columns, which is considered to be a respect for goddess Artemis.

It was not an ordinary temple, not only owing to its huge size but also its antechamber with two Corinthian columns and two corridors that led into the cella. In the middle of the temple is an open air coutyard with another Ionic shrine which housed the cult statue of god Apollo. There were a few hot springs where the priestess of Didyma immersed her feet or inhaled the water’s vapors for inspiration before prophesying.

The huge Medusa relief is known to have fallen off from the frieze, which now stands next to the temple as a 2 AD remaining. A little further stand the ruins of an altar and a well. Before asking for a prophecy from the priests in the pronaos, people would purify themselves by getting water from the well and give votive offerings in the altar.

The prophecy center of Apollo at Didyma rivaled that of Delphi; pilgrims surged into Didyma not only to worship for god Apollo and to take place in the festivals, but also to find answers about their future. Famous people known to have visited the Temple of Apollo in Didyma include Alexander the Great’s generals Lysimachus and Seleucus I, and the Roman emperors Augustus and Trajan for instance.