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Temple of Apollo Didim

Temple of Apollo Didim
Didyma is on the west coast of Turkey and home to the Temple of Apollo, one of the most significant of sacred sites and whose magnificent ruins attract thousands of visitors making it one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.  


Didyma (also known as Didymaion) means “twin” and refers to Apollo and Artemis, the twins born to Zeus and Leto, (the Temple of Artemis was in nearby Miletus). Didymaion has a long history and Pausanias (160 AD) stated it was built before the Greek colonisation in the 10th century BC and some parts date back to 2nd millennium BC although fragments of the temple found so far dated back to the 8th century BC.  

Temple of Apollo

The original temple was destroyed in 494 BC by Darius I of Persia who stole its vast treasury and removed the statues.
 The Milesians began constructing a new Hellenistic temple of the site of the earlier shrine in 313 BC, after Alexander the Great had conquered Miletus , and the temple quickly regained its importance and this is the temple that you see today. Building works continued during the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC and parts were still being built during the Roman period and although the temple was never fully completed it was still huge and impressive and thought to be one of the seven wonders in the ancient world.  
Annual spring festivals would take place here and pilgrims would walk 20km along the Sacred Way to participate and would seek answers about their futures from the temple oracles. After advice was given by an oracle to Emperor Diocletian to start persecuting the Christian church, Constantine the Great, who had converted to Christianity, closed the temple and killed the priests.
A Christian basilica was added by Emperor Theodosius in the 5th century and the church and much of the temple stood until the 15th century when it was reduced to rubble from and an earthquake. Excavations carried out in 1905 and 1930 revealed the incomplete Hellenistic temple and carved stone work from the earlier temple and statues.  

The Design of the Temple

The Temple’s design took inspiration from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Temple of Hera on Samos, work of the renowned architects Paionius of Ephesus and Daphnis of Miletus. There were 122 Ionic columns around the temple but only 3 remain intact today. The columns date from 2nd century BC, are over 18m high and have a base of 18m in diameter where beautiful carvings were engraved. The total height of the temple was 27.43m and was accessed via 14 stairs. The roofed chamber (cella) has two Ionic columns that support the roof, opens on the north and south sides to two small chambers with staircases believed to have lead onto a terrace. At the western end of the cella there are three doors leading to a vast staircase that gave access to the adyton where only priests and oracles were permitted. The adyton has a small chapel (naiskos) and is where the sacred spring was and where the priestess of Apollo would utter her oracles.  

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