The Temple of Apollo in Didyma was destroyed in 493 BC by the invading Persians who while they were at it, also carried away a giant statue of Apollo which had been made from bronze. Legend has it that the sacred spring which flowed beneath the area where the oracle (priestess) would sit, dried up soon after the temple was destroyed. It is also said that after the spring dried up, the priestess herself was silenced.
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While other sanctuaries where quickly repaired, the Temple of Apollo was neglected, and restoration only started more than 70 years later in 334 BC. It has been said that shortly after Alexander the Great passed through the grounds of the sanctuary, the sacred spring mysteriously began to flow once more. The oracle however, had been changed for good. This might not be one of the most famous Turkey tourist attractions, but it is certainly worth a visit if you are in the vicinity and you have the time to spare.
What Makes The Temple Of Apollo In Didyma Unique
There were several Greek sanctuaries other than Didyma built in the Hellenic world, one of which was the nearby Delphi oracle temple. However, the Temple of Apollo in Didyma was unique in a number of ways. To begin with, it was the fourth largest Greek sanctuary in the world.
Unlike other oracle temples belonging to the Greeks, the the Temple of Apollo in Didyma had no roof, but instead, it had exceptionally high walls. This meant that the interior would have been visible from above, while remaining hidden to the outside world.
The temple also consisted of long sloping passage ways which seemingly led you into darkness. Nonetheless, those who followed the passages would ultimately find themselves in the sunlit inner court where the priestess would have been seated above the natural spring. By comparison to other sanctuaries and oracle temples, the Temple of Apollo in Didyma was of a complex design which included a great deal of variety.
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A Rare And Valuable Discovery
In 1979 while research was being conducted at the site by the German Archaeological Institute, an incredibly valuable discovery was made. One of the people working at the site noticed what appeared to be very fine lines inscribed on the high walls of the adyton. Later, after close inspection, the team realized they had not just discovered some random lines. They had discovered the sanctuary’s blueprint instead.
A blueprint of the Temple of Apollo in Didyma which included very detailed information, including things like measurements, planning, building costs and so on, had suddenly been brought back to life. The Temple of Apollo was never completed, and this is the only reason why the blueprint was discovered. Had the temple been completed, the marble walls would have been polished, and the blueprint lost forever.
A Few Interesting Facts Regarding Construction
According to figures and other information revealed in the blueprint, it would have taken one stonemason, working alone, 20,000 workdays to complete a single pillar. In those days the stonemasons who were working on the site were paid two drachmas per day, which is roughly the equivalent of 8.6 grams of silver. With such precise records being kept, we now know that each pillar cost 172 kilograms of silver.
People who wished to seek advice from the oracle had to approach the Temple of Apollo at Didyma via a route known as the “Sacred Way” which was lined with statues of both people and animals. Several of these, some of which date back to the 6th century BC, are now on display in the British Museum
The Credibility Of An Oracle
People had great faith in oracles. Regardless of whether they were priests or priestesses, it was believed they were given divine information which they could then in turn pass on to others. As far as the masses were concerned, an oracle could never give wrong advice, and in a way, one does have to admit they never did give wrong advice.
Of course the reason for this was nothing other than the fact that they chose their words and wording with the utmost care. No matter what the outcome of a situation was, the utterances of an oracle could have been interpreted as being correct.
If you would like to visit and explore the ancient Temple of Apollo in Didyma, you can explore our Egypt and Turkey Tours, where you’ll find an exciting range of package tours that feature Turkey’s most famous attractions. And, if you don’t see a package deal you like, let us know and we will be happy customize one specifically for you.