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Didyma

The cult center of Miletus

Best Known for
Temple of Apollo

Built
8th century BCE

Civilization
Greek

Suggested Duration
1-2 hrs

The town of Didyma sits opposite the Bodrum peninsula on the northern shore of Gulluk Bay. A good part of the town’s economy depends on the cultivation of wheat and cotton. But most of it is heavily reliant on tourism. Visitors from all corners of the globe come to Didim, eager to savor the Aegean sun in the attractive warm sandy beaches and cool azure waters.

But these aren’t the first travelers to journey to this side of the Aegean. 2500 years ago, Didyma was already a popular destination in the known world. However, visitors of that era came here for a completely different reason. A reason so inspiring that it prompted them to construct magnificent structures whose ruins now stand on the outskirts of the town.

So, while today’s travelers love the town for its resorts and beaches, they are also drawn to the spectacular ruins that sit just outside its limits. Those who answer the call get to experience the same aura of awe and wonder that drew the devoted pilgrims of more than two millennia ago.

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The town of Didyma sits opposite the Bodrum peninsula on the northern shore of Gulluk Bay. A good part of the town’s economy depends on the cultivation of wheat and cotton. But most of it is heavily reliant on tourism. Visitors from all corners of the globe come to Didim, eager to savor the Aegean sun in the attractive warm sandy beaches and cool azure waters.

But these aren’t the first travelers to journey to this side of the Aegean. 2500 years ago, Didyma was already a popular destination in the known world. However, visitors of that era came here for a completely different reason. A reason so inspiring that it prompted them to construct magnificent structures whose ruins now stand on the outskirts of the town.

So, while today’s travelers love the town for its resorts and beaches, they are also drawn to the spectacular ruins that sit just outside its limits. Those who answer the call get to experience the same aura of awe and wonder that drew the devoted pilgrims of more than two millennia ago.

Concierge Pin

Planning a trip to Didyma soon? Answer this trip planner and get your FREE quotation within 24 hours.

The History

Temple of Apollo

Reconstruction

Key Features

Tips & Etiquette

Didyma was inhabited as early as the Neolithic times, and for the next millennium or two, it attracted settlers from Crete and Mycenae. But throughout its known history, Didyma was less of a settlement and more of a religious establishment. Even its most illustrious periods were enjoyed with it as a spiritual center.

All this can be attributed to a single sping considered sacred by the surrounding populations. So, when the Greek settlers arrived on the Aegean shores, they adopted this belief and constructed a temple around the spring of the 8th century BCE. Thus began the story of Didyma.

The sacred courtyard of the temple featured an altar and a laurel tree dedicated to Apollo. On the other hand, water from the spring was used for prophetic activities. This temple was upgraded, destroyed, and upgraded again throughout its existence. It remained an important location to the surrounding cities, especially Mellitus, throughout the Archaic, Hellenistic, and Roman times.

Didyma then became the site of a Christian church in the Byzantine era. And like most other ancient sites in the region, this was also when its significance began to wane. It briefly served as a bishopric during the reign of Emperor Justinian, but its decline seemed to have been set in stone.

In the 7th century, an earthquake devastated the region. And although it became the seat of the bishop again from the 10th to the 12th century CE, the arrival of the Turks and the Ottoman Empire meant it would never become more important than that. A 15th-century earthquake was the final nail in the coffin for Didyma- it was abandoned and lay forgotten until the 18th century.

The Temple of Apollo was the most defining feature of Didyma. This made it a popular pilgrimage site 2500 years ago and a popular tourist destination today. Pilgrims from the archaic and Hellenistic era would travel from Miletus along the Sacred Way to come and listen to prophetic messages from the oracle.

The First Temples

Three temples have stood here throughout history, each one progressively grander than the last.

The first was a small 8th century BCE structure built by the first Greek settlers. By 550 BCE, a mighty temple with a bronze statue of Apollo had already been built in its place. This was the Archaic Didymaion and was constructed in the form of a dipteros, i.e., a building surrounded by an Ionic order double colonnade.

The temple measured 85 by 38 meters, with an outer colonnade of 21 columns on the long side, nine on the western side, and eight on the eastern side. The eastern columns were spaced such that a broader transition between columns was possible, creating an impression of a gate leading into the temple.

This sanctuary didn’t so much belong to Didyma as it did to the neighboring city of Miletus. Like Didyma, it existed as a testament to the glory of Miletus. This would be the cause of its downfall, as in 493 BCE, the Persians would destroy the temple in response to its parent city’s role in the rebellion of the Ionian city.

The Macedonians eventually liberated the region from the firm Persian grip that lasted for over a century. Then, with the help of Alexander the Great, the Temple of Apollo was reconstructed to make it the largest of its kind. Had it been completed, the temple would’ve been more significant than the temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and the temple stood incomplete for the rest of its existence. Still, it was an incredible feat of architecture, and its ruins are what we observe today. In its full glory, this temple featured a monumental staircase with 108 columns surrounding the temple and another 18 decorating the inside the sanctuary.

Archeological Excavations

The Society of Dilettanti sent two expeditions to look for Didyma. After its discovery, the first excavations were conducted in 1858 by British archeologists led by Charles Thomas Newton. Subsequent excavations by the French in 1872 and 1895-1896 uncovered the Hellenistic Temple of Apollo.

More of the sanctuary was dug up between 1905 and 1937 by German archeologists from Berlin museums. Finally, fresh excavations began in 1962 under the German Archeological Institute. These works continue with special attention paid to the Sacred Way.

In 1979, German researchers discovered plans for the unfinished Didymaion on the inner lines of the courtyard. These plans allow us to deduce the planned scale of this once-great Ionic temple.

  • The sanctuary was managed by the Branchidae. These are priests descended from Branchos, a figure in Greek mythology believed to have been the son/beloved of Apollo.
  • The oracle at Didyma was the second most popular after Delphi. They drank water from the sacred spring and uttered prophetic visions to pilgrims.
  • Some researchers suggest that the visions were a result of a psychedelic effect caused by certain elements in the water. This theory is yet to be believed.
  • After the destruction of the Artemision in Ephesus, the Didymaion became the largest temple in the ancient world.
  • Flat shoes are a must in the ruins of the Temple of Apollo Didyma. This is because you have many steps to climb and crumbled walls and columns jump over.
  • Depending on the time of day, apply the appropriate protection from the sun. You should also carry enough water to keep you hydrated throughout the entirety of your business.

Visiting the Ancient Site of Didyma

The sanctuary at Didyma lived in the shadow of the temple of Artemis for much of its history. But today, it has stepped out of that shadow in spectacular function, providing an exciting experience to visitors, tourists, and locals alike.

There isn’t a whole city to explore here. Instead, it’s a site of collapsed ruins full of architectural surprises that will test your imagination and reveal some of the best-kept secrets of ancient Greek temple architecture.

Didyma Tours

Where to Go Next

You can visit Didyma, Miletus, and Priene all in one day. There is also the ancient city of Ephesus and other Lydian ruins in the area. The town of Didyma has lots of beautiful beaches and resorts where you can enjoy some lazy time when not exploring the surrounding areas.

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The Seven Churches of Revelation: Ephesus
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