News from the Temple of Apollo in Didyma

Bust of a marble kouros from the Sacred Way at Didyma, now in the British Museum, 550 BC

Greek and Roman authors laboured to refer the name Didyma to "twin" temples—not a feature of the site—or to temples of the twins Apollo and Artemis, whose own cult center at Didyma had then only recently been established. Also, as Wilamowitz suggested, there may be a connection to Cybele Dindymene, the "Cybele of Mount Dindymon". Excavations by German archaeologists have uncovered a major sanctuary dedicated to Artemis, with the key ritual focus being water.

The 6th century Didymaion, dedicated to Apollo, enclosed a smaller temple that was its predecessor, which archaeologists have identified. Its treasury was enriched by gifts from Croesus.

Apollo was worshipped in nearby Miletus under the name Delphinius (the same name was also used at Delphi). At Didyma, he was worshipped as Didymeus (Διδυμευς). His other names in the area were Philesios, and Carinus (Καρινος)

The team from the German Archaeological Institute have unearthed, over the past twelve years, evidence of a major urban society which populated the immediate surrounding area of the Temple. Of which, I have identified upon the map the major civic structures.

An oracular temple of Apollo, only second in prestige to that of Delphi would never have stood forlorn and lonely in the Ionian landscape. Didyma would have housed a most significant population in its own right; a population which would have been swelled by those travelling along the Sacred Way from Miletus during the time of the festivals to honour Apollo. I have found no one to dispute this conjectural evidence.

Continuous habitation

Pottery finds have indicated that Didyma was continuously inhabited since the Archaic temple to Apollo was initially begun in the 6th century BCE and possibly even earlier.

Even after the dwindling of the pagan religion, Didyma saw the building of Christian sites of worship that continue the evidence of a vigorous population. As is the way for any religion which wishes to usurp a previous one, they built directly over the holy sites once sacred to the pagans.

Gradually the entire site lost any relevance of prestige and it ebbed inexorably into nothing more than a shrunken bucolic farming community. The dilapidated stones houses that we see littering the site today are the fading remnants of the anonymous village which prevailed until the earthquake of 1956 proceeded to flatten them all.

Unqualified decisions

It is to my utter dismay that it appears these 19th-century Greek peasant houses are to be restored without any archaeological investigation into what precisely may reside beneath them. One, see photograph, has already begun this process of obliterating history.

I have furnished both the local Ministry of Culture and Tourism office and the Governor and Mayor of Didim with the archaeological map of the Apollon site. None have even had the courtesy to either contact myself or the local newspaper which enabled this map to be produced.


H. W. Parke, 1985. The Oracles of Apollo in Asia Minor
T. Wiegand, 1941-58. Didyma, 2 vols. in 4, (Berlin) The prime archaeological report.
Glenn Maffia
Joseph Fontenrose, 1988. Didyma. Apollo's Oracle, Cult and Companions, (Berkeley). Catalogue of Didyman inquiries and responses, translated.

Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians 1986: Chapter 5

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