The gigantic Temple of Apollo at Didyma (Didim in Turkish) was among the most famous oracles in the ancient world, equal in importance to the oracular temple at Delphi in Greece.
There has been a temple here since very early times, but the older structure was destroyed by Cyrus of Persia in 494 BC. Construction began on the present stupendous structure soon after.
The Didymaion, as it was also called, was reached by aSacred Way from the harbor of Panormus.
The huge white-marble temple is simply amazing, with a forest of 120 giant columns at the front porch. At the back of the porch, temple priests met petitioners in a huge portal to accept questions for the oracle, and to deliver oracular poems.
|Light at the end of the tunnel|
Two marble-linedtunnel ramps slope down from both sides of the porch to the huge cella(enclosure) which held the sacred spring the ruins of which remain. A priest would drink from the spring to produce anoracular pronouncement. Some believe the water contained something that induced a hypnotic or psychedelic state in the drinker.
Around the temple in its precinct are fields of ruined marble, including several impressive pieces of sculpture, especially the much-photographed head of Medusa. (Compare this one to the heads in the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul.)
Walk all the way around the temple to get the full effect. At the rear, outside the cella, a giant marble column has fallen, perhaps toppled in an earthquake, and been stabilized as it fell, a cascade of tons of white marble.
Didyma, now called Yenihisar, is a tourist town, so you’re sure to be accosted by shopkeepers and toutswanting you to buy souvenirs, especially the inevitable carpets.
—by Tom Brosnahan