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Saturday, 21 June 2014

Didyma and the God Apollo


Temple of Apollo, Didyma
Temple of Apollo, Didyma
Didyma is important for the Temple of Apollo, one of the most famous oracles in the ancient world and equal in importance to the oracle at Delphi in Greece.  This was also one of the first Ionic temples to be built (mid-sixth century BC) in the world.

Day 10C: By the way, the signs for the archeology sites on this minor road from Priene and Miletus were very good. The signs for our last destination always stated Didyma (the Greek name, though maps will state Didim, the Turkish name) until you get to the final turn off to the left where it states Temple of Apollo. This road leads to a parking lot where the city wants you to park (TRY 6). Meanwhile, there is another road that goes right beside the temple, where the locals park (free) for the site or the restaurants. So if you have a disability or injury do the same.

You can see the temple, which is below ground level, from the outside on the park-like sidewalk. But walking among the massive columns gives you a better sense of the immense size of this temple. There are also very good explanatory signs around the site.

Apollo the God

Why is the oracle at Delphi and Didyma a temple to Apollo? Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the huntress Artemis. Interestingly, Didyma means "twin". Apollo is the god of oracles, truth, prophecy, plague, sun, light, art, music, poetry, and knowledge. Wow, what isn’t he the god of?  In art Apollo is often depicted as a handsome, clean shaven and perennially young man. Emperors were portrayed as the Sun God on coins. Sometimes, sculptures of emperors were rendered with the features of Apollo.  
Konarak Temple, India
Konarak Temple on Stone Wheels (below doorway)
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities. The gods of Classical Greek, Roman, and Viking religion are derived from a common heritage. That is because these deities are related to the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) people (formerly called Aryans) who migrated from the Caspian Sea area east to India and west to Turkey. For instance, Apollo is often depicted driving the chariot of the Sun. The Konarak Sun Temple, a WHS in India, was built in the form of a giant ornamented chariot of the Sun god, Surya.   
So how is Apollo significant to us today? It is said that the date 25th December was selected for Christmas to correspond to the primary Roman festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, or “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun” at the winter solstice. While some historians challenge this, there is a definite pattern amongst early Christians to associate pagan festivals with Christian customs and to re-purpose and temples as churches for an equivalent Christian meaning. This was the best way to win pagans over to Christianity.  The same technique can be seen in Buddhism in Thailand and Burma.  The concept of giving gifts comes from the Roman festival Saturnalia, which ends on 25th December.

Apollo the Temple

The point of its size was to impress viewers. It was going to be 120 columns long but the temple was never completed! What can be more awe-inspiring than massive 65-foot tall columns that were composed of the drums like the ones lining the temple floor end to end as if they planned to re-erect them. How did they ever lift them?  
Temple of Athena Nike, Athens
Temple of Athena Nike, Athens
These are Ionic columns, one of the three orders of classical architecture. The columns have a little bulge (entasis) to make them appear straight when viewed from a distance. I always imagined that Ionia was somewhere in mainland Greece. But this area of Turkey from the Island of Chios to Didyma is Ionia. This area invented the Ionic order in the mid-6th century BC. 
dodecagonal bases with bas relief
Dodecagonal Bases with Bas Relief
The Ionic Order sees its supreme expression in the Erechtheion (known for its Porch of the Caryatids) and the Temple of Athena Nike on the Athens Acropolis. It is used throughout the classical world and even in modern architecture; such as, the U.S. Capitol and the Jefferson Memorial.  
There were a lot of decorative features that are not usually found on temples. This indicates that the Oracle received a lot of money both from emperors as well as pilgrims. In fact, the surrounding mounds (now covered by the modern streets) were still laden with offerings when they were excavated. The columns (2nd century CE) across the east façade have dodecagonal bases with bas relief panels depicting Nereids, sea creatures, foliage (laurel leaves), meanders, etc.  
The Oracle of Didyma
The Oracle of Didyma
In the middle of the temple platform, tread carefully down a mysterious, steep ramp. This leads to a peaceful, inner courtyard that was open to the outside and had grass and trees as well as the sacred spring that started it all. This was the actual Oracle. It also is the best place for photography in the afternoon because of the nice lighting on the remaining columns. Unfortunately the main entrance to the temple and even views from the sidewalk will be backlit.  
Shazie on Homeros Pension Rooftop
Shazie on Homeros Pension Rooftop


Then we returned to Selçuk for supper. This was our last of three nights at Homeros Pension. It was a great choice as a base for visiting this region. We had really enjoyed our host Shazie with whom we had several long chats, especially once on the panoramic roof-top patio. We really liked the folksy, craft-laden rooms.  

Homeros Pension
Homeros Pension Sitting Room
But best of all, we liked meeting other avid travellers like ourselves. The dining room was ideal for meeting people, especially at meal times. Tonight was no exception as we remained in the dining room long after the end of the meal chatting with the Australian couple who are on an eight-month trip and then talked until 23:00 h with an Argentinian lawyer, who was leaving at that late time.  
Are you getting "templed out"? We hope not. The next blog will describe Afrodisias, one of our favourite archaeology sites in Turkey, before we start touring the scenic spots of Turkey.

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