Oracles & Ruins: The Apollo Temple at Didyma


The Apollo Temple at Didyma

In almost all the buildings, monuments and homes across the globe, you can find Greek-Architectural influence. No matter where you look, coming across a piece of Greek history, is sometimes just as easy as looking out your front door. One of the most significant of Greek Architectures, and mystical culture, is the The Apollo Temple at Didyma.

The Apollo Temple was an ancient Ionian sanctuary that contained the temple and oracle of Apollo- the Didymaion. The word Didyma means “twin” in Greek and was related to Artemis – the twin sister of Apollo. According to archaeologists, the remains of the Apollo Temple dates back to the end of the 7th century BCE. As it was burned – and practically destroyed completely – in the Battle of Lade (494 BC), it required quite the excavation to reveal its structure. It is also interesting to find that this Hellenistic temple was in fact, built over the relics of an archaic one. The blue-print design plans of this New Apollo Temple were considered to be

“One of the most ambitious projects of the Hellenistic Period”



Constructing the Apollo Temple was a feat that lasted over 500 years and it was never finished! With architects- Paeonius of Ephesus and Daphnis of Meletus – it was a massive project totalling an impressive 112 Ionic Columns. The facing façade had 10 Ionic columns and 21 side columns, reaching heights of almost 65 feet. There were porches, which lead down to the inner room (cella), and there an oracle would have stood and prophesied. The temple was exposed to the sky and elements (hypaethral); with no roof, it provided a sanctuary that would fill with sunlight. The temple’s main function and fame was its Oracle Prophets – they were said to have “visions ” and communicated to those visiting the temple. The Didymaion was the finest Apollan oracular temple that the world had ever seen. Many travelled far and wide to worship Apollo and hear the divine messages. But not everyone who visited could be entranced by the oracles visions- visitors would have to first cleanse themselves in a sacred well and sacrifice animals to the Gods. Within the great inner room of the temple (the Naiskos), sheltered alongside cult statues of Apollo, there was a sacred spring that the oracle would use in these ceremonies. Today, geologists agree that there were in fact “mystical” properties to the active spring waters that were underneath the Naikos. Similar to the Oracle at the Delphi in Greece, the misty water springs would emit vapours that scientists confirm were “vision-inducing”. These bedewed visions were interpreted by the oracle, who would have been fasting for 3 days prior. In 334 BC, The oracle of the Apollo at Didyma had given prophecy to Alexander the Great himself – proclaiming him to be the son of Zues.

The Apollo Temple at Didyma was a truly unique temple, one that was triumphant in its epic size, yet lost against the race of time. It was an overambitious construction that kept the temple from being completed.

Whilst, the Ionic ruins are reduced to de-shovelled rocks, stones and a few columns, the influence of the ancient Greeks can easily be traced in modern day architecture. Gone are the oracles, prophesizing by spring of mystical properties, but the legend at the Temple of Apollo continues to be an integral part of human civilization.


Works Sited

“Didyma, Hellenistic Temple of Apollo (Building).” Didyma, Hellenistic Temple of Apollo (Building). N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.

“TheTemple of Apollo at Didyma.” The Temple of Apollo at Didyma. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.

Fontenrose, J. Didyma: Apollo’s Oracle, Cult, and Companions. University of California Press, 1988.

“Oracle Temple of Apollo, Didyma.” , Turkey. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Gardner’s Art through the Ages: 14th Edition, pg. 153

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: