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Coordinates: 37 ° 23 ′ 6 ″  N , 27 ° 15 ′ 23 ″  E

Relief Map: Turkey
The Temple of Apollo; the size of the temple can be seen from the people on the stairs
The inside of the temple

Didyma (today Didim in Turkey ) was an ancient sanctuary in western Asia Minor with an important oracle site of the god Apollo . The Hellenistic Temple of Apollo is only surpassed in its size in Ionia by the Temple of Hera in Heraion of Samos and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus . It is one of the best-preserved large buildings of antiquity. In addition to the Temple of Apollo, there were other buildings in the sanctuary that were only recently discovered: A theater from the Roman era and the foundations of a temple, which belong to an inscribed temple of Artemis .


The sanctuary is located in what is now Didim in the district of the same name in the Turkish province of Aydın . Ancient Didyma was located on the west coast of Asia Minor near the ancient city of Miletus , to which the distance is approx. 16 km as the crow flies. The natural link between the two was the sea route. In addition, from the 6th century BC A road was built off the coast. This “holy road” connected Miletus with Didyma. Its name refers to its sacred character, as it was intended for processions. The road between Miletus and Didyma also led past Didymas port, which is 3 km northwest of the oracle sanctuary and was called Panormos (today Mavişehir).

The name

The origin of the name "Didyma" is controversial: it comes either from Carian (and thus from the time before the Greek settlement of the west coast of Asia Minor) or from Greek ( didymos means "twin", which should mean Apollo and Artemis ). On the Peloponnese in the area of ​​the southeastern Argolis there is also a place called Didyma, there related to two sinkholes or to the local mountain, which is also named Didymos with two peaks. Perhaps the name was taken from a place name from the Greek heartland, which is also suspected for other early Greek foundations on the west coast of Asia Minor.

The Temple of Apollo

The sanctuary of Apollo


Herodotus and Pausanias report that the Ionians around the turn of the 1st millennium BC Immigrated and took over an older place of worship where a female nature deity was worshiped in pre-Greek times. So far, it was founded in the 2nd millennium BC. BC however not archaeologically verifiable.

The cult legend reports that Leto received her son Apollo from Zeus at the site of the oracle site . Apollo later appeared to a local shepherd named Branchos, to whom he bestowed the gift of vision. On these shepherds led Carian priest sex Branchidae back that up to the time of the Persian Wars were named and Head of the sanctuary. This is where the earlier name “Branchidai” comes from; later the priests of Miletus were installed and belonged to distinguished families of the city.

The oracle had already in the 7th century BC. A supra-regional reputation. This is proven on the one hand by Herodotus, who reports of consecration gifts from the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho and the Lydian king Kroisos , on the other hand the actual discovery of numerous consecration gifts.

Herodotus reports that after the collapse of the Ionian Rebellion and the fall of Miletus in 494 BC The Persian king Dareios plundered the temples of Didyma and the oracle and set them ablaze. Strabon and Pausanias again report that Xerxes, after his defeat at Plataiai in 479 BC. Destroyed the sanctuary of Didyma. The Branchides are said to have voluntarily transferred the temple treasures to the Persian king and fled to Persia. Archeologically, there is no serious fire destruction for either 494 or 479 BC. Demonstrable. Nevertheless, z. For example, a layer of ash was found on the so-called Taxiarchis Hill, which contained many burned roof tiles from the Temple of Apollo and other buildings of Didyma. They document damage to these buildings at the beginning of the 5th century. v. After that, extensive construction work was suspended for the next 150 years.

The oracle of Apollo of Didyma, already famous in archaic times, fell silent after the Ionian uprising and the devastation by the Persians, as Strabo writes. 334 BC Alexander the Great conquered Miletus and liberated it from Persian rule. Since this time at the latest, the previously regional sanctuary will have been part of the Polis Miletus. Neither the ancient historian Arrian nor anyone else mentions that Alexander visited Didyma in this context. This is an indication that the Apollo sanctuary did not play an important role at that time, because Alexander always went to the important sanctuaries along the way, such as B. Artemis of Ephesus or Athena of Priene .

Alexander is ascribed an important role in the revival of the oracle cult: When he himself was in 331 BC. BC in Egypt, the oracle source in Didyma is said to have bubbled up again and ambassadors from Miletus brought him oracle sayings. In it he was referred to as the son of Zeus and prophesied his victory in the battle of Gaugamela . Miletus then gave the order to build the new Temple of Apollo and appointed annual officials as prophetes and sacrificial priests.

In Hellenism, in addition to Alexander, oracles were given to the Hellenistic kings Seleukos I and Seleukos II . In the 3rd century BC As a result, Didyma was strongly influenced by the Seleucids , who bequeathed the sanctuary to rich foundations. However, there was a setback in the years 277/76 BC. When it was sacked by the Galatians who had come to Asia Minor from the Balkans. In the 2nd century BC Then there were foundations of the Bithynian royal family and finally at the beginning of the 1st century BC. Those of the last Ptolemies. In this context, the competitions held in the sanctuary in honor of Apollo should be mentioned. These "Didymeia" games were first made at the beginning of the 3rd century BC. Chr. Attested. Around 200 BC They became Panhellenic and Penteteric, which means that all Greeks could take part and they took place every four years. At the beginning of the 1st century BC However, the "Megala Didymeia" had to be temporarily suspended, partly because Miletus had supported the usurper Mithradates, who rebelled against the Romans. In addition, the sanctuary of Apollo was built in 67 BC. Attacked by pirates. Only under Pompey could the Didymeia 63 BC After he rearranged the east of the Roman Empire.

In Roman times , Gaius Iulius Caesar expanded the asylum area. Allegedly, Caligula tried to appropriate the Temple of Apollo or to complete it. Trajan had the sacred road expanded and paved inside the sanctuary around 100 AD. Emperor Hadrian himself was a prophet in the sanctuary. From 177 AD Commodus had the dresser celebrated as an imperial cult.

The religious activity of the oracle came to a standstill in the course of the 4th century. In the late ancient Didyma bishopric was and was Emperor I. Justinian entitled Iustinianopolis honored before the place in the early Middle Ages experienced a rapid decline. From the 10th to the 12th century Didyma was again the seat of a bishop, and there is evidence of Christian building activity. Didyma earthquake destroyed twice, in the 7th and 15th centuries. The latter led to the abandonment of the settlement. Only at the end of the 18th century did the Greeks repopulate the place and use the dilapidated ancient buildings as a quarry.

Didyma has been explored since the 18th century, first by English, then by French, and finally by German archaeologists. Individual finds from Didyma are in the British Museum in London, in the Louvre in Paris and in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin and made a significant contribution to the popularity of the excavation site in Western and Central Europe. It was not until 1906 that German archaeologists began to uncover a large area of ​​the Temple of Apollo under the direction of Hubert Knackfuß. This work was largely finished in 1913. Further sporadic investigations took place after the First World War . Since 1962, annual excavations have been carried out under the direction of the German Archaeological Institute . They continue to this day and are financed by the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and Arts , among others .


Temple of Apollo

Schematic overall plan of the Sanctuary of Apollo

The Hellenistic large temple had two previous buildings from archaic times. One building dates from around 700 BC. BC, the other from the 6th century BC. At that time the complex received a column-supported ring hall , which anticipated the Hellenistic sanctuary in its shape. Since the archaic sanctuary lies beneath the stone masses of the Hellenistic temple, relatively little is known about it. Remains of the previous buildings can still be seen in the Tempelhof.

The Temple of Apollo

With the construction of the Hellenistic sanctuary around 330 BC. Started. It is with the conquest of Miletus by Alexander the great 334 BC. And the incorporation of Didymas into the Polis Miletus. According to Vitruvius, the Milesian builder Daphnis and the leading architect of his time, Paionios of Ephesus, were commissioned to plan the temple .

Reconstruction of the Temple of Apollo at Didyma

The temple has a double ring hall: the outer ring of pillars has 10 × 21 columns, the inner 8 × 19 columns. The stylobate (top step of the temple substructure) has a size of approx. 51 m × 109 m. The 120 ionic columns are 19.70 m high. A frieze of tendrils, lion figures and Medusa heads formed the upper end above the architrave .

The ring hall rises on a seven-step substructure, the stereobat . Its entrance is in the east and leads over a flight of 14 steps. From there, after walking through the ring hall, one arrives at the vestibule ( pronaos ), which is also known as the twelve-column hall (Greek Dodekastylos ) because of its 3 × 4 columns . Instead of a cell door, there is a 14 meter high, unlockable portal with a threshold of almost 1.5 meters. So it was insurmountable. Two tunnel vaults lead into the interior of the temple at the side of the portal . These tunnels are the only entrances.

Inside the temple there is an uncovered courtyard, which is referred to in inscriptions as Adyton . In the west of the courtyard are the foundations of a building with a size of 8.24 m × 14.23 m. This small temple-like structure is also called Naiskos (Greek for "small temple"). The naiskos was built around 300 BC. This was necessary because Seleukos I sent the so-called Kanachos-Apollo from Susa back to Didyma at that time . This Apollo statue served as a cult image and was placed in the Naiskos, as the imperial coins show. This late Archaic bronze statue was made by the sculptor Kanachos and the Persians stole it after the Ionian uprising . It depicted Apollo standing with a stag in his right hand and a bow in his left hand. The actual cult monument of the Apollo shrine, however, was a source that was used to share oracles. Originally this fresh water source was in the area of ​​the Hellenistic Apollon-Naiskos. Later it dried up and a well was built in the northeast area of ​​the courtyard. The importance of this spring is evident from the fact that Didyma is located on a limestone plateau with little water.

On the east side of the courtyard, between the two mentioned tunnels, a flight of 24 steps leads to a three-door wall (Greek trithyron ). This wall has two Corinthian half-columns and forms an exterior and facade architecture within the courtyard. Gottfried Gruben describes it as the "architectural focal point of the temple". Behind it is a hall with two stairwells opposite and the so-called Great Portal. Here, too, the thresholds are relatively high with a height of 50 centimeters and could only be crossed with aids. The stairwells are called labyrinthoi . The building was probably built according to clearly cultic specifications. However, there are only speculations about the exact use and function.

Medusa head

Although the temple was worked for about 600 years, it was never completed. Strabo reports that the temple remained without a roof because of its size. In fact, the roof zone of the pronaos and the never completed ring halls are missing. The final smoothing of the walls was also not carried out. Extensive antique work drawings that were only discovered in 1979 by Lothar Haselberger were preserved there. These are obviously work plans for pillars, beams and other details. In ancient times, the walls were rubbed with red chalk before scratching so that the lines were clearly visible. The large-scale drawings include straight lines up to 25 meters long and arcs with radii of up to 4.5 meters. The lines are carved into the surface of the marble cuboid with a metal stylus, ruler and compass and are accurate to within a few millimeters.

Didyma, along with Delphi , Dodona and Klaros, was one of the most important Greek oracles. The exact process of giving a prophecy is not known; In any case, the oracles received their final form in verse from priests. The last great heyday of the sanctuary was in the 1st and 2nd centuries.

Artemis Temple

Reconstructed floor plan of the Temple of Artemis (gray = preserved foundations; light red = possible temple floor plan with orientation to the east)

The foundation of the Temple of Artemis was discovered in 2013 immediately north of today's mosque. In the two years that followed, the size of the temple foundation was determined to be 11.50 mx 31.70 m. This rectangular strip foundation had two transverse foundations, which show that the Temple of Artemis had three rooms. In contrast to the Temple of Apollo at Didyma, the foundation of the Temple of Artemis is oriented exactly east-west; as is common with most Greek temples . Rising masonry did not come to light during the excavation work. After the excavation, the foundations were filled in again, so that nothing can be seen of them today.

The foundation of the Temple of Artemis from the south

As early as 1994 excavations south of the mosque revealed components of the Temple of Artemis. They show that it was an Ionic temple , modeled on the Hellenistic naiskos of the Temple of Apollo. Because, apart from a few details, certain areas of the Temple of Artemis exactly match the Apollo Naiskos. There are two reasons for the deviations: Firstly, the Apollon Naiskos was larger than the Temple of Artemis. Second, the Apollon-Naiskos originated around 300 BC. And the temple of Artemis only in the 2nd century BC. Chr.

The few remaining parts of the Temple of Artemis are insufficient for a reconstruction of its shape. Amazingly, the design of its front has survived as a scratch drawing on a scale of 1: 1, which is attached to the western plinth wall in the inner courtyard of the Temple of Apollo. For many years this drawing could not be interpreted correctly. But in 2011 it was found that the components of the presumed Artemis temple that had been found by then matched this drawing exactly. Since then, the width of the Temple of Artemis (10.71 m) and the center distance of its four front pillars (3.31 m each) have been known.

Now the search for the temple foundation began, which was finally found in 2013. During the excavation of the temple foundation north of the mosque, it turned out that the center distance of the foundation strips is always a multiple of the center distance of the pillars on the mentioned scratch drawing. Later it turned out that the found temple foundation is just as wide as the temple front of the drawing in the Temple of Apollo. Moreover, the foundation is exactly three times as long as wide, so the Temple of Artemis in the plan, the proportion of 1: 3 was obtained. The connection between the design on the back wall of the Temple of Apollo and the temple foundation by the mosque is thus proven.

The question of whether the entrance to the Temple of Artemis was facing east or west has not yet been clarified. The uncovering of the foundation north of the mosque did not reveal anything about this. The discovery of the Artemis Altar or its foundations would solve this problem as the altar was typically located in front of the front of a Greek temple . To date, no inscription has been found to prove that the temple was dedicated to Artemis. Nevertheless, this is certain because the Temple of Artemis was designed based on the Apollon naiskos. Apollon and Artemis were known to be twins. Therefore it can hardly be assumed that the Apollon-Naiskos served the temple of a different deity than his sister Artemis as the basis for planning. In addition, such a design process is unique in Greek building history . Many gods were worshiped in Didyma, but there are only inscriptions on temple buildings for Apollon and Artemis. Since in an inscription from the beginning of the 3rd century BC The cult image of Artemis is mentioned before the temple was built in the 2nd century BC. Have already owned their own temple. It is therefore also likely that Artemis already had a temple in archaic times. This is also attested by many finds from this period, including dedicatory inscriptions to Artemis.

Overall, the knowledge about the Temple of Artemis at Didyma is still very poor. But it can be considered certain that the temple was 11.50 m wide and 31.70 m long in the 2nd century BC. Was built. This is proven by the dating of his architectural ornamentation.


View from the east of the south side of the Temple of Apollo, where the stadium was once located
Topos inscription on the southern temple steps: ΦΙΛΙΣΚΟΥ (Place of Philiskos)

Parallel to the south side of the Temple of Apollo is a stadium, which was built around 200 BC. Was built. Gymnastic agonies were probably held earlier in Didyma. On the north side of the stadium, the seven temple steps served the spectators as seating. Many so-called topos inscriptions have been preserved on these steps, which means that the audience had their names carved or even chiseled there. Opposite the southern long side of the Temple of Apollo, there was a spectator seat made of limestone blocks. The seven or eight rows of seating steps began in the east across from the southeast corner of the Temple of Apollo. From there they extended at least to the south-west corner of the Temple of Apollo, that is to say over a length of about 120 m. The remains of the starting device for running competitions have been preserved to the east of the seating steps. It is interesting that when the theater was built, an indefinite number of steps from the nearby stadium were reused. Thus, in the second half of the 1st century AD, the musical agons seem to have become more important than the gymnical agons.


View from the east of the north face of the Cavea
Theater: northern half of the cavea with the excavated walls and seating steps (gray)

During excavations in 2010 and 2011, the remains of a theater were found. Walls, stairs and seating steps of the semicircular auditorium (cavea) came to light, which testify to two construction phases. The first phase is at the end of the 1st century AD. This is shown by a coin from the Roman emperor Nero and many ceramic shards from the same period. At that time, the theater's auditorium had a diameter of around 52 m and could seat 3,000 people. In the first half of the 2nd century AD, the cavea was enlarged and another tier was added so that it had a diameter of about 61 m. It could accommodate 4,000 spectators.

At the same time the stage building (skene) of the theater was renewed. This is attested by the dedicatory inscription on its entablature. It says that the Skene was dedicated to the gods Apollon, Artemis, Leto and Zeus as well as the emperor Hadrian and the people of Miletus. Since Emperor Hadrian visited Miletus and Didyma in AD 129, the stage building is likely to have been built for this occasion. However, its foundations have not yet been found during excavations. Numerous inscriptions from the imperial period praise the winners of the musical agonies that were held in Didyma in honor of Apollo. They will certainly have been held in the theater that was unexpectedly found in 2010. It is possible that there was already a Hellenistic predecessor building, because in an inscription from the beginning of the 3rd Jhs. v. It is documented that Antiochus I had a place of honor at choir competitions in Didyma.


  • Hubert Knackfuß : Didyma 1. The building description in three volumes , Berlin 1941. Digitized at Heidelberg University .
  • Klaus Tuchelt : Preliminary work on a topography of Didyma (= communications from the German Archaeological Institute, Istanbul department. Supplement 9). Wasmuth, Tübingen 1973.
  • Lothar Haselberger : Report on the work on the Younger Apollo Temple of Didyma. In: Communications from the German Archaeological Institute, Istanbul Department. Volume 33, 1983, pp. 90-123.
  • Joseph Eddy Fontenrose : Didyma. Apollo's Oracle, Cult, and Companions , Berkeley 1988.
  • Klaus Tuchelt: Didyma-Branchidai. Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 1991, ISBN 3-8053-1316-0 .
  • Helga Bumke , Alexander Herda, Elgin Röver, Thomas G. Schattner: Report on the excavations in 1994 on the Holy Road from Milet to Didyma. The sanctuary of the nymphs? In: Archäologischer Anzeiger . 2000, pp. 57-97.
  • Renate Bol, Ursula Höckmann, Patrick Schollmeyer (eds.): Kult (ur) kontakte - Apollon in Milet / Didyma, Histria, Myus, Naukratis and on Cyprus. Files of the Table Ronde in Mainz from 11. – 12. March 2004. Marie Leidorf, Rahden / Westf. 2008, ISBN 978-3-89646-441-5 ( online , accessed June 13, 2017).
  • Jan Breder, Helga Bumke, Ivonne Kaiser, Ulf Weber: "Cults in cult" - The sacred microcosm in extra-urban Greek sanctuaries using the example of Didyma - First results In: Kölner and Bonner Archaeologica. Volume 2, 2012, pp. 181-187.
  • Ulf Weber: The altar of Apollon from Didyma. In: Communications from the German Archaeological Institute, Istanbul Department. Volume 65, 2015, pp. 5-61.
  • Helga Bumke, Jan Breder, Ivonne Kaiser, Bettina Reichardt, Ulf Weber: Didyma. Report on the work of the years 2010-2013. In: Archäologischer Anzeiger. 2015/1, pp. 109–172.
  • Helga Bumke: Current research in Didyma. In: Anatolia - Bridge of Cultures. Bochum 2015, pp. 325–343.
  • Jan Breder, Helga Bumke: The cults of Didyma in the light of newly discovered buildings In: Ancient world. 2016/2, pp. 52–60.
  • Ulf Weber: The Apollo Shrine at Didyma - depicted on its research history from the Renaissance to the present. WBG, Darmstadt 2020.

Web links

Commons : Didyma  - collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Didyma (Aydın). Current Archeology in Turkey. University of New England, May 20, 2009, accessed May 5, 2020 (Turkish).


  1. site of the excavation project: www.panormos.de
  2. Herodotus 1, 157; Pausanias 7, 26.
  3. Strabo 17, 1, 43.
  4. Vitruvius 7:16.
  5. ^ Lothar Haselberger: Aspects of Didyma's architectural drawings. In: Revue archéologique . 1991, pp. 99-113.
  6. Amory Burchard: In the Temple of Artemis. In: Tagesspiegel , November 3, 2014.
  7. Press release of the German Archaeological Institute: Antique theater discovered , September 19, 2011.