Facts and Unique Features of Temple of Apollo
It is near the ancient city of Miletus on the western coast of Turkey and the Temple of Apollo at Didyma was the fourth largest in ancient Greek world. Oracle of the temple played an important role in the religious and political life of Miletus and Mediterrenaen world. Several kings, from Alexander the Great to the Roman emperor Diocletian, visited or sent envoys to this oracle in search of Apollo’s counsel and favour.
The oracle was instrumental in starting Diocletian’s “Great Persecution” of Christians, and the temple was eventually turned into a church in the 5th or 6th century CE.
The Temple of Apollo at Didyma, also known as the Hellenistic Didymaion, is the third and final temple. Construction on the temple lasted for decades, and it was never finished; also in the late 4th century CE, the temple lacked a pediment or a cornice, as well as much of the sculptural decoration and even some of the large columns remained unfinished. Even the ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Didyma will leave modern-day tourists awestruck, so the temple must have been a breathtaking sight.
Didyma is one of a kind in terms of the diversity and depth of its interior spaces. It’s also noteworthy that, in 1979, fine, hardly visible lines were found incised on the adyton’s high interior walls. They’re the temple’s exact model, made in full-scale and carefully scratched into the marble’s surface to serve as a reference over the many lifetimes it’ll take to complete.
What is one thing that makes the Hellenistic temple to Apollo in didyma very different from classical Greek architecture?
The Milesians built the Hellenistic Didymaion to complete the Greek world’s largest temple, the adjacent Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the ancient world’s seven wonders. While the Didymaion was bigger in some ways and smaller in others, both temples were more than twice the size of the Parthenon in Athens. The Didymaion, like the Temple of Artemis, was designed to look like a regular, but massive, Greek temple from the outside.
Although the Didymaion’s exterior resembled a typical Greek temple, the interior was somewhat different. A typical Greek temple’s inner chamber, or adyton, was constructed directly on top of the temple platform. However, since the temple at Didyma was constructed around a holy well, the adyton’s floor had to be at ground level. The Didymaion’s architects devised a brilliant solution: they built two long and narrow vaulted tunnels that led from the temple platform back down to the adyton’s turfy floor.
The Milesians were able to build a conventional-looking temple that rivaled the Artemision in Ephesus while still retaining the natural spring that had long been considered the holy source of the oracle’s influence thanks to this clever “hollow” architecture.