The archaeological site of Didyma in Turkey contains the remains of the ancient Sanctuary of Apollo, one of the most important oracles of the Hellenic world. It is one of the world’s greatest and best preserved temples to both Apollo and within classical antiquity.
Apollo was the main deity of the sanctuary of Didyma. The oracle, second only to Delphi in importance, was linked to the Greek city of Miletus by the 17 kilometre-long Sacred Way, which was built in the 6th century BC and was used for festival processions.
Both ancient Greek writers Herodotus and Pausanias date the origins of the oracle at Didyma to before the Ionian colonisation of the coast.
The original temple was destroyed in 494 BC by the Persians under the Persian king Darius. Though the sanctuaries of Delphi and Ephesus were rebuilt, Didyma lay in ruin until Alexander the Great had the oracle rebuilt in around 334 BC.
During the Hellenistic and Roman times the sanctuary flourished. It changed hands a number of times – and was even converted into a fortress by the Byzantines – until the Temple of Apollo was destroyed in 1493 by an earthquake. The village was subsequently abandoned, until it was resettled by Greeks around 300 years later who used the broken ancient buildings as quarries.
Exploration and excavations of the site have been conducted from 1673 right up until the present, with discoveries such as the Greek theatre in 2010/11 meaning that Didyma is always revealing new and evolving surprises.
Today visitors to the site can explore a range of ruins from the oracle, including several structures, columns, decorative friezes, and even the remains of ancient tunnels.
It doesn’t take too long to walk around the site, and it is possible to take pictures but not enter the site for free. However, it is worth paying the small entrance fee to get up close and inside the Temple of Apollo, and read the signs dotted around Didyma itself for a truly immersive experience.
Getting to Didyma
From the historic city of İzmir, Didyma is reachable in around 2 hours by car via the E87 road. From the centre of Miletus, Didyma is a short 20 minute drive to the outskirts via the Didim Güllübahçe Yolu road. Equally, the 273 bus from Milet Müze Yolu will take you to Didim Çevreyolu 1, from where the Temple of Apollo is a 10 minute walk.