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DİDYMA (DİDİM)

Site of an ancient oracle

didim1The final stop on what is widely called the PMD (Priene, Miletus and Didyma) tour from Selçuk or Kuşadası is Didyma (modern Didim), home to a famous temple oracle sited over a sacred well that dated right back to the eight century BC.

At one time this temple would have stood in isolation although later a small town grew up round it. Although the Greek occupants left in 1923 there is still a settlement here albeit one that entirely revolves around tourism. Recent pedestrianization has made it quieter but also somehow even more clearly focused on tourism.

Stay the night at the Medusa House hotel or the much simpler Oracle Pension right beside it, and you will have the chance to gaze out over the temple ruins in the cool of evening when the tour groups have packed up and gone home.

The temple aside, Didim is home to a few fine old stone houses as well as to a huge 19th-century church that was converted into a mosque immediately after the Greco-Turkish population exchange of 1923.didim2Interior of Didim church-mosque

The temple site

Unlike Priene and Miletus, Didyma was never a town. Instead it was the site of an enormous temple and home to the priests who managed it. Today enough of that huge temple, dedicated to the sun god Apollo and supported by 108 massive columns, still stands, making it possible to imagine what an awe-inspiring sight it must have presented to the pilgrims of antiquity.

They would have approached it slowly, perhaps along the Sacred Way from Miletus, stopping first at a well where they could purify themselves and then at an altar where they could sacrifice an animal, only then mounting the steps to the temple to present their questions to the officiating priest. He would have vanished to ponder the matter, before reappearing like a magician on a ledge high before the petitioner with his answer.

The quality of the carving on the many stones scattered about the site testify to the huge importance and great wealth associated with the temple.

Didim3Tiered seating of small stadiumImmediately behind the oracle are slight remains of a small stadium including tiered seating, some of it with inscribed lettering that seems to have been put there to "bag" the seats. 

Sleeping

Medusa House

Oracle Pension. Tel: 0256-811 0270

Transport info

Dolmuşes run from Söke to Altinküm passing what is now called Apollon Tapanağı (the Temple of Apollo), Didim rather confusingly being used as the name for the entire area.

If you go down to the beach at Altınkum the midibuses to Söke won't want to take you back uphill to the temple. Instead you'll have to catch a local dolmuş which woudn't matter except that they bring you back on a circuitous route round the unappealing back streets of Didim. 

To get from the temple to Miletus is a hassle which is odd given that the two sites were once intimately connected by the Sacred Way. You can take the Söke bus as far as Akköy but there are no buses from there to Balat or Miletus, another 1.5km away. Nor are there any taxis. If you don't want to face the 5km walk in both directions you may have to hitch a ride with a local.

Day trip destinations

Altınkum

Miletus

Priene

Söke

didim5Tunnel into interior of temple

didim4Head of Medusa

 

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