A famous resort town today, Didim was once called Didyma, and it was a place of worship for the people who lived there. Didyma was connected to the great ancient port city of Miletus, but it wasn’t only Milesians visiting this temple. People from far away would travel here to get their fortune readings and to meet the priests.
There were many temples that were named “Temple of Apollo” back then, so name-wise, the place was not unique. But the Temple of Apollo in Didyma, Anatolia, was a colossal temple, large enough to make it the fourth-biggest temple, among others at the time.
Its 5,500-meter square podium and 122 columns, each with a diameter of 2.5 meters with a height of 28 meters, made this place a temple showcasing the wealth of Miletus. Milesians also made alterations to the usual ancient Greek temple structure to protect the natural springs below, which they considered being sacred.
By the year 494 BC, the temple was ruined by an earthquake. There were efforts to reconstruct the temple for centuries, but the construction was never finished. Christianity had become the main religion in the area, and the temples were mostly vacant and forgotten.
The Temple of Apollo was built in 550 BC. Since Didyma was an important spiritual location for ancient Greeks, there was also a smaller temple built earlier in this location. This temple was built in the 8th century. The Temple of Apollo was constructed later in its place.
Milesians weren’t a secular crowd, which made the Temple of Apollo important not only for their religious life but also for their political life. The temple was the gathering point for religious festivals and sacrifices and votive offerings. Many visitors would seek an audience with the priests to get their fortune readings, but most visitors couldn’t afford the steep price of reading, so it would mostly be wealthy people who would get fortune-telling.
The oracle of the temple had a high status and was seen as a protector against enemies. It also had a strong influence politically, having a say in treaties, public affairs, and foreign relations.
Other than the oracle, there was also a high priest. The high priest would mainly be in charge of the finance of the functions of the temple. The high priest would be elected each year and stay in the office for a year. For this prestigious temple, there was a big competition to get a chair. Some Roman Emperors even got the position a little less democratically than usual.
Today the remains of 25 Temples of Apollo can be found in six different countries. These countries are Cyprus, Czechia, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Turkey.