Monumental oracular temple

Perhaps the greatest single structure of Turkey’s classical age, certainly among the most evocative, is the oracular Temple of Apollo at Didyma (Didim). Here, where Anatolian kings such as Croesus and other great men of the age flocked for divine advice, are raised forecourts and enclosed stairways leading to inner sancta, and the stubs of some 120 huge fluted columns, a pair still rising to a shared architrave. Many of the columns have been left where they fell hundreds of years ago, tumbled like giant casino chips; the flutings of some remain uncarved, for the temple was never finally completed. For all its monumental, even Pharaonic, scale, Didyma is a compact site that some visitors allot just ten minutes; others sit for hours, pondering the extraordinary wealth that such institutions, trading in glimpses of the future, could evidently accumulate.

The country setting, surrounded by ruined villas of the neo-classical age, appears extraordinary, the more so to those who know that modern Didim’s concrete malls and sorry holiday apartment blocks, many flaking and unsold, stand just beyond the fringe of trees. Better to head in the other direction where a Sacred Way, a paved avenue once lined by seated statues since removed to the British Museum, loses itself in the earth en route to the ancient port of Miletus.  Have a drink (or even stay!) at the adjacent Oracle Pansiyon.

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