Didyma Turkey is located on the country’s west coast, not far from the seaport city of Kusadasi. It is often a stop on the itinerary of tours and vacation packages as they travel between Bodrum and Kusadasi.
After the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece, the Temple of Apollo at Didyma (also known as the Didymaion) was the most important oracle in the ancient Hellenic world. This is one of the oracles where wealthy King Croesus reputedly sent his ambassadors bearing gifts to ask test questions to determine which oracle was most reliable. According to the legend, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi won the contest, and became the center of the ancient Greek world. The modern name of Didyma Turkey is Didim.
Didyma, means “twin” in Greek, and refers to the twins Apollo and Artemis. There was a temple built to Artemis in the nearby city of Miletus, and temples to both brothers are scattered across both Turkey and Greece. The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was, in fact, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Some date the building of the Didyma Temple to the second century BC, but the earliest fragments found thus far date to all the way back to the eighth century BC.
The original Didyma Temple was destroyed by Darius the Great in the fifth century BC, and rebuilding was begun by Alexander the Great two centuries later. It is the ruins of this Temple of Apollo at Didyma that you will see on a visit today. Construction continued for another two centuries on what was to be the largest temple in the known world. The temple was 90 feet high, approached by fourteen steps of a grand stairway, and was third in size only after the temples at Ephesus and on the Greek Island of Samos that is quite close to the Turkish coast. Construction was still underway when as the Roman period began, and it was never completely finished. Nonetheless, it remained an important religious site, an active oracle, and pilgrimage destination.
Constantine the Great closed the oracle at the Didyma Temple and had the priests imprisoned at about the time of his conversion to Christianity. In the fifth century AD, a Christian basilica was erected within the sacred area of the temple. Both the basilica and the almost completed Temple of Apollo at Didyma stood intact until a severe fifteenth-century earthquake reduced both of them to rubble. Excavations during the first three decades of the twentieth century uncovered the impressive ruins that cover the site now. Three enormous 60-foot high pillars tower over the site. They are all that remain of the original 122 columns, but even the remains of the destroyed columns that were felled by the earthquake are staggering in scope and size. Several sacred chambers and chapels, most without their roofs, the grand stairway, pavilions, terraces, and ornate doors also cover the archeological site.
If you visit Didyma Turkey for a day only to tour the temple ruins, you will find that Kusadasi hotels offer the best places to stay. If you have booked vacation packages, this is probably how your overnight stay will be arranged. However, the area has much to offer, including other ruins, and staying in the nearby town of Didim is also an option.