The Temple, Sanctuary and Settlement at Didyma: new excavations in the northwest near the Sacred Way



37° 23' 25.0008" N, 27° 14' 57.9984" E

A sanctuary on the Milesian peninsula on the west coast of Turkey near the border between the ancient territories of Ionia and Caria, the ancient site of Didyma lies in the today's county seat Didim, about 130 km south of Izmir and some 80 km southwest of the province capital Aydın.


The Temple of Apollo © DAIThe sanctuary with its oracle of Apollo appears to have existed as early as the end of the second or beginning of the first millennium BC. It reached a zenith in the sixth century BC with a new-and monumental-temple. After it was destroyed, a third Temple of Apollo was begun, one which counted among the grandest in the Greek and Roman world but which never reached completion. In the fifth century AD a church was constructed in the open cella of the temple, and later the structure was turned into a fortress; the surrounding settlement apparently survived into the 14th century.


At the center of scholarly interests lie the architectural alterations to the Sanctuary of Apollo itself; the search for the temples of Artemis, Aphrodite, and Zeus and other deities mentioned in the ancient sources; and the general infrastructure of this sanctuary district, including shifts in cults and cult practices in conjunction with alternating external political and social alliances during the course of its more than 2000 years of function. Didyma offers the rare chance to follow the development of an autonomous cult from an isolated seed into the thriving extramural sanctuary of the city-state Miletus, waxing ever larger with the residences it attracted. The new investigations begun in 2000 are dedicated to the task of exposing the topography of ancient Didyma-the other sanctuaries and the residential quarters; indeed very little of the site is actually known save for the Temple of Apollo and the end of the Sacred Way.

History of Research

In 1857-1858 C. T. Newton laid free the statue of the so-called Branchidae on the Sacred Way. In 1873 two French archaeologists, O. Rayat and A. Thomas, then began to excavate the façade of the Temple of Apollo, work which was continued in 1895-96 by B. Haussoullier and E. Pontremoli. Representing the Preußischen Museen in Berlin, Th. Wiegand continued with a whole army of workers from 1905 through 1913; he and his chief architect H. Knackfuß succeeded-with some final touches between 1924 and 1926-in laying bare the temple. Since 1962 the DAI has continued investigations at Didyma under the direction of R. Naumann and K. Tuchelt.

Recent Activities

Emphasis over the past few years has centered upon the evaluation of finds and findspots near the end of the Sacred Way as well as on a survey of the natural surroundings. Running parallel to these efforts since 1993 has been a careful and thorough conservation of the Temple of Apollo. Beginning in 2000, exploration continued in the form of both geophysical prospecting in rings around the modern town of Didim and excavation along the more distant reaches of the Sacred Way. The latter exposed archaic strata with pottery of fine quality, objects of sheet bronze, weapons, and clay seals that point to the existence of a sanctuary here. Across the Sacred Way near the imperial baths, an expansive area with several open squares and stoas-as well as a huge cistern-has been excavated. Individual projects have handled specific groups of finds such as ceramic wares, objects of glass and metal, sculpture and statue bases, as well as single architectural entities, e.g. building foundations and ornate facades.
Since 2003 the following work has been carried out under the direction of Prof. Dr. Andreas Furtwängler from the Institut für Klassische Altertumswissenschaften of the Martin Luther University at Halle-Wittenberg: final sondages at the Hill of the Taxiarchs, confirming its occupation during the seventh century BC; a study of significant archaic small finds recovered from dumps; restoration and consolidation of the Hellenistic Didymaion; and the initiation of new measurements and inventory for all the architectural members from the archaic Didymaion.


The recent investigations reflect the following procedure: 1. Formulation of the task in question, 2. Preliminary geophysical survey, 3. Decision upon horizontal exposure or vertical sondage(s), and 4. handling of the finds: storage and preservation. Recent excavation has relied largely upon sondages limited in area at particular locations, a means most useful in addressing topographical queries.


Plan of the area excavated © DAIWhile the work at the beginning of the last century served first to clear the Temple of Apollo and study it-a task still continuing in respect to the architectural sketches on the adyton walls and their relationship to the structure standing today, efforts since 1969 have focused on the sanctuary as a whole. Following the priority of 'temple-sanctuary-town,' excavations at the end of the Sacred Way with its esplanade-like Felsbarre exposed a sacred area with fountains and small structures. It would seem that here honor was paid to a female deity whose cult continued from the seventh century BC through imperial times. The Sacred Way itself displays five different levels, the earliest of which dates from the sixth century BC. Only the final processional route was paved, a renewal carried out around 101 AD. Excavations at the west of Didyma in 1969 and 1972 revealed an area of streets and domiciles with finds from the archaic period through the third century BC. In 1984 an area used as a necropolis-with intact marble statues of persons and sphinxes-was discovered stretching half the length of the Sacred Way between Didyma and Miletus.

Further Contact Partners

Prof. Dr. Andreas Furtwängler, Institut für Klassische Altertumswissenschaften, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Dr. Axel Filges, through the Abteilung Istanbul des Deutschen Archäologischen Institus, Gümüssuyu / Ayazpasa Camii Sok. 48, 34437 Istanbul, Türkei, Tel : +90-(0)212-252 34 90, Fax : +90-(0)212-252 34 91, e-mail :


J. Fontenrose, Didyma: Apollo's Oracle, Cult, and Companions (1988); H. Knackfuß in: Th. Wiegand (Hrsg.), Didyma. Erster Teil: Die Baubeschreibung (1941); E. Pontremoli - B. Haussoullier, Didymes. Fouilles de 1895 et 1896 (1904); K. Tuchelt, Vorarbeiten zu einer Topographie von Didyma, 9. Beih. IstMitt (1973); K. Tuchelt, Branchidai - Didyma: Geschichte und Ausgrabung eines antiken Heiligtums, Zaberns Bildbände zur Archäologie 3 (1992); K. Tuchelt et al., Ein Kultbezirk an der Heiligen Straße von Milet nach Didyma, Didyma III 1 (1996); H. Bumke - A. Herda - E. Röver - Th. G. Schattner, AA 2000, 57 ff.

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