Also well worth a visit because very much off the beaten track, and with many well excavated buildings surviving, is the sanctuary of Zeus Stratius at Labranda. As with other sanctuaries, this one spans the centuries, with buildings from classical and Hellenistic times right through to the Romans. The site has a Sacred Way, and also some fine tombs, one of which, of built ashlar masonry, is spectacular in the beauty of its corbelled vaulting. Like Didyma, the site also has a stadium, reminding us of the sacred origins of "sporting" activities in the classical world.


Didyma is among the most impressive of all sites in Turkey. It is a sanctuary some 16.4 kilometres from the nearby city of Miletus. A paved way (SB4.2), once lined with statues some of which survive in the British Museum, led from the city to the temple, and a 150 metre length of this road has now been excavated, beginning about 100 metres from the temple (nearer sections being covered by a modern road and houses). The paving is of high quality, and the road at this point is lined with shops - presumably antique souvenir stalls supplying gifts for the sanctuary. The present sanctuary, begun by the Miletans perhaps about 300 BC, already replaced the archaic one destroyed when the site was sacked by Darius the Persian in 494 BC, who carried off the cult-statue to Ecbatana. From the start, it must have been intended to rival in size the Artemision at Ephesus and the Heraion on the nearby island of Samos - just as we might make comparisons, as surely did the ancients, between the acropolis on the island of Lindos, and that of Pergamum.

For architectural surprises, the sanctuary of Didyma is unrivalled, except perhaps at Agrigento, in Sicily. There is no entrance in the usual place: instead, an eye-height platform (probably for the oracle) is flanked by two gigantic monoliths. The entrances are a downward-sloping tunnel to either side, from which one emerges into a vast open courtyard surrounded by towering pilastered walls - just when one might expect to be inside the temple (SB4.1). The tiny shrine of Apollo, presumably the site of the original pre-temple oracle, was once surrounded by sacred laurel bushes. The sacred spring is still there, but this is dwarfed by the surroundings, especially by the columns and pilasters toward the east, also approached by a great flight of steps from ground level.

Because this ambitious sanctuary was never finished, Didyma is also an excellent site for learning about construction techniques, and for getting the flavour of a workshop, for there are signs everywhere of "work in progress" (cf. Voigtlaender 1975, plates 1, 10, 11). Particularly impressive are the two tunnels made of white marble blocks leading to the "courtyard": these are structurally finished, but some of the blocks have not been chased flat, and masons' marks are abundant. Down the flanks of the temple, the telltale signs of a structure in progress are common (SB1.4).

Of the great building, only two columns and their associated entablature stand to the full height. All the columns were probably erected, but many of them, even those near the front, have not had their decoration finished (SB1.1). And further back, the drum sections making up the shafts are completely plain. Because of earthquakes, many of them lie in regular heaps like so many completely or wholly collapsed piles of dominoes. Naturally, an effort was made to finish the main facade of the temple (toward the east), so as to make the greatest possible impact on the visitor: so here the columns are fluted, and their bases finished. But a few paces down the flanks and one meets with roughed-out bases, unfluted columns, and unfinished ornament: indeed, increasingly fewer of the columns have been completed as one moves toward the west-facing rear (see especially the outer ranks on the south-west and the north). The same is true of the massive, towering walls of the cella itelf: string-courses and other decoration are completed toward the west, but are lacking as one moves east. The external walls of the sanctuary have a running guilloche ornament at dado level, abutting a lower, profiled course of masonry. The underside of this is finished: this is because the profiles of the masonry courses would have rendered it impossible to cut the lower part of the pattern after erection of the wall. Except for a short distance near the main entrance, however, the upper sections of this same ornament have never been completed.

Close examination of this unfinished giant gives a complete impression of how buildings were constructed, as well as of the immensity of the task here. Fluting was always the last task after the erection of the columns, for it could only be satisfactorily completed by dropping a plumb-bob from the top of the column. Several other Turkish temples never got their full complement of fluting: this is the case with the Temple of Zeus at Euromos (SB4.3), but also at Sardis, where the great Temple of Artemis has unfinished columns, bases and mouldings. Amongst the signs of work in progress are manoeuvring bosses for placing the column drums, and smoothed hoops on some of them indicating to the junior masons the profile to which the marble should be dressed back.

Little of Didyma's structure seems to have been robbed, perhaps because the enormous size of the blocks impeded their removal. (In any case, plenty of more convenient material was available at nearby Miletus or Priene.) Mounds of blocks, and many trees, covered the site in the 18th century, with just the two columns and attached entablature, plus the single, unfluted column, poking above them (cf. Chandler 1764-5, cat. 11, for a view). Some of the mounds were cleared away in the 19th century for in 1855, in the first photograph of the site (reproduced in Weis 1983, 11), houses are shown clustered around the temple, and a windmill sits on top, apparently somewhere on the "oracle platform".


Didyma is deservedly well known, and becoming more so with the explosion of tourism in the area. Claros is a sanctuary much less well known but well worth visiting both for the beauty of its largely Hellenistic architecture, and for its cult statues. Situated near the coast, and nearer to Ephesus than to Izmir, it lies in marshy ground, making it difficult to visit in some seasons: even before the winter rains, the site is not completely dry; and when the River Halys is in flood, it must be well-nigh impossible. Perseverance is rewarded, however, for Claros has an excellent complex of Hellenistic buildings, with fine columns and beautifully-cut masonry. Especially important is the survival of the remains of no fewer than three colossal cult-statues - of Apollo, originally seated between standing statues of Artemis and Leto. The heads have gone, but the pieces of torso, trunk and legs are most impressive. I know of no other classical site in any country where large fragments of even a single cult-statue survive; so that at Claros the visitor can gain a fuller impression perhaps even than at Didyma (or even Delphi and Olympia?) of what a sanctuary was all about. This is not to say that parts of cult-statues have not been found on other Turkish sites - witness that of the Emperor in the Temple of Domitian at Ephesus, the forearm and clenched fist of which is the height of a man (illustrated in MacKendrick 1962, 423). To the beauty of the small river valley and the magnificent precision of the Hellenistic masonry is therefore added a vision of a complete sanctuary - with highly coloured colossal cult statues each in their own temple.


From here you may also go to The Preface, The Introduction, Archaeology in Turkey, Building for Splendour, Town Planning, Roads, Water Supply, Aqueducts, Harbours, The Architecture of Work & Leisure, Funerary Art & Architecture, Decline & Renewal, The Conclusion, The Bibliography, or The Table of Contents

Greek & Roman Cities of Western Turkey