Another sanctuary with fine masonry is the Letoon, the shrine of the mother of Apollo, not far from Xanthos, with three temples (the oldest of the 4th century BC) dedicated to Leto, Artemis and Apollo, and a large and elaborate nymphaeum. As with the sanctuaries at Ephesus and Didyma, it is likely that the cult here pre-dates the classical period; and as at Didyma, there was probably a sacred spring here long before there was any architecture.

Gods frequently took a hand in healing: the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Pergamum, founded in the 4th century BC, was one of the most famous and therefore most patronised in the ancient world, and clearly a place of great luxury - Pergamum les Bains, in Kinross' bon mot (Kinross 1955, 122). The complex is approached by a majestic colonnaded Sacred Way, with fountain basins at intervals, and entered through a pompous colonnaded vestibule. No doubt because of gifts from grateful patients, its architecture is splendid, for around a sacred spring and pool and facing onto a colonnaded "agora" are two temples, a library and a theatre. What is more the main temple, that to Asklepios himself, is a rotunda (dated circa 130 AD) modelled on the recently completed Pantheon in Rome. The site is traversed by an underground tunnel: this might have formed part of certain cures, but it also allowed a cool traverse toward the fountains well out of the hot sun. The same is true of the tunnel running the whole length of the south side of the complex.

Churches and Mosques

Although this is a book about classical sites, it is useful to say something about the impact of Christianity and of Islam, because both religions decisively affected several important temples and a host of minor ones. For a further discussion of Byzantine and later building practices and their relation to existing classical structures, see below, the chapter on Decline.

In the early centuries of Christianity in the West, there are but few examples of churches built directly on top of or within the boundaries of the sites of pagan temples, whether for fear of superseded but still potent gods, or because settlement patterns had shifted location. There are no such inhibitions in evidence further East. At Aphrodisias, the Christians went to the enormous work of turning the Temple of Aphrodite (with the columns outside the cella) into a church, with the columns inside the walls, and embellishing it with much material from the site. It is presumably one of their teams which, nodding for a very long moment, replaced one of the Ionic capitals at 90 degrees to its correct position.

Side, Sardis & Xanthos

At Side (the seat of a Bishop), a large Byzantine basilica was built in the 5th or 6th century with an atrium that took in two pagan temples. Side must have been prosperous then, but it was a prosperity that clearly did not last since, following a fire, a very small chapel was built in the 8th or 9th century within that basilica - scarcely longer than the room taken by four of the columns of the "elder sister". This shrinkage over the mediaeval centuries (due to a decreasing population as well as perhaps to lower levels of skill) might have been widespread: at Sardis also, we find a 13th century church built within the ruins of a much larger and earlier one (Hanfmann 1975, 33), and a splendid marble-clad synagogue adjacent to the gymnasium (SB4.4). At Xanthos, amongst other Christian churches and monasteries, a very large basilica was built from large blocks from earlier buildings: columns are reused, and entablature blocks (which once sat on top of columns) have been turned through 90 degrees to make door jambs. At Arycandra, a large church adjacent to the main baths not only reuses classical and hellenistic marble blocks in the altar area (presbyterium), but has the remains of a fine mosaic in the south aisle. At Ephesus also, the monuments of the Christian city owe much of their construction to earlier materials.

Not that church sites were restricted to temple locations. At Assos, for example, a Byzantine church was constructed using the outer wall and north colonnade of the gymnasium, with a small apse punctured to eastwards. At Sardis, a smaller church was tacked onto the east end of the Temple of Artemis, no broader than the distance between two of the pagan temple's columns. We do not know why the temple itself was not used, although the ground level had certainly risen because of land slips; hence the foundations of the chapel rest directly on the paving stones of the temple, and its column bases are about 1.25 metres above them. There is some support for the belief that the temple itself was somehow converted into a cistern in Byzantine times, the aqueduct having broken (Foss 1976, 72-3). By this time, the Temple of Artemis was the site of a village, not part of a city; and limekilns were in use to render down the marble on the site. At Miletus, while the upper portion of the theatre was converted into a Byzantine castle, the cavea housed both a (necessarily small) church, and also a cistern.

Conversion to mosques

It is a commonplace that the domed style of mosque is inspired by the typical Byzantine church, with Hagia Sophia and the great mosques of Constantinople as good examples of model and imitators. It is equally the case that many important pagan and Christian religious buildings have survived because they were converted into mosques and (except for the interdiction against images, met sometimes with whitewash and sometimes with hammering) kept in relatively good condition so that they could continue to be used. Without conversion to mosques, it is doubtful whether many Byzantine churches - especially the larger ones, adventurously constructed, such as Hagia Sophia - would have survived. Even then, survival was far from guaranteed: the great Church of Saint John at Seljuk (near Ephesus) was made into the chief mosque of the city, and Ibn Battuta admired its marble walls, lead roof and eleven domes when he visited the city in 1331 (Gibb 1962, 444-5). Unfortunately, it was later destroyed, perhaps by Tamurlaine in 1402, and never rebuilt - although it has recently been re-erected in "skeleton" format.

Of course, many temples and churches were not converted into mosques: instead, their materials were taken for reuse, especially squared marble blocks, and columns, capitals and bases. One example out of hundreds would be Residaye Camii (dated 1328) at Silifke, where the porch is supported on antique columns and capitals. More capitals are used instead of bases, presumably because the builders found them more decorative. The Turks, in other words, soon developed a taste for the glories of earlier marble spolia little different from that of their predecessors.

Bibliographical Notes

Gruben (1976) for a pocket-sized handbook to temples, not limited to Turkey. Coulton (1977) for how temples were built. Tomlinson (1976) for sanctuaries; Guenther (1971) and Parke (1985) for those interested in how sanctuary oracles actually worked. Weis (1983) and Fontenrose (1988) for Didyma, and Schneider (1987) for its Sacred Way. Finster-Holtz (1984) for Assos, and Kleiner (1980) for a summary guide; Voigtlaender (1975) for a study of its decoration, and Wiegand (1941 and 1958) for a two-volume study. Bammer (1984) for Ephesus. Sahin (1972) for monumental altars, and Rohde (1982) and Green (1990, 351ff.) for the Pergamum Altar. Ziegenhaus (1968-84) for the Asklepieion at Pergamum. Metzger in Akurgal (1978, 789-803) for the Letoon.

Chiri (1954) for mediaeval attitudes to classical culture; Cochrane (1940) for Christianity's attitudes to the classical past; Grabar (1969) for a study of the classical origins of Christian iconography. Mainstone (1988) on Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

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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