Elevation of front of temple, showing columns and entablature (lg.), Didym...

Didyma, Archaic Temple of Apollo ("Older Didymaion"), Gruben rec...

Elevation of Ionic column showing section of entablature (sm.), Didyma, Ar...

Elevation of Ionic column showing section of entablature (lg.), Didyma, Ar...

Elevation of front of temple, showing columns and entablature (sm.), Didym...

Didyma, Archaic Temple of Apollo: Fehr reconstruction, plan ca. 540 B.C.

Context: Didyma
Type: Temple
Summary: Oracular temple of Apollo located at Didyma in Ionia; foundations of two earlier phases of the temple located in the adyton of the Hellenistic Temple of Apollo at Didyma
Date: ca. 540 BC - ca. 530 BC

The walls of the late geometric sekos were 10.3 m. apart in the west, and 9.60 m. apart in the east. The surviving foundations of the archaic adyton walls measure ca. 33 m. in length by ca. 19.90 m. in width at the west. Width of pilasters of archaic adyton wall 3.00 - 3.50 m. Gruben's reconstruction proposes a crepidoma ca. 89 m. in length, with an interaxial intercolumniation of 4.36 m., and a restored column height of ca. 15.5 m. Tuchelt's reconstruction proposes a crepidoma ca. 72 m. in length, with an interaxial column spacing of 4.36 m. Fehr reconstructs a crepidoma ca. 72 m. long, with an interaxial intercolumniation of 3.27 m.

Region: Ionia
Period: Archaic

Architectural Order:

Ionic. Fragments of marble Ionic column capitals were found.


The plan of the first built structure at Didyma, the so-called sekos (Temple I) dating to ca. 700 B.C., consisted of a simple rectangular enclosure, open to the sky; the foundations of this sekos have been found within the adyton of the Hellenistic temple. The walls of the sekos were not parallel, but converged towards the east. No columns are associated with the earliest sekos, and its eastern extension is unknown. In the sixth century B.C., a naiskos or small shrine was constructed inside the sekos, towards the west (rear) wall; whether or not this naiskos was built before the construction of the archaic temple (Temple II), or was contemporary with Temple II is disputed. The plan of the archaic temple is uncertain, and a number of reconstructions have been proposed. Within the Hellenistic adyton were found the north, south and west foundation walls of the adyton of the second temple, Temple II. This archaic adyton was larger than the entire sekos of ca. 700 B.C. One reconstruction of the archaic temple Gruben 1963, fig. 1 proposed a dipteral temple on a two-stepped crepidoma, with 21 columns along the flanks, 9 across the rear, and 8 across the facade. The deep pronaos contained two rows of columns, with four columns in each row; a staircase led down to the long adyton, whose interior walls were articulated by eight projecting piers. Within the adyton, towards the west rear wall, stood the naiskos which Gruben reconstructs as distyle in antis. This naiskos and the archaic temple are reconstructed as being on axis with the archaic circular ash altar located to the east. Subsequent excavations, Drerup 1964, 364-367, have revealed that the adyton walls did not extend as far to the east as Gruben indicated, and thus the following reconstruction was proposed Tuchelt 1970, 203-205, Tuchelt 1973, fig. 3: a dipteral colonnade with 17 columns along the flanks, 9 across the rear, and 8 across the facade, surrounding a deep pronaos with two rows of four columns each, and an adyton, approached by a staircase from the pronaos. The interior walls of the adyton, being shorter than those imagined by Gruben, were thus articulated by only five projecting piers. In Tuchelt's reconstruction, the archaic temple is oriented on axis with the archaic circular altar ca. 40 m. to the east, whereas the naiskos, thought by Tuchelt to belong to Temple I, is out of alignment with Temple II and the archaic altar. A third reconstruction, Fehr 1972, 16-29, sees the archaic temple as containing some of the complexities apparent in the Hellenistic temple, in particular additional chambers and passages between the pronaos and the adyton. Fehr accepts the shorter crepidoma proposed by Tuchelt, but, employing a shorter interaxial intercolumniation, proposes a dipteral colonnade of 21 columns along the flanks and, as in the Hellenistic temple, 10 across both front and back. According to Fehr, the pronaos was five-aisled, with four rows of columns containing three in each row. Between the pronaos and the adyton was a complicated system of east chamber (in which stood two columns), transverse hallway with stairs leading to an upper floor, and an antechamber at the west, also containing two columns. Fehr also proposes that vaulted passages led from the pronaos to the adyton, the prototype for the Hellenistic arrangement.

Date Description:

The evidence for the date of the late geometric sekos is provided by ceramic finds. The archaic temple is dated on the basis of the style of its architectural sculpture (female figures in relief, ovolo moldings, Ionic capitals etc.), and its overall architectural form (through analogy with other Ionic temples such as the Heraion at Samos and the Artemision at Ephesos). A curved retaining wall at the east of the temple complex was surmounted by an Ionic ovolo which is dated to ca. 540 B.C.; this provides further evidence for the date of the construction of the temple. Literary references mention dedications made at the temple by the pharaoh Necho (609-594 B.C.) and the Lydian king Croesus; these dedications indicate the existence of an oracular sanctuary at Didyma before the construction of the archaic dipteros.


The earliest building phase at the temple site is represented by the fragmentary stretches of converging walls located within the Hellenistic adyton. These remains are interpreted as the foundations of a late geometric sekos or open enclosure, whose superstructure was of mudbrick, constructed ca. 700 B.C. In the early sixth century, a naiskos was built inside this sekos. The remains of this naiskos are interpreted as later than the exterior walls of the sekos, due to the use of a different construction technique (by Drerup 1964, 362-363 and Tuchelt 1970, 197-203). Drerup and Tuchelt therefore date the first naiskos to ca. 575 B.C. In ca. 540 B.C., a larger temple, the archaic temple (Temple II) was built; its adyton walls enclosed the entire late geometric sekos. Gruben 1963, 100-102 and Fehr 1972, 56-59 see the construction of the naiskos as contemporary with the archaic Temple II, at ca. 540 B.C. The archaic sanctuary and its oracle was under the control of a priestly tribe, the Branchidai, until it was destroyed by the Persians. Hdt. 6.19.2-3 attributes this destruction to Darius, in 494 B.C., while later writers, notably Strabo 14.1.5, attribute this destruction to Xerxes in 479 B.C. The earlier destruction date is generally accepted. After the Persian destruction, there is evidence of renewed building activity at the temple: anta capitals decorated with volutes in relief, and other architectural elements, may belong to altars erected in the adyton. This evidence may indicate that Didyma remained an active cult center throughout the fifth century B.C., although there is no evidence of oracular responses until the oracle was revived in ca. 331 B.C.

Other Notes:

The late geometric sekos was most probably erected around the sacred spring, which was located near the rear of the adyton, in the vicinity of the archaic and later Hellenistic naiskos. Architectural remains from the archaic temple indicate that the lower column drums of the east facade were decorated with marble female figures in relief, of archaic East Greek style, and perhaps reflecting the influence of the archaic Artemision at Ephesos (see Berlin Sk 1721 and Sk 1748). Fragments of Ionic capitals with convex channels were found; these supported a marble architrave. The corners of the architraves were decorated with running gorgons accompanied by recumbent lions. In the late sixth century B.C., the temple received a bronze cult image of Apollo made by the sculptor Kanachos. This statue probably stood in the naiskos of the temple, and was transported to Ecbatana after the Persian destruction.

Other Bibliography:

Wiegand and Knackfuss 1941, 121-129; Gruben 1963, 78-177; Drerup 1964, 333-355; Hahland 1964, 144-240; Drerup 1969, 59; Fehr 1972, 14-69; Tuchelt 1970, 203-205; Tuchelt 1971, 13-15; Voigtländer 1972, 93-112; Dinsmoor 1975, 133-134; Lawrence 1983, 166; Tuchelt 1984, 326-343 (Schneider); Tuchelt 1986b, 33-50; Fontenrose 1988, 8-15, 31-34.

See Also: Berlin Sk 1721 and Sk 1748