Medusa head frieze of 2nd century A.D. from the architrave, Didyma, Hellen...

Cross-section of NE end of adyton, with great flight of stairs and molding...

Stoa area to the SE, from NW, Didyma, Hellenistic Temple of Apollo

Cross-section of SW end of adyton, with naiskos (lg.), Didyma, Hellenistic...

South half, from E, Didyma, Hellenistic Temple of Apollo

Pier capitals and entablature blocks of the N wall of cella, from SE, Didy...

Context: Didyma
Type: Temple
Summary: Monumental oracular temple of Apollo, situated in Milesian territory in Ionia and connected to Miletus by the Sacred Way.
Date: ca. 300 BC - ca. 200 AD

Length of stylobate at lowest step 118.34 m., at top step 109.34 m. Width of stylobate at lowest step 60.13 m., at top step 51.13 m. Interior width of pronaos between antae 23.785 m. Depth of pronaos (to front of antae) 15.889 m. Height of wall at rear of pronaos 1.495 m. Width of opening in pronaos rear wall 5.63 m. Dimensions of east chamber 14.04 m. wide x 8.73 m. deep. Dimensions of cella building: exterior length (to front of antae) 87.415 m.; exterior width 29.165 m.; interior width 21.714 m. Interior length of adyton (rear wall to staircase) 45.419 m. Width of monumental staircase to adyton (top 20 steps) 15.25 m. Preserved height of cella walls ca. 22 - 25 m. Height of podium in cella wall from which pilasters spring 4.92 m. Dimensions of naiskos in adyton: exterior length 14.536 m.; exterior width 8.590 m.; interior cella of naiskos: 5.97 m. width x 7.511 m. length; axial intercolumniation of prostyle columns of naiskos 2.427 m.; distance from adyton walls at n. and s.: 6.56 m. Dimensions of square column bases ca. 2.69 m. Width of pilasters on interior adyton walls ca. 3.49 m. Distance between pilasters on interior adyton walls ca. 1.78 - 1.80 m. Width of north colonnade (top krepis step to cella wall) 11.005 m.; width of south colonnade 10.96 m. Average interaxial spacing of colonnade 5.2975 m. Height of columns ca. 19.71 m.; lower column diameter 2.02 m. The dimensions of the temple are based on an Ionic foot measuring 0.2943 m.

Region: Ionia
Period: Hellenistic/Roman
Architect: Paionios of Ephesos and Daphnis of Miletus

Architectural Order:

Ionic and Corinthian. The columns of the peristyle were Ionic; the two columns in the east chamber were Corinthian. There were two engaged Corinthian half-columns against the east wall of the adyton at the top of the monumental staircase.

Architect Evidence:

attributed to, by Vitr. 7. praef.16


In plan, the temple presents a number of unusual features. It is a monumental, dipteral temple on a seven-stepped crepidoma, with decastyle facade and twenty-one columns along the flanks. The temple is oriented to the east; its pronaos is approached by a flight of fourteen steps between projecting low walls or wings. The temple has no opisthodomos; and its pronaos contains three rows of four columns each. A wall bars access to the cella (or adyton) from the pronaos; above the wall, a wide opening or window allowed the visitor to glimpse the naiskos in the interior of the cella. On the right and left sides of the west wall of the pronaos, doorways lead to two sloping, barrel-vaulted passageways. These passages or tunnels emerge on the third step of a monumental staircase. By descending this staircase, the visitor arrives in the cella; by ascending these twenty two steps, the visitor is brought back up to a room, the east chamber, situated between the pronaos and the cella. The east chamber was entered through three doors in its west wall, and contains two Corinthian columns which supported the roof of the chamber. Two staircases, at the north and south of the east chamber, perhaps led to the roof of this room. The cella or adyton was situated ca. 4 m. below the level of the east chamber, and was hypaethral. The cella walls were articulated by Ionic pilasters supported by a podium; there were nine along each side and three across the rear wall, in addition to the corner pilasters. Between the doors to the east chamber, on the east wall of the adyton, were two engaged Corinthian half-columns. Towards the rear (west) wall of the cella or adyton stood a small shrine or naiskos in the form of a tetrastyle prostyle temple of Ionic order, the location of the sacred spring of the oracle and possibly the home of the cult image of Apollo.

Date Description:

As far as the date of the design of the temple, if the Paionios of Ephesus mentioned by Vitruvius is the same architect who worked on the Artemision at Ephesus, he will have been free to design the Didymeion after completing the fourth-century Artemision (in ca. 330 B.C.?) Building inscriptions from ca. 299/98 B.C. refer to Seleucid funding of the construction of the temple, and indicate that work had begun; there are no building accounts from the period before 300 B.C. The dates and careers of Paionios and Daphnis are uncertain, and it is unclear how much time intervened between the planning of the temple and its actual construction. Inscribed building accounts suggest that the temple was substantially complete by ca. 250 B.C., when oracular pronouncements were made; certainly work continued at the Didymeion over the centuries, as attested by the style of carving of various elements. The adyton pilaster capitals and intervening frieze of griffins and lyres are dated to the early second century B.C. (Voigtländer 1975a, 112-121). The frieze of Medusa heads and foliage from the exterior of the temple is dated stylistically to the Hadrianic period, as are the corner capitals with figural decoration from the peripteros Pülz 1989, 47-64. The elaborate column bases of the east fac\ade, ornamented with meander patterns, laurel leaves, Nereids etc. have recently been dated to the Trajanic/Hadrianic period (Pülz 1989, 17-46).The date of the construction of the naiskos in the adyton is uncertain; the return from Ecbatana of the cult image of Apollo by Seleukos is undated Paus. 1.16.3; 8.46.3. Presumably the image will have needed a home, and the naiskos may well have been the first element of the new sanctuary to be completed, with construction covering the period ca. 300-270 B.C. (Voigtländer 1975a, 34-43).


Following the destruction of the archaic temple in 494 B.C., there are no records of oracular pronouncements for ca. 160 years, although the site may have remained an active cult center. In ca. 331 B.C. the oracle was revived and the planning of the new Hellenistic temple was begun. The design of the Hellenistic temple is attributed by Vitruvius to Paionios of Ephesos and Daphnis of Miletus (Vitr. 7. praef.16). Although the start date for the construction of the temple is disputed, inscriptions dating to ca. 299/98 B.C. indicate that Seleukos I Nikator, significant benefactor of the town of Miletus, had provided much funding for the construction of the new temple by that date; revenue from the east stoa of the South Market at Miletus, funded by Seleukos' son Antiochos, also contributed to the construction of the temple. In the early third century B.C., the cult image of Apollo which had been removed by the Persians was returned to Didyma from Ecbatana by Seleukos I Nikator (Paus. 1.16.3). Inscribed building accounts indicate that the elements of the temple which were completed prior to ca. 230 B.C. were the socle wall of the adyton, the naiskos, the vaulted passages to the adyton, and parts of the crepidoma. Prior to ca. 165 B.C., the pilasters in the adyton, the two staircases (known as labyrinths in the building accounts), doors and the main portal were completed. Also in the early years of the second century B.C., a stadium was erected to the south of the temple to accommodate games associated with the festival of Apollo Didymeus. That the temple itself was never completed is reported by Pausanias (Paus. 7.5.4), and is apparent from a number of unfinished columns at the site. The Emperor Gaius Caligula intended to complete the temple (Suet. Gaius 21). Certain elements of the temple, such as Ionic capital fragments, architrave fragments, corner capitals with busts of deities, and the frieze with Medusa heads, date to the second century A.D., and are witness to the intermittent periods of construction at the temple over the centuries. In A.D. 262/3 the temple was besieged by Goths, who failed to capture it. In the Byzantine period a basilica was constructed above the adyton. Later, the eastern part of the temple was converted into a fort. In 1493, an earthquake caused the collapse of all but three of the structure's columns.

Other Notes:

The monumental Temple of Apollo at Didyma contains numerous features worthy of note, ranging from the unusually elaborate treatment of various architectural elements, to certain complications of design which are interpreted in the light of the oracular function of the temple.

The pilaster capitals of the interior walls of the adyton are varied in design, with an enclosed panel decorated with griffins, vertical palmettes, or acanthus foliage; these capitals probably date to the early second century B.C. Between the pilaster capitals ran a frieze of griffins and lyres, similarly dating to the second century B.C. The use of Corinthian engaged and free-standing columns in the adyton east wall and the east chamber is an example of the use of the Corinthian order to provide interior accents, and underscored the organic nature of much of the decoration of the temple. The bases of the two rows of ten columns across the east facade are treated in diverse ways, including dodecagonal bases with panels depicting Nereids and sea creatures or foliage; circular discs with meanders, laurel leaves, etc. These bases probably date to the second century A.D. The ceilings of the two staircases preserved in the east chamber are carved with a meander pattern, on which traces of red and blue paint can still be discerned. These meanders may have some connection with the function of the stairs, which are referred to as labyrinths in the building accounts. In spite of these complexities of design, the temple of Apollo at Didyma employed a system of proportions based on the standard interaxial spacing; measurements of the elevation were related to this interaxial proportion. Such a design principle may reflect the influence of such regular, ordered plans as that of the Temple of Athena at Priene.The high threshold of the opening in the pronaos is interpreted as a sort of stage from which the prophetess may have given oracular pronouncements. The low level of the interior of the adyton relative to the stylobate may have been dictated by the presence of the sacred spring in the adyton, an essential feature of the oracular cult. It is known that laurel groves grew in the open-air adyton, although eventually this area was also paved. An additional structure referred to in building accounts and no doubt connected with the oracle is the Chesmographion, also known as the Prophet's House. Although the exact location of this structure is not known, it stood within the temenos, and, as its name implies, may have been the site where oracular responses were written down. In seeking to explain the complexities of the design of the temple, scholars have seen the influence of Iranian palace architecture (Fehr 1972, 14-59) or Ptolemaic temples and residences (Parke 1986, 128, 131 n.31).

Other Bibliography:

Wiegand and Knackfuss 1941, 46-120; Van Essen 1946, 607-616; Krauss 1961, 123-133; Bean 1966, 231-243; Fehr 1972, 14-69; Tuchelt 1973, 13 ff.; Lawrence 1983, 261-265; Voigtländer 1975a, 14-143; Montegu 1976, 304-305; Tuchelt 1978, 575-582; Haselberger 1980, 191-215; Haselberger 1983, 90-123; Hoepfner 1984, 353-364; Parke 1986, 121-131; Tuchelt 1986b, 33-50; Pfrommer 1987, 145-185; Fontenrose 1988, 1-42; Pülz 1989, 6-73; Tuchelt 1991, 12-20.