This is a guest post Shane Donovan. Read more about Shane below.
The Apollo Temple Turkey has so many ruins of once great buildings that what would be spectacular in another country are here driven past with barely a second glance. Two of the seven ancient Wonders of the World can be found in Turkey. The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is now just a hole in the ground beside a residential street in Bodrum, while on the outskirts of Selçuk, on the tree lined road to Ephesus, all that remains of the Temple of Artemis are a few fallen pillars. Not far from Selçuk is Didim. Today Didim is a seaside town popular with Ankara Turks and Northern English Brits but two and a half thousand years it was the site of an ambitious building project that so very nearly edged the Temple of Artemis off its spot on the famous wonder list.
Dedicated to Artemis’s brother, Didim’s Temple of Apollo is strictly speaking an abandoned building site rather than a ruin. Commissioned by Alexander the Great in 334BC to replace a previous temple destroyed by the Persians at the end of the Ionian Revolt, the temple was never completed. The project proved too ambitious for the builders despite milking 700 years of overtime out of the project. In the end building was abandoned in 385AD when the god it was dedicated to fell from favour with the coming of a new religion: Christianity.
Somewhat ironically, just across the road is a now defunct church. Though this part of Turkey has been in Muslim hands for around 900 years, Didim, or Yeronda, as it was then known, had a significant Christian Greek population until the population exchanges in the 1920s. Further back in time the Ionian settlers who brought their worship of Apollo to Anatolia ousted whatever archaic worship of the sacred spring once found here had previously been practised.
I live about 30 minutes walk away from this temple. Didim has grown in the past twenty years from not much more than a small fishing and agricultural community to a large town living off the fat off package tourism. The thing I like most about the Apollo Temple is the ancient contrast it offers to all the new apartment buildings, bars and hotels that litter the town. Fortunately, aside from a handful of restaurants and souvenir shops few new developments encroach on the site. The housing that does surround the monument look more than old enough to be survivors of an earthquake that destroyed the area in the 1950s. Some of these homes were built with stones pilfered from the temple after a much older quake sent all of the temple’s 120 pillars to the ground (the three seen in the photograph have been reconstructed). Though it didn’t make the 7 Wonder’s list, the Temple of Apollo still maintains it grandeur and can be touched, clamboured on and experienced in ways that are no longer possible from its more famous sibling to the north.
Shane Donovan edits PAYAway.co.uk, a group of sites including The Working Traveller that offer suggestions and advice for working and travelling around the world. He can also be found on Twitter @WorkingTravellr