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 facade, 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).
History: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.
Temple InteriorDuring the Hellenistic period and years following, the Didymaion was one of the greatest Apollan oracular temples in existence, second only to the one in Delphi, Greece. There was a sort of "secret society” here at the temple, where people came to receive a divine oracle from Apollo at great material cost. The priestess would usually give only a few ambiguous words, most of which could have been interpreted in various ways. The inner room, called the Naiskos (shown in the lower right corner), housed the cult statue and the sacred spring used in the oracle.
Ionic CapitalsIn Roman times the Didyma temple of Apollo was most notable for its 122 enormous columns; most today are in ruins, but two still stand. Christians in nearby Miletus certainly knew about the Didymaion and could see the differences in Paul’s ministry from pagan religious practices of the day. Whereas the priestess here gave oracles having no effect, Paul did not hesitate to publicly proclaim the Gospel, fully, freely, and requiring no payment (cf. Acts 20:20, 27, 33).