The building reports from Didyma on the west coast of Asia Minor, documents dating to the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C., provide information about the progress of construction during the erection of the Temple of Apollo. Our purpose is a new edition and commentary of the Greek texts. Based on this approach, the architecture of the temple and the historical circumstances of its building should be deduced.
For practically half a millennium, between ca. 300 B.C. and ca. 200 A.D., construction took place on a monumental temple dedicated to Apollo at the Asia Minor oracular sanctuary of Didyma. Due to the sheer size of the temple alone, it counts amongst the most important temples of the Greek world. Furthermore, its remarkable design makes it one of the foremost Greek sacred buildings in the discipline of ancient construction research. Ultimately, this building does not conform to the conventional style of Greek temple, since its cella has no roof, so that behind the double colonnade of 120 columns a large, open-air interior courtyard is concealed, the floor level of which, in addition, is 4 m lower than that of the peristyle. Within this courtyard, which as a rule only the priests and the prophets responsible for the oracle were allowed to enter and which, therefore, constituted the centre of the cult, stood a second smaller temple designated as a naiskos, the actual cult building. A relatively large amount of the monumental temple is preserved, so that we have a good idea of what it once looked like, how it was built, and what difficulties the architects had to master.
It is a particular stroke of good fortune that the administration of the sanctuary decided in about 230 B.C. to publish annual reports regarding the progress of construction, namely in the form of inscriptions that were chiselled onto large stone stelai. These building reports were published until approximately 100 B.C. The texts were intended to inform the visitors to the sanctuary and the citizens of the neighbouring city of Miletus, which supervised the sanctuary, of the construction proceedings. Thankfully, a series of these building reports have been preserved, either completely or in fragments. In recent years, the excavations in Didyma carried out by the German Archaeological Institute have also discovered new inscriptions.
Our project will approach the material from two sides. On the one hand we aim to produce a new textual edition of the inscriptions, containing all finds of inscriptions – not only those that were discovered over 100 years ago but also those discovered more recently. The texts will be translated and commented upon. On the other hand, on the basis of these texts and with the aid of building research, we want to understand anew, reconstruct and document the construction history of the temple.
The texts and architectural elements enable insights into many areas of ancient life and work. We are able to recognise how quickly work progressed, who was active on the building site, and how the work was organised. Moreover, we also gain insights into the historical circumstances of more than 2,000 years ago: political crises, wars, and economically favourable as well as unfavourable phases have left their traces on this building and its ancient documentation. In our project, we wish to gain a better understanding of one of the most fascinating ancient temples with the aid of contemporary sources, and at the same time we wish to learn what its formation can teach us about ancient history.
January 2021 – December 2022