Text by our correspondent from Didyma, Glenn Maffia.
It was a delightful and refreshing sight to return to the comparative idyllic bliss of a contemplative veil of silence descending upon the environment of the ancient stones of Didyma. For in recent weeks, it feels like months, we have had extended festivals usurping the immediate area encircling the Temple precinct and parked cars choking the road arteries leading into the area.
I have no doubts, noticing the congregated hordes, the popularity of the Vegan and Jewellery Festivals. But is this a truly sensible venue for such an event(s)? Now the cacophony of the festival attendees have slunk away, no doubt to the many Blue Flag beaches which fortuitously capture the indolent hordes, we can return to that semblance of contemplation to once more consider the Temple and the entire archaeological site. It is, indeed, a pleasure to be returned into that graceful silence once again.
It is certainly no secret that the local Belediye (council) perceives Didim as a tourist town and is exerting all efforts to achieve every success in this particular aspiration. I wish them good luck in attaining this goal, but do not attempt to include the ‘protected’ area which encircles the Temple of Apollo.
That area is sacrosanct. For it remains a ‘High Culture’ site of the utmost gravity. Some things take absolute precedence over and above a mere material consideration. How I would adore to witness a transient elected body, and, come to that, an electoral population, to proclaim a greater and long-term benefit. Short-term options are usually fleeting and are devoid of any ideas outside of ‘populist’ appeal.
We have seen much of such rhetoric in recent years occurring in many countries, Britain included and probably your own, wherever you may be reading this. Now note the inevitable consequences of such tactless regimes. I sincerely desire not to see this eventuality happening within Didim. For there is room, well ever less room with the endless construction projects continuing apace, to respect the value and honour of embracing human history as a particularly important facet of our being here today.
History breathing beneath our feet
It is precisely here that the enormous importance of the Temple and adjoining archaeological sites sits comfortably within its element. For they serve as a tangible, physical link to our collective past. A crucial marker upon the human timeline.
Personally, I would appreciate witnessing the opening of the Sacred Road (how many years have I been bewailing that?), the second temple, possibly dedicated to Artemis, the Roman era theatre, though built in the Greek style, and the Hellenistic foundations of a possible monumental gate. There would be so many historians salivating at that prospect. OK, not quite the allure of that tourist trap of Ephesus, but a promising start if one wishes to capture an intelligent audience. And, believe me, there is such an audience.
Didyma also possesses early Christian chapels aplenty surrounding the polytheist Temple, a poignant sign in the shift of religious practices from 325CE, a monumental fountain laying further to the south and an ‘Ancient Wall’ (probably a Stoa) just to the north of today’s village Mosque. Therefore, there is much to comprehend into opening this area as a much larger and extensive site to global interest. Are the Lira signs flashing yet?
Aspiring to hopes
Naturally, my agenda falls fail of more immediate and pressing concerns, namely economic. Though, as one of the now departed DAI (German Archaeological Institute) archaeologists said to me, “The words you write were the hopes we had when arriving here”. Though now the Germans have melted into the distance. I am sure that there shall be cursory visits from some of them, for Didyma carves an indelible mark upon one. There is a veritable magic about the entire site.
Obviously, not all visitors are able to permeate that delicious veil, but so much more could be done to educate these people into the mysteries and sheer wonder of such an inspiring archaeological site.
Therefore, it is now over to the Turkish archaeologists to further reveal this abundance of splendour to the viewing public. I admit that I do have some foreboding given the ill-conceived predilection to attempt rather pathetic reconstructions, which reduce me to either tears or tragic laughter. This is performed in the name of Tourism, not Culture.
I am hoping that I can arrange a meeting with the new incumbents to ascertain their motivations and intentions. I admit that I am sceptical, but let us see what unfolds. Be assured, for those few that truly care, I shall not be silent upon this most relevant subject.