Sunday, October 4, 2020

Didyma: The Sacred Way

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

I've traveled modern roads, that have taken me down ancient paths and the cities they lead to.  Unfortunately, with the lock down in place here in Turkey, I have not been able to explore any ancient cities since the pandemic began.  However, because I am a bit behind in my publications, I will continue to research, write, and post in an attempt to catch up and be as current as possible.  Of course, due to the in depth historical research required to offer historical background on the sites I explore, there will always be a lag time.  That said, when Sail Classical is initiated within the next two years, a Vlog production will be much more up to date.
For over three-thousand years, this road accommodated the New Year ritual procession between Miletus and the Sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma, and saw sacred rights offered along its route  at such sites as the Sanctuary of the Nymphs and the Archaic Cult Complex.  At some point in the future, I plan to walk this route in its entirety.
The New Year ritual procession from Miletus to the Sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma would begin in Miletus at the Sanctuary of Apollo Delphino.  From there, the procession would follow the Sacred Way that runs parallel to the North Agora and eventually arrives at the Younger Sacred Way Gate, not far from the Temple of Athena at Miletus.  Immediately beyond the gate was a complex dedicated to the religious functions of the festival and the procession (not unlike the complex found along the road at the other end in Didyma, pictured above), through which continued the road to Didyma.

The Miletus Archaeological Museum provides quite a bit of background information with regard to the Sacred Way, which I have provided in the photo below.  There is a PDF file available online through the American Journal Of Archaeology that gives a much more in depth historical account on the archaeological findings of the Sacred Way.
Although these photos (above and below) look like they were taken while roaming the paved road site, they are actually taken through a fence that surrounds the area, as the road is not currently open to the public.  If you can see in the distance along the road, there are site information signs along the path, but, for some reason there is no access.  That said, there is talk of opening the area to tourists, and even the possibility of reconnecting the road to the Sanctuary of Apollo.

The Archaic era pathway between Miletus and the Sanctuary of Apollo was not paved, so, what we are looking at in the photo above is of a later Roman construction, probably dating from the 2C CE.  Just beyond the extent of the road in photo above, the pavement toward Miletus ends, and an increasingly hard to follow path continues north.
Close in proximity to the Sanctuary of Apollo, this paved section of the Sacred Way was home to a stoa with shops, as well as other buildings that may have provided services such as lodging for pilgrims, those waiting for council from the oracle, or perhaps for attendees of the Great Didymeia, a drama competition that took place every four years.
Pictured above are three of the Brankid sculptures, named after the ancient title of Didyma, Branchidae, and the Brankhid Dynasty that governed the region under a theoretical state.  These seated Brankid statues were located about 200 meters beyond ancient gate near the end of the remaining paved section.  Further, this may have been the last sanctuary where rites were given before entering the Sanctuary of Apollo Didyma.  Lion sculptures such as the one pictured below within the temenos of the Temple of Apollo were also foundalong the Sacred Way at the entrance to the sanctuary.
The Molpoi text gives us the most detailed information on the 18 km long road, though it dates from the Hellenistic period, and is either a copy of another lost text, or, written from ritual stories passed down through the ages.  Unfortunately, I could not get a photo of the Molpoi inscription as it was on loan to another museum when I visited.


During the 6C BCE, a caste know as the Branchids, who were members a family of prophets over many generations, was in administrative control of sanctuary of Didyma, or, the Didymaion.  One of the groups of statuary found along the Sacred Road to Didyma consisted of several statues of Branchids (pictured above and below).

The Branchidae name is derived from Brancus, a favorite son of Apollo (due to his beauty), and whose mother was Milesian.  According to Strabo, when the boy was born, the mother felt the sun passing through her body, which was interpreted by seers as a good omen.  Because of Brancus' beauty, Apollo gave the boy special prophetic powers, which were exercised after the establishment of an oracle at Didyma.
It is thought that the practice of gazing was employed in order for the Branchidic oracles to arrive at their prophetic pronouncements.  Gazing at an object, Flame Gazing, or Water Gazing, as a Trataka or tantric form of meditation most certainly arrived from the East.  By focusing on an object, energy is said to be pronounced in the "third eye", which in turn brings about psychic abilities. 
The British Museum is home to one of the Archaic statues that belonged to a now lost group of statues that once sat along the Sacred Way from the port of Panormos to sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma, similar to the statue pictured below.  According to the inscription on a leg of the chair, the seated figure has been identified as Chares, the son of Kleisis, a ruler of nearby Teichiussa.
The inscription on the leg of the chair reads,"I am Chrares, son of Kleisis, Ruler of Teichiussa.  The statue belongs to Apollo." (McCabe, Didyma 139)  Teichiussa is located about 15 kilometers east of Didyma along the coast road just before arriving at Akbuk (see satellite photo of Teichiussa above, and a Survey of the ancient city below).
One group of statues along the Sacred Way belonged to the Terrace Building sanctuary, and are on display at the Miletus Archeological Museum (pictured below).  The sanctuary fronted the Sacred Way, as can be seen in the illustration behind the display.
Winged Sphinxes recovered from the site are from the Archaic Period, and are in a surprisingly good state of condition.

SPHINX (Sphinx), a monstrous being of Greek mythology, is said to have been a daughter of Orthus and Chimaera, born in the country of the Arimi (Hes. Theog. 326), or of Typhon and Echidna (Apollod. iii. 5. § 8; Schol. ad Eurip. Phoen. 46), or lastly of Typhon and Chimaera (Schol. ad Hes. and Eurip. l. .c.). Some call her a natural daughter of Laius (Paus. ix. 26. § 2). Respecting her stay at Thebes and her connection with the fate of the house of Laius. The riddle which she there proposed, she is said to have learnt from the Muses (Apollod. iii. 5. § 8), or Laius himself taught her the mysterious oracles which Cadmus had received at Delphi (Paus. ix. 26. § 2). According to some she had been sent into Boeotia by Hera, who was angry with the Thebans for not having punished Lains, who had carried off Chrysippus from Pisa. She is said to have come from the most distant part of Ethiopia (Apollod. l. c. ; Schol. ad Eurip. Phoen. 1760); according to others she was sent by Ares, who wanted to take revenge because Cadmus had slain his son, the dragon (Argum. ad Eurip. Phoen.), or by Dionysus (Schol. ad Hes. Theog. 326), or by Hades (Eurip. Phoen. 810), and some lastly say that she was one on the women who, together with the daughters of Cadmus, were thrown into madness, and was metamorphosed into the monstrous figure. (Schol. ad Eurip. Phoen. 45.)

The legend itself clearly indicates from what quarter this being was believed to have been introduced into Greek mythology. The figure which she was conceived to have had is originally Egyptian or Ethiopian; but after her incorporation with Grecian story, her figure was variously modified. The Egyptian Sphinx is the figure of an unwinged lion in a lying attitude, but the upper part of the body is human. They appear in Egypt to have been set up in avenues forming the approaches to temples. The greatest among the Egyptian representations of Sphinxes is that of Ghizeh, which, with the exception of the paws, is of one block of stone. The Egyptian Sphinxes are often called androsphinges (Herod. ii. 175; Menandr. Fragm. p. 411, ed. Meineke), not describing them as male beings, but as lions with the upper part human, to distinguish them from those Sphinxes whose upper part was that of a sheep or ram. The common idea of a Greek Sphinx, on the other hand, is that of a winged body of a lion, having the breast and upper part of a woman (Aelian, H. A. xii. 7; Auson. Griph. 40 ; Apollod. iii. 5. § 8; Schol. ad Eurip. Phoen. 806). Greek Sphinxes, moreover, are not always represented in a lying attitude, but appear in different positions, as it might suit the fancy of the sculptor or poet. Thus they appear with the face of a maiden, the breast, feet, and claws of a lion, the tail of a serpent, and the wings of a bird (Schol. ad Aristoph. Ran. 1287 ; Soph. Oed. Tyr. 391 ; Athen. vi. p. 253; Palaephat. 7); or the fore part of the body is that of a lion, and the lower part that of a man, with the claws of a vuiture and the wings of an eagle (Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 7). Sphinxes were frequently introduced by Greek artists, as ornaments of architectural and other works. (Paus. iii. 18. § 8, v. 11. § 2; Eurip. Elect. 471.)

In the Boeotian dialect the name was phix (Hes. Theog. 326), whence the name of the Boeotian mountain, Phikion oros. (Hes. Scut. Herc. 33.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.

Archaic Kouros youth statues represent the passage of youth into adulthood.  The chief kouros was Apollo, and he would oversee the ceremonial procession that celebrated this passage (pictured below).
As you can clearly see on the left leg of the archaic statue pictured below, which was found along the Sacred Way, an inscription records the god that the sculpture was dedicated to, and by whom the sculpture was commissioned.  Perhaps the son of a rich benefactor was coming of age, and the father sought the blessings of the god Apollo for his son in manhood.
I am fascinated with this and other sacred ways throughout the ancient world.  One to mention is the Sacred Way between Stratonikeia and the Sanctuary of Hecate at Lagina (and I must mention here, that I have photographed all of the frieze members from the Temple of Hecate on display at the Istanbul Archeological Museum, and will be writing a special post on the Temple of Hecate at Lagina in the future).  So, I am planning several hikes along ancient Sacred Ways in the future, and of course, \i will blog, and hopefully, vlog about these adventures!!
The Sacred Way beginning at Miletus eventually arrives at the Sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma (pictured below).  The Temple of Apollo can be seen at the top of the photo, and the Sacred Way can be seen entering the picture from the bottom left corner.  This final leg of the Sacred Way contained shops selling dedicatory votive statues, food and water for the weary pilgrims, or perhaps a bath and a place to stay. 
Festivities would commence at the sanctuary on certain dates or days of the year, and could include athletic games for the youth passing into manhood, readings of oracular prognostication, presentations to and support for the Branchidic oracles, and so on.
Pictured below are golden bowls or short cups and a tall golden cup that most certainly would have been used during special ceremonies.  These are on display at the Miletus Archeological Museum.
Special ceramic ware has also been found and put on display (pictured below).  The cycling experience between these sights truly deserves more attention, I know.  In the very near future a second phase of Bike Classical will begin, and will include both cycling and sailing, and, these future adventures will be transformed into a Vlog under both Bike Classical and Sail Classical.  So, keep your eyes peeled for a new experience of discovery of the ancient world, cycling, and sailing!

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