Miletos which is in the vicinity of Söke, was on the seashore in the ancient times. The Miletos people who had founded about 90 colonies in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, after 650 B.C, had resisted the Persian invasions in Anatolia, but they were defeated finally and the city was destroyed by the Persians.
When you arrive at the zone of the ruins, the magnificent theater of the city appears in sight at first. The theater had been constructed during the Hellenistic period and, it acquired its present characteristics by means of the annexes made during the Roman period. The walls of the front facade of the theater, are 140 m long and 30 m high, and are an interesting example of stone workmanship. This theater was large enough to hold 15.000 people, and a fortress was built upon it during the Byzantine period.
Priene which is in Güllübahçe at a distance of 15 km from Söke, was carried to its present locality in the year 350 B.C. from the original place where it had been founded earlier. At the point of entrance of the ruins, a road on the right leads us to the Theater of Priene.The theater had been built during the Hellenistic period, and underwent modifications during the Roman period.
The theater consists of 50 rows of seats and is capable of holding 5.000 people and, in the section of the orchestra of the theater, there are marble armchairs reserved for eminent people. On the right side of the theater, the Themenos of Egyptian Gods is situated. The upper Gymnasium is in front of the theater and the Byzantine church is at its side. You pass to the famous Temple of Athena from here. The Temple of Athena belongs to the 4th century B.C. and it is the work of the architect Pytheos. The temple, with 6 x 11 columns, has dimensions of 19.55 x 37.20 m. A few columns of the temple, which is a classical example of Ionian architecture, have been erected.
Alexander the Great had the eastern half of the temple completed. The altar in the front was decorated with high reliefs in the past, and it belongs to the 2nd century B.C. The Stoa that displays a graceful example of stone-workmanship, is on the south of the Temple of Athena. When you go downwards from the temple, you see the Agora of Priene which belongs to the 3rd century B.C. The sacred Stoa belonging to the 2nd century B.C., is situated north of the Agora. Bauleuterion (the assembly building) which looks like a small theater, with dimensions of 20 x 21 m and capacity for 640 people, is adjacent to the Stoa and, adjacent to it, there is Prytaneion (2nd century B.C.) where the sacred fire used to burn. Temenos of Zeus Olympios and the food market are situated east and west of the Agora respectively. There are houses on two sides of the avenue which connects the Agora to the western gate. Temenos of Kybele and the house of Alexander the Great, are situated at the western gate side of the avenue. In the extreme south of Priene, the lower Gymnasium and the Stadium are situated.
Didyma, on the west coast of Turkey, was an important sacred site in the ancient Greek world. Its famous oracle and Temple of Apollo attracted crowds of pilgrims and was second in importance only to Delphi. Today, the temple's magnificent ruins still attract thousands of visitors - Didyma is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey. The modern name of the town is Didim.
Didyma means "twin" and refers to the twins Apollo and Artemis, who were born to Zeus and Leto. The Temple of Artemis was in the nearby city of Miletus, while the much more important Temple of Apollo was in Didyma.
The Temple of Apollo at Didyma, also known as the Didymaion, has a long history. Pausanias (c. 160 AD) said the Didymaion was constructed before Greek colonization (10th century BC), and some date it to the 2nd millennium BC.
However, the earliest fragments of the temple found thus far date to the end of the 8th century BC. This Archaic temple was in the charge of the Branchids, a priestly caste named after Branchus, a favourite youth of Apollo. Three prose oracles and one dedication survive from this period.
The original temple was destroyed by Darius I of Persia in 494 BC, who looted many of the statues and its vast treasury built up by the generous gifts of Croesus, King of Lydia. The Branchids were exiled to Sogdiana.
After Alexander the Great conquered Miletus in 334 BC, the oracle of Apollo at Didyma was resanctified and quickly regained its importance. Thereafter Miletus administered the cult of Apollo, annually electing a prophet. In 313 BC, the Milesians began to build a new Hellenistic temple on the site of the earlier shrine, which they intended to be the largest in the Greek world. It is this temple that visitors see today.
Construction continued during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, and portions were still under construction in the Roman period. It was never entirely completed. Modern experts believe the magnificent temple would have been one of the seven wonders of the ancient world had it been completed. Even incomplete, the temple is enormous and impressive; it is the third largest in the ancient world after those of Ephesus and Samos.
In ancient times, pilgrims walked 12 miles (20 km) along the Sacred Way from Miletus to the sanctuary at Didyma participate in the annual spring festival, the Didymeia. The festival became Panhellenic in the beginning of the 2nd century BC.
The Oracle of Apollo at Didyma rivaled that of Delphi; pilgrims flocked to Didyma not only to worship Apollo and attend the festival, but also to find answers about their future. Famous persons known to have visited Didyma's Temple of Apollo include Alexander the Great's generals Lysimachus and Seleucus I, and the Roman emperors Augustus and Trajan.
A strict ritual surrounded the giving of oracles. Oracles could only be given on a limited number of days; the absolute minimum was every four days, but the interval was often much longer, perhaps many months. The session began with a three-day fast by the priestess, during which time she resided in the adyton (sacred precinct).
On the appointed day, the priestess would take a ritual bath and enter the naiskos (inner chapel). Meanwhile, those who wished to consult the oracle sacrificed outside and choruses sang hymns to the gods.
The priestess sat on an axle suspended over the sacred spring and, when a question was asked of her, she would dip her foot or her dress into the spring before giving her answer. The oracular responses were probably given in prose, which were then turned into verse by the priests or prophets, who were appointed by Miletus.
Didyma's fate was probably sealed in 303 AD, when an oracle advised the Emperor Diocletian to initiate his persecution of the Christian church. Constantine the Great, who was raised in the court of Diocletian and later converted to Christianity, closed the oracle and executed the priests.
In the 5th century AD, Emperor Theodosius built a Christian basilica in the adyton (sacred precinct) of the temple at Didyma, which testifies to the site's religious importance. Indeed, a number of oracles have been found on inscriptions and in literary sources that postdate Constantine's closure.
The church and much of the temple stood until the 15th century, when a great earthquake reduced the temple to rubble. Excavations made between 1905 and 1930 revealed all of the incomplete Hellenistic temple and some carved pieces of the earlier temple and statues. .