Text and photos by Glenn Maffia
My constant burrowing and delving around the ‘protected' Temple [of Apollo in Didyma] archaeological site was last week rewarded. Not with any visual find, but with a verbal one.
It was while I was risking snakes, scorpions and all manner of carnivorous insects when clambering through the dense undergrowth of the wild explosion of spring that I stopped to speak to one of the villagers who lives in the Temple vicinity.
A most glorious whisper
He has involvement with the archaeological team which visits Didim each summer, hence my knowledge of him, when he suddenly revealed a most glorious whisper. Now utter this quietly, for things such as plans have a terrible habit of being spoken of with passion before sinking into that mire of stupefying inertia, within Didim generally and around the Temple especially.
He slowly ambled into a vague mention of the old building opposite the mosque which the archaeologists use as a store room for the small finds they unearth when excavating. Naturally, I pressed him on this point. The promising story unfolded that these small finds are to be moved to either the Miletus Museum or the Excavation House. My next question was short, "Why?"
"They want to open the building to the public".
I believe this building, which at some point in time was used as a hospital during the days when the village was predominantly Greek (more precisely, Greek speaking), is owned by Didim Council. Indeed, it was considered to house the Exchange of Populations museum here initially. The site near the ‘Yoran Café' was eventually chosen, probably quite correctly due to the sparseness of the exhibits, as its smaller interior suited the display we see today.
He was also a little vague as to what use would be applied to this building, it was then, and only then, he dropped the exciting news that it may have something to do with opening the Sacred Road to the public!
I felt my heartbeat race. I have been campaigning for this opening for more years than I care to remember. Could it be true? Obviously, only time shall tell on that point. Though the proposal that this idea is being considered, by whomever these people may be, is certainly a fillip to one's spirits.
It has been four long years now since the archaeologists erected the excellent information boards along the Sacred Road, with the direct aim of opening this glorious area of ancient artefacts to the general public. When I have enquired upon the reason why the public are being denied access, the archaeologists shrug their shoulders apologetically and the Miletus Museum offered the weakest and lamest of pathetic excuses.
Now, at long last, it appears to be receiving redress. And about time too. Over the past few years I have noted with an ever growing despondency the continual rebuilding (not restoring) of the old village houses, either as ‘quaint' little coffee/tea houses or for the much more sinister resale market, at extraordinary prices I may add.
Wallow in the knowledge
How can this occur upon a protected site is anathema to me and I am sure you too, though it indeed has. This point may be addressed in the future by those with a lazy sense of authority, for things do move slowly here.
Though for the time being I am most happy to wallow in the knowledge that, possibly, the Sacred Road shall once again be opened to the public's gratification. If I have been instrumental in that change of approach then I shall no doubt luxuriate with added pleasure.
Job one completed, hopefully, and now for the other sites which reside beneath the earth on this most exceptional site. I truly believe we have one of, probably the best and most promising, archaeological sites in the entire country.