Text and photos by Glenn Maffia
General overview with reference to the inundation
It has been for well over a decade that the archaeological team, under the supervision of Professor Helga Bumke, has not only been uncovering the impressive finds within the vicinity of the Temple of Apollo in Didim, but also more arguably significant the continued ‘site management’ of the archaeological treasure.
Their record has been mightily impressive, even if some years have gone by without the ‘headline’ discoveries. I do so hope that their funding, which is up for review in 2021, shall be continued.
The value of maintenance
The ‘site management’ facet, of course, is the continued care and attention afforded to this impressive cultural statement to our collective human past. Its maintenance remains an imperative function of their annual itinerary. I, for one, certainly noticed a particular decline in the state of the site when, due to political squabbling, their presence was curtailed one year.
That merely goes to show that the continued and frequent maintenance of the Temple is a chore of the utmost gravity if Didim is to keep and preserve its iconic emblem.
Admittedly it is not exactly an exciting activity, though nonetheless a silently crucial one which needs to be fulfilled with that love, care and gentle affection which garners the necessities that produce this stunning vista of delight to our eyes.
The archaeological team’s professionalism and dedication are impeccably faultless. Their intellectualism a cultural legacy of European endeavour since the 18th century, to conserve and sustain our past for the future generations that shall follow us.
That linear procession is the most invaluable bequest we can gift future generations of, hopefully, inquisitive minds filled with enlightened compassion.
Though nature has its inexorable role to play in this theatre of ever constant drama, hence a shift in the earth’s structure when the tectonic plates awake and yawn and stretch the very ‘solid’ ground we walk upon, can be a fatal lament to an impending auspice of finality. Hence the concern over the subtle but steady inundation which threatens the archaic terrace wall facing the Temple’s main façade.
I am still awaiting the final results of the analysis of the water sample taken by the archaeologists, which shall confirm that this intrusion of liquid is of a naturally occurring origin. If it is not then one can only but deduce that this is then of human neglect, and one cannot miss the virulent neglect continuously played out by those that surround the Temple in their abodes and, if I may suggest, rather shadowy business enterprises.
I have heard on countless occasions the locals, who wake up each day to this superb apparition (thus rendering eyes blind?), describe the Temple as “a load of old stones.” Well, I personally, see this structure as exquisite exultation of diaphanous grace and eloquent elegance.
Now, tell me which one lacks poetry?
Educated or bucolic
The locals need to change their mindset of seeing the Temple merely as a tourist trap from which to ensnare foreigners money with cheap tat and, frankly, tacky services into something which shall benefit the site, the whole site, for the Temple is not alone.
And where precisely are those guardian souls, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism? Entwined within the dichotomy of not knowing whether to be either ‘culture’ or ‘tourism’ once again? Jobs-worth bureaucrats trained to make sound-bite noises.
It is about time that these people awake from their slumber for the threat is not merely the reopening of the watercourse flowing into the southeast section of Apollo’s precinct, but the manifestly obvious desire, stated taciturnly at a Council meeting I once attended, to turn this entire archaeological site into a pastiche ‘Greek village’; ala Şirince as the local Muhtar (head of the village) recently espoused.
What an absolute dereliction of duty to the cultural legacy of humankind, and a blatant revelation of that most basic of peasant’s desires; to make money quickly.
Shift the focal point
I shall concede that the attraction of the Temple and its many other sites of historical interest would be a more sedate ‘slow-burner’ than selling a ‘sun, sand and sea’ destination to tourists. Though what type of tourism do they truly wish and desire? That is a question only they can answer, though I do know that the people of Didim are not particularly over-enamoured with the contingent they receive from Europe, and especially a majority of the British.
Therefore, rather than creating a palpable extension of the beachfront with a proliferation of downmarket shops and bars, which would only increase if the pastiche Greek village model were followed, why not concentrate on the Greco-Roman structures we already have here.
Widen the ‘Protected Status’ area, excavate that which the archaeologists have already revealed and promoted this dazzling attraction as an antidote to the numbingly mundane activities occurring along the seashore.
I have been assured that the Ministry does have an inspector who checks upon the dilapidated structures and reports any illegal building activity. Though I am afraid, that leaves me dumbfounded, as I certainly notice one hell of a lot of ‘modernisation’ being undertaken within the so-called protected area.
Therefore, we have upon our table either rampant capitalism or educated consideration. Shall Ataturk’s head fall upon the coin?