Scratching a name for oneself

Scaffold-clad columns of the Temple of Apollo in Didyma
Scaffold-clad columns of the Temple of Apollo in Didyma

Text by our correspondent from Didyma, Glenn Maffia.

The, relatively, recent news of a man etching his and his girlfriend's names, "Ivan + Hayley '23", into a wall of the 2,000-year-old Colosseum in Rome caused much indignation across the world. Mainly, I suspect, due to the sheer ignorance exhibited by the perpetrator when he claimed that he "did not realise it (the Colosseum) was so old".

The utter lack of education so prevalent today is a discussion for another time, but this miscreant is far from being original in his actions.

Despoiling or higher aims?

From time immemorial, people have defaced buildings of significant social importance for whatever reason. Be it political, jealousy, a perceived wrong or purely a social satire, whatever, and it continues to this day. Whilst here in Didim we have evidence of the architects also inscribing upon the walls of the Temple of Apollo!

Naturally, this was no lame-brained graffiti, but rather a template of the plans for the ongoing construction project. They are still there to this day, if you have the eyes of an eagle, for they have become so very faint due to the weathering of time. Though if the sunlight falls kindly, one can detect the weak shadows that illustrate the illustrations. Alas, out of the focal range of my camera.

Why would the architects wish to despoil the finely cut marble blocks of the impressively monumental walls of the Adyton (inner-sanctum)? Well, that is one of the beauties of discovering an unfinished work of art; the methods of construction are still visually apparent, hence the architects plans were drawn upon the walls as they were intended to be polished upon the final completion of the project. Thankfully, for intellectual edification, that moment never arrived. Another great legacy bequeathed by the Temple of Apollo. Truly, the people of Didim have little idea of what a wonder they have upon their doorstep.

An intellectual investigation

These lightly inscribed lines have been known since the excavations of the Adyton by the German archaeologists who first revealed them in the early 1900s, though it wasn't until 1980 that they were scientifically investigated by Professor Lother Haselberg.

He observed that the stylus used to make the inscriptions penetrated a mere half millimetre deep into the marble, and realised that they depicted architectural plans used in the construction of this temple and that of another temple. That second temple being (possibly) dedicated to Artemis, Apollo's twin. Though Professor Haselberg must have been left pondering this perplexing mystery as this second temple's foundations were not rediscovered until 2013-2014.

Haselberg noted that these plans were depicted horizontally and some perpendicularly. The general overview being that the horizontal drawings were on a scale of 1 to 1, whereas the perpendicular ones are on a scale of 1 to 6.

The measurement of an obvious pediment inscribed upon the west wall of Apollo's Adyton coincides precisely with the width of, the newly excavated, Artemis' temple. It may have taken the best part of a hundred years to ascertain this knowledge, though you must accept that the DAI have excelled themselves with solving this curiosity.

Patience is a valuable entity within archaeology. May we all learn from this discipline.

Not a new phenomenon

It is quite apparent that the architectural plans etched upon the Temple's walls constitute many layers of higher intelligence than the scratching in of lovers names. Though it is revealing that an English name, which I cannot recall, infuriatingly, though it was Lee L something (I believe Lomax, but my memory may deceive me), with a date in the 1800s, was found high up upon the 5th or 6th column-drum of the singular column at Apollo's temple during recent maintenance work by the DAI. How could this British person (yes, another Brit abroad!) climb so high to inscribe his name?

In short, he didn't, the strewn rubble within the Pronaos (literally the 'pre-holy sanctum') at this time meant that this high elevation was attainable by simply walking to it. Rather precariously, one would imagine.

Unfortunately, all the scaffolding was disassembled before I learnt of this particular peccadillo. But, as I have alluded to previously, the DAI team operating within Didim are very reticent in releasing information. Veritably 'entrenched' one may say. Therefore, there is a distinction between a rather puerile gesture of, no doubt, fleeting adoration and the practical construction processes of yesteryear.

We are supposedly further along the evolutionary trail, our technology superior and our educational background far superior to that of our ancestors. Think again, on all counts.


Image gallery: 

Lines drawn upon photo describing the pediment of the 2nd temple
Lines drawn upon photo describing the pediment of the 2nd temple
Rubble-strewn Pronaos
Rubble-strewn Pronaos
Pronaos then and now. Note how easy it would have been for that Brit to inscribe his name
Pronaos then and now. Note how easy it would have been for that Brit to inscribe his name