Glenn Maffia concludes his trip through the Apollo Temple with a lament and a revelation

I SHALL hope you will indulge me in a flight of imagination as this season winds its way to a peaceful conclusion.

Firstly, I trust that everyone shall find these photographs truly astounding. These were sent to me via a friend in Norway; they are from a German publication entitled, ‘Antike aktuell. Didyma und Milet im Modell’ by Walter Voigtlander.

Then and Now: Two tales of the Apollon

Ambience and pathos

I have often dwelt on how understated and underused this magnificent Temple, and its notable array of accompanying structures, have been treated. Almost neglected to little more than a backdrop to the commercial enterprise of wrestling cash from gullible tourists.

The excavated areas of the Sacred Road and the Roman Baths have been imprisoned behind locked doors for more years than I care to recall, with eager tourist eyes peering through the prison’s metal bars.

I have lamented the fateful demise from being at the pinnacle of the prestigious cult of oracular contact with the weighty deity of Apollo; revered from before the Hittites, throughout the whole Greek sphere of influence, jealously attacked and plundered by the Persians and, finally, esteemed and sacrosanct to the most famous of Roman Emperors.

A few Turkish friends have inquired of me over the years as to why the archaeologists do not rebuild the Temple.

Of course, I hide my smile and try to explain them that the Temple would no longer be a classical Greco-Roman wonder to behold, but rather a 21st century pastiche of a superb original.

I always shy away from reconstruction. Even if we could imitate the methods of construction contained within the originals we would invariably lose some of its mystery and magnificence, along with the ambience and pathos which an original exudes.

‘Virtual simulation’ is preferable for that can be upgraded to accommodate findings of later enquiries. And we can obviously use all the new technology available to us in these exciting days, so why not build in light?

Injection of investment

Though this would entail committing to an injection of considerable investment, I foresee that such an outlay would be recouped quickly with the amount of worldwide interest, free exposure to the many differing formats of today’s news media coverage and a rapid rise in tourism as people flock to observe a unique attraction.

As soon as I, open-mouthed, viewed these images of the model of the Temple it immediately struck me here was an opportunity for this town to rebuild its image; one that catered for the History, Archaeology and Art market, which has always been successful in attracting overseas visitors from the entire globe.

Visual phenomenon

I recalled the fantastic ‘Sound and Light’ shows I experienced at the Pyramids in Egypt, and my recent evening at the Theatre of Ephesus where I was magically transported by the simply stunning light show in the peerless production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, ‘Romeo and Juliette’.

Naturally, I pondered if that success could be replicated here.

Could you imagine the splendour, as darkness began to descend, of a hologram gradually emerging in the thickening gloom, building its way from the stylobate (the surface on which the columns stand), slowly, to the pinnacle of the entablature?

The visual wonder of seeing a representation of the Temple as it was as it neared completion would be awe inspiring alone, though add to that the audio of a narrative, in different languages on differing nights, would be something truly unique.

And why stop at only Apollo’s Temple? Why not introduce the other ancient structures that we know of; the Roman Baths, the shops and statues along the Sacred Road, the Temple of Artemis, the Stadium, the Theatre and the Byzantine Chapel, all bathed in glorifying light?

While when, rather than ‘if’, the archaeologists find more (for there certainly is much more) they too could be added in the future.

Who shall manage this venture?

Visitors would surely arrive in droves to view this spectacle, though who has the vision and forethought to be brave enough to deliver such a stimulating enhancement to this town, so long entrenched in the sterile stench of conservative lethargy?

Or possibly the project should be managed from Ankara under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. I am sure private sponsors would be more than willing to invest in something that would greatly augment Turkey’s prestige worldwide.

The ballet at Ephesus proves that the quality and technical abilities are present, and professional in abundance, to achieve a new dimension in bringing visitors to our shores.

It is high time that we returned the dignity to this most elegant Temple, restore its 19.71 metre columns in light to beguile our visitors, fling open the gates to the Sacred Road and release the entire site to further archaeological investigation.

Now, who has the strength to carry the beacon?