The site of Klaros, near ancient Kolophon and just a few kilometers inland from Notion, is best located by driving south from Izmir to the town of Degirmendere. Klaros is another thirty or so kilometers to the south-east. The ancient site was situated on a small, level plain, inside the area of Ionian Kolophon, and existed as an important religious center through the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
HISTORY OF KLAROS
The earliest history of Klaros has not been well established, but mention of its Temple of Apollo was made by Homer in the seventh century. Klaros never served as a city throughout its long history, but rather as a sanctuary to Apollo during the Hellenistic period, and as an important oracle and sanctuary during the Roman period. Since it was so close to Kolophon and Notion, the faithful citizenry maintained their homes in these two cities.
In the fourth century A.D., the oracle was much consulted by the surrounding cities and townships. Nearby Ephesus and Miletus had their own temples to Didymi, but envied the position and importance of Klaros. The religious center thrived under the Roman empire. The temple was dedicated by Hadrian, and later travelers from many parts of the world came to consult the oracle.
The original inhabitants of the nearby countryside were Carians. Greeks from Crete came later, and then Thebans. The oracle was o great attraction for seers, and it was the only one to survive into the Christian period. One of the most famous of the seers was Mopsus, from the marriage of the Cretan ruler and a Theban prophetess.
A contest between Mopsus and another well-known seer, Calchas, was held just after the Trojan War to decide which was the better in matters of divination. It appears that Mopsus so impressed the other that Calchas died from his grief, not able to accept the position of second-best. A tale was related, near the end of the first century A.D., that described the procedure at the oracle. A priest, usually an illiterate man, would receive the people in quest of oracular advise. He would be told only the names of the clients, nothing more, then would descend to the oracle under the temple. Here he reportedly drank from a sacred well and meditated. Later, he could emerge to advise the waiting people on the matters that had been of most importance to them. What is more he did this in verses.
RUINS OF KLAROS
The location of the Temple of Apollo at Klaros was first established in 1826, when a tourist saw the tops of several columns sticking out of the ground. In 1907, the Istanbul Archeological Museum undertook preliminary excavations of Klaros, then abandoned the digs. The silt deposited by the nearby stream, formerly know as Halesus, soon covered over the ruins once again. It wasn't until 1950 that a French expedition made an extended and complete excavation of the site. The temple was excavated, along with various other buildings and the sacred way that led into the ancient religious complex.
The Temple of Apollo: The temple is dated somewhere around the beginnings of Hellenism, in the fourth century B.C. It was built upon a stepped platform, and had dimerisions of approximately 26×46 meters. And, surprisingly enough, considering its position in Ionia, the architecture was Doric. This site on low ground was probably chosen over a higher elevation because of its proximity to the sacred spring. In any case, the waters caused many difficulties during excavation of the already suffering ruins, and may be the cause of more problems in the future.
Eleven columns were placed at the long ends of the temple and six at the short, with diameters of about a meter and a half. These, along with the temple itself, were shaken down in an earthquake. More than a 150 of the column drums have been gathered, as well as seven capitals. An inscription on the architrave puts the completion of the temple in the period of Hadrian. Another, earlier temple was probabaly located on the same spot.
The oracles were received in a vault below the level of the temple's cella. This area, the holy of holies, is perhaps the most interesting of the finds at Klaros, though it is now inundated from the winter flooding of the stream. Two stairways lead down to a narrow passage that extends to the end of the temple. After a serjeS of bends and turns the corridor eventually leads to the two small oracular vaults, a hundred feet away. One of these served aS an outer chamber. The other was reached by passing through an opening in the thick dividing wall between the two vaults. The inner vault was located directly under a huge statue of Apollo standing on the grounds aoove. It was in this chamber that the priests drank from the sacred spring in preparation for their duties. A large basin was in the rear of the cavern for this purpose.
The oracular staff included others among which were the thespiodos or composer of the verses, the scribes, and, of course, the prophets themselves. It seems that new prophets were selected each year, but the priests and thespiodos were positioned for life. Persons seeking counsel from the oracle were not permitted to enter into the inner chamber where the mysterious work was being carried on. Apparently, they were made to wait in the passageway or in the outer chamber. Stone benches were found here, as well as the omphalos or sacred stone of Apollo. This was of blue marble in the shape of an egg, about three inches high. Others of these stones were found at various sanctuaries to Apollo, including the oracle at Delphi.
In front cf the temple, to the east, is a large, marble altar, nearly twenty meters long. Two other altars are believed to have been placed atop this large one, one for Apollo, one for Dionysus. A sun-dial, also dedicated to Dionysus, is nearby. This division of dieties, or rather separation of worship, was common among the other sanctuaries of antiquity.
The Sacred Way: The Sacred Way leads from the propylaea or entrance-way to the Temple of Apollo on the east front. The propylaea was erected in the second century B.C., on a square tier of three steps. Four columns faced the direction of the sea, two faced the temple. Inscriptions were later carved on the columns that named delegations from Greece and Asia Minor that had come to worship and consult the oracle. Along the length of the Sacred Way were columns, statuary monuments and some interesting friezes attributed to the vanity of certain influential Romans. Most of these date to the first century B.C. At the west end was found a colossal statue of Apollo seated, as on the Kolophonian coins, with his twin-sister Artemis and his mother Leto. Other parts of huge statues were found in the temple.
The Temple of Artemis: The small temple south of the Temple of Apollo is thought to have been dedicated to Artemis. A small statue of her was excavated nearby. The style is of the Ionic order, unlike the Doric styling of Apollo's, and was built sometime in the sixth century. The Artemis statue, found near the altar in front of the temple, was inscribed with a dedication from the first priest. Also near the temple are six votive stones that are dedicated to various gods and goddesses. One is to Artemis of Miletos, another to Poseidon.
During the excavations of Klaros, a number of statues and well-executed friezes were recovered. Many fragments and pieces of other works remain at the site, while the best examples have been removed for display in the museum at Izmir.