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Cult statues under restoration in oldest oracle center

Excavations in Claros, the oldest oracle center in the world according to archaeological data, will continue for 12 months with the support of the Presidency of the Turkish Historical Society.

Stating that the restoration works of the cult statues will be started within the scope of this year’s works, Onur Zunal, the scientific advisor of the Claros excavations, said that the temple revealed important data regarding the period.

Zunal said that it was believed that Alexander the Great built Smyrna, which is the modern-day İzmir, in consultation with the oracles in Claros.

The ancient city of Claros was discovered in 1907 in the Menderes district and is believed to be the oldest oracle center of antiquity. Restoration and conservation works of cult statues will start soon in the ancient city.

Considering the inscriptions uncovered during the excavations, it was determined that many oracles were made in Claros, which contributes to the development of faith tourism. Although it is located 80 kilometers away from İzmir, Claros has an intense visitor potential and hosts an average of 2,500 and 3,000 people in the summer months.

Stating that the temple in the ancient city reveals important data about the period, the Zunal said: “The person who was an oracle asked the questions coming from the cities by contacting the god and sent the answers he received to the secretariat. Then the answers were written on the stones here. Founding a city or entering a war was done with the permission of the gods. Noble, wealthy people also came here for their personal problems.”

Biggest prophecy was about İzmir’s foundation

Noting that the temple in Claros was seen as the house of the gods, Zunal said: “It is estimated that this place was founded in the 13th century. There are three important oracle centers that we know from the ancient period. One of them is the Temple of Apollo in Didim, the second is the Temple of Apollo in Greece and the third is Claros. According to archaeological studies and scientific data, Claros is the oldest among these three oracle centers. The biggest prophecy made about Claros was about the foundation of İzmir. It is said that Alexander the Great fell asleep in Pagos, or today’s Kadifekale, after he seized the city of Smyrna, that is İzmir. In his dream, the goddesses told him to establish a new city and to apply to the oracle of Apollo in Claros for this. The city was built in accordance with the answer received from here.”

Stating that the excavations in Claros continue with the permission and financial support of the Culture and Tourism Ministry as well as the financial support of the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality, Zunal said: “Copies of the artifacts unearthed in the Claros excavations are on display in the archeopark area. In the huge temples with a height of 13-14 meters, there are large cult statues of Apollo, who was believed to be a god, his sister, Artemis, and their mother, Leto. At the same time, there are ‘altar’ areas in the center. People made offerings to perform their worship. They offered materials such as animals, terracotta artifacts and metal finds in the name of the gods.”

Explaining that some ceremonies were also held in the center, Zunal said: “Sports competitions, music competitions and dance performances were organized during the holidays. Bloody sacrificial ceremonies were also held. They wanted to please the gods because they feared them. They thought that the gods were punishing them with a plague pandemic. Therefore, by making offerings to the gods, they expected protection from them.”

“There are also statues of honor in Claros. There is also a statue of honor belonging to one of the rulers of the period. These are the works made for propaganda purposes. Thanks to these sculptures, it was shown that the support of the public was received,” Zunal added.