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On the coast of Ionia, in modern day Turkey, this religious sanctuary at Claros featured a temple and oracle to Apollo. An important centre for receiving prophecy, this site saw many visitors and was so famous that it even feature in a Homeric Hymn.

Archaeological Development

  • Kizilburun shipwreck gives us insight to the archeological developments to the sight due to the columns found. It alludes to the possibility of some of the peristyle columns under construction during the first century BC. It is the first time the construction of a temple has been dated by a shipwreck.
  • Doric temple, Façade is 26m with 6 columns and 45.49m deep with 11 columns.
  • 150 column drums found overturned due to an earthquake after the temple had been abandoned.
  • Present monument was built roughly the beginning of the Hellenistic period
  • Around the star of the imperial period the temple went under reconstruction to build in the cells a group of 3 statues of Apollo, Artemis and Leto.
  • There is a dedication by Hadrian on the architrave of the monument he finished
  • The altar 27m away from the temple is for Apollo and Dionysus. Then north of the temple oracle is a small damaged temple for Artemis Claria.
  • In some texts There are indications of mysteries and initiations present in the sanctuary.


  • Apollo Clarius – from Doric, “allotted lot”
  • Also altars to Artemis and Leto – worshipped as a family, statues also found

Ritual Activity

Evidence of iron rims found which would allow for a hundred animals to be sacrificed at once - suggesting that hecatombs were a part of the rituals performed here
On certain 'sacred nights', individuals would come to the sanctuary, performing sacrifices and singing hymns, and then give their questions to the priests. The priests would then descend into a sacred room under the temple and drink from the sacred spring there. Having drunk the sacred waters, the priest would then speak his oracular response to the questions he had been asked.
Claria - games held here in honour of Apollo which were put on every five years

Rules and Regulations

  • Unlike most of the oracles in the Greek world, in Claros only men were employed as diviners.
  • This ritual was always held at night.
  • Individuals could visit the sacred room under the temple, but would have to perform a purification ritual beforehand
  • Evidence of a Perirrhanterion, basin filled with sacred water, found at the temple, suggesting that individuals would have to purify themselves by being sprinkled with water from the basin before entering

Other Activities

Popular during Roman times, the Roman general Germanicus supposedly visited the oracle in 18 AD, a year before his death, and received prophecies of doom.

Alexander of Macedon consulted this oracle who led him to build a fortress on Pagos hill

Historical Significance

  • Inscriptions on the columns list names of people coming to consult the oracle and the young singers who sang there in honour of Apollo, which is good information database wise (tells us names and types of people who worshipped)
  • The katagogion (inns/hotels) kept note of how many people visited and and its estimated that each of the cities brought in about 20 people each which is informative in letting us know how widespread worship of Apollo was
  • During excavations in Claros, fragments of monumental statues, representing three deities: Apollo, Artemis and Leto, were discovered, which tells us about the people who worshipped there and their wealth
  • Also found at the altar was that Dionysus was sacrificed to at this temple, as can be seen on sacrificial tablets- any connection between the two gods?

Who used the site, and where did they come from? 

  • Important historical figures such as Alexander of Macedon consulted this oracle, and following his meeting he built the fortress on Pagos hill
  • Other figures include Germanicus who was the adopted son of Tiberius (Roman) who was told by the oracle that his future was bleak. He died a year later at 34, either killed by an illness, or poisoned by a governor of Syria
  • From the late 2nd century BC, Claros attracted pilgrims from all over the Mediterranean region.

Select Site Bibliography

  • Carlson, D., & Aylward, W. (2010). The Kızılburun Shipwreck and the Temple of Apollo at Claros. American Journal of Archaeology, volume 114(1), 145-159.
  • Stillwell, R. MacDonald, W. L. McAllister, M. H. (1976) The Princeton encyclopaedia of classical sites, Princeton university press


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