In the ancient Greek sanctuary of Claros on the southwestern shores of Izmir in Turkey, one of the most important pagan sacred places in Ionia, game boards and forked cross motifs belonging to the 5th-7th century AD have been found. The new findings prove that Claros, which would have been abandoned after the spread of Christianity, in fact retained its function for many years.
According to historians and archaeologists, Claros was one of the three centers of prophecy, along with Delphi and Didyma, in modern Greece. The mythological god Apollo was believed to be in charge of divination in Claros. Consequently, statues representing him as well as his mother, Leto, and his twin sister, Artemis, have been found in Claros.
Claros was considered a center of paganism until the fourth century when Christianity began to spread. “We thought the ancient city continued to attract visitors until the 4th century; however, it gradually lost its charms once Christianity started spreading in the area,” said Onur Zuhal of the faculty. letters from the University of Ege, which is a consultant to the excavations at Claros.
But in the excavations of the new period at Claros, which date back to the 13th century BC. AD, traces belonging to the 5th to the 7th century BC. AD have been found. As a result of archaeological research, nine stone game boards and forked cross motifs carved under a Doric head from the Hellenistic Temple of Apollo as well as ceramic finds have been unearthed. These finds support the claim that the shrine, thought to have been abandoned or emptied by the Roman Empire since 380 AD, when Christianity was accepted as the official religion as it symbolized the pagan faith, has in fact been inhabited or visited for a longer period of time.
Stating that important decisions such as wars and the establishment of the city in ancient times were made after the prophecy center was approved, Zunal said, “Claros is one of the most important sites of the period antique. Our recent work here has shown us that the shrine continued to be used even after Christianity was declared the official religion of Claros in AD 380.
Zunal also said that articles about the studies that advanced the shrine’s history by about 300 years have been published in national and international journals.
Emphasizing that Claros’ function as a “sacred space” has continued despite the conversion to Christianity, Zunal said: “There are still people who visit this place. There are many people who believe in the energy of Claros.We have also found that people who believe in Apollo come here at certain times and perform certain rituals.Therefore, in fact, it would even be wrong to say that the city was abandoned in the 7th century AD Even in the 2020s, people who believe in Claros kind of come here and do their own rituals.”