Clarus (Greek Klaros) in the territory of Colophon in the Ionian coast of Asia Minor was a much-revered, much-famed cult center described by Pausanias (vii. 3, 1).

Clarus was known throughout the Mediterranean for its oracle, who delivered her prophesies in a dark crypt-like adyton under the Temple of Apollo, honored here as Apollo Clarius ("The Apollo of Clarus"). Its narrow dark vaulted labyrinthine corridors remain. Aboveground, there remains the base and fragments of the colossal sculptures of a seated Apollo with his lyre, accompanied by Leto and Artemis, facing to the east. The group, whose fragments are partially reassembled at the site, seems to have measured more than seven meters in height [1]. In the sanctuary, rows of names of the countless grateful ancient visitors may still be seen, votive and memorial inscriptions on columns, on steps and walls and even on a curving marble bench: in their entirety the inscription of Clarus form the largest assembly of surviving Greek inscriptions. An elegant marble chair in the sanctuary has serpent arms, a reminder of the chthonic nature of all genuine oracles among the Hellenes.

The high point for the fame of the Clarus oracle seems to have been the 2nd century AD. The founding myth of Clarus, however, connects the city with the Epigoni, fleeing after they had sacked the Mycenaean citadel of Thebes; among them was Manto, daughter of the seer Tiresias and herself a seer. At the site of Clarus the fugitives were seized by the Cretans: the legend was confirmed by the historic Minoan settlement at Miletus that was discovered in 1995/96 by the German school. In the legend, when Rhacius, the Cretan settler of Caria, learned who they were, he let them settle in the country and married Manto himself. Their heir was the seer Mopsus. Thus the origin of the oracle at Clarus was remembered by Greeks of the classical period as Minoan-Mycenaean in origin. Intensely settled Mycenaean sites have been identified at Colophon, at Ephesus to the south and numerous other nearby sites. Deep exploratory trenches dug between the altar and the temple façade, revealed proto-Geometric pottery of the 10th century BC, attesting to the presence hinted at in myth [2].

After the Trojan War, the Trojan seer Calchas was among the refugees at Clarus, where he challenged Mopsus, the charismatic son of Manto and Rhacius, and superseded him as seer of the oracular site, and there he eventually died (Argonautica1.308; Ovid Metamorphoses 1.516 and 11.413; Strabo 14.4.3).

The Ionian migration from the north of the Peloponnesus dates to the 10th century BC.

The historic Clarus, referred to by Greek and Roman poets, had been entirely buried in the alluvial silt deposited by the small river at the site, a widespread phenomenon along this coastline during the last century BC, as the hinterland was deforested. T. Macridy uncovered the monumental entrance to the sanctuary in 1905 and returned for further explorations with the French archaeologist Charles Picard in 1913. Excavations recommenced between 1950 and 1961 under Louis Robert, and a series of important Roman dedicated monuments came to light, as well as the famous Doric Temple of Apollo, seat of the oracle, in its final grand though uncompleted Hellenistic phase, 3rd century BC. The Sacred Way was excavated in 1988 under J. de La Genière, and since then much alluvial spoil has been carted off-site and Clarus has been prepared to receive visitors.

The games held here, every fifth year, in honor of Apollo, were the Claria.

Clarus was also an often-used Roman cognomen.

Pausanias:The people of Colophon suppose that the sanctuary at Clarus, and the oracle, were founded in the remotest antiquity. They assert that while the Carians still held the land, the first Greeks to arrive were Cretans under Rhacius, who was followed by a great crowd also; these occupied the shore and were strong in ships, but the greater part of the country continued in the possession of the Carians.

External link

"Les carnets de l'archéologie" (in French; English abstract)

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