Thursday, June 18, 2009

Temple of Hephaestus and Athena Ergane

Name : The Temple of Hephaestus and Athena Ergane also known as the Hephaisteion or Theseion,

Location : It located at the north-west side of the Agora of Athens, on top of the Agoraios Kolonos hill

Legend : Hephaestus was the patron-god of metal working. Athena Ergane was the patron-goddess of pottery and crafts in general. There were numerous potter shops and metal working factories in the vicinity of the temple, justifying the dedication of the temple to these two deities.

Description : This is the best preserved ancient Greek temple. It is a Doric order peripteral temple. From the 7th century until 1834, it served as the Greek Orthodox church of St. George Akamates.

Construction : After the battle of Plataea, the Greeks swore never to rebuild their sanctuaries, destroyed by the Persians during their invasion of Greece, but to leave them in ruins, as a perpetual reminder of barbarian ferocity. The Athenians directed their funds towards rebuilding their economy and strengthening their influence in the Delian League. When Pericles came to power, he envisioned a grand plan for transforming Athens into the centre of Greek power and culture. The temple of Hephaestus in the Agora was meant to embody the richest evidence of Athenian tradition, conservatively in the Doric order and the full complement of carved metopes that had long been Athens’ pride on its conspicuous Treasury at Delphi.

Construction started in 449 BC, but the temple was not completed until 415 BC, presumably because emphasis shifted towards the monumental construction on the Acropolis, with funds and workers being redirected towards the Parthenon. The temple was officially inaugurated in 416-415 BC

The architect was one of the ones who helped on the Parthenon, Ictinus. The material used is Pentelic marble with the exception of the lowest step of the crepidoma which is from limestone and the decorative sculptures for which the more expensive Parian marble was chosen.

The building has a pronaos, a main room housing the cult images of the deities, namely a cella, and an opisthodomos. The alignment of the antae of the pronaos with the third flank columns of the peristyle is a unique feature of temple building at the middle of the 5th century BCE.

In the 3rd century BCE trees and shrubs (pomegranates, myrtle and laurel) were planted around the temple, creating a small garden.

In the 7th century CE, the temple was turned into a Christian church, dedicated to Saint George, and under this capacity it was used as a burial place for non-Orthodox Europeans.

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