Saturday, July 17, 2010

Temple of Hephaestus

The temple of Hephaestus, also known as the temple of Hephaestus and Athena Ergane, is located in Athens, northwest of the Acropolis in the Agora on the hill of Colonus Agoraeus. The picture of it, below, was taken from Mars Hill.
It is the best preserved ancient Greek temple.
Hephaestus was the god of metal working and Athena Ergane was the goddess of pottery and crafts. The temple is in the vicinity of an area that held numerous potter shops and metal working shops. Like the buildings still standing on the Acropolis which loom above it, the temple of Hephaestus was initiated by Pericles. Construction started in 449 BC and was completed in 415 BC. Construction on it likely languished when the Parthenon, Erectheum, Propylaea and other structures on the Acropolis were getting a higher priority. Ictinus, who also helped on the Parthenon, was the architect. It has six columns on the shorter east and west ends and thirteen columns on the longer north and south sides.
Columns also surrounded the enclosed cella.
Pausanias, the 2nd century historian, said that the temple housed bronze statues of both Hephaestus and Athena.
The temple was turned into a Greek Orthodox church dedicated to St. George in the 7th century. They gutted the naos, built an apse at the east end and constructed a concrete vault. When Athens came under the rule of the Ottoman Turks, they continued to allow it to be used for Christian services once a year, on the feast day of St. George. When Athens became the official capital of Greece in 1834, the first King of Greece, Otto I, was welcomed there. Otto ordered the building to be used as a museum, rather than a church. It remained a museum until 1934 when it became an ancient monument and archaeological research was begun.

Structure of Greek Temples: Greek temples faced east toward the rising sun. The altars where sacrifices were made were usually outside, in the open, often directly in front of the temple, in what is referred to as the temenos, or sacred precinct. The temenos was more sacred than the temple building itself. The center of the temple was called the naos and the naos could have separate areas. The main area in the naos was the cella which held the statue of the deity. The cella sometimes contained an adyton, like the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, which means “inaccessible.” The adyton was a separate space inside the cella reserved for oracles, priests or acolytes and not the general public. The adyton often held the statue of the deity. The naos was enclosed on all four sides by the peristalsis, usually a single row of columns. At the front of the cella there was a porch created by the protruding side walls of the cella with two columns placed between them. It was called the pronaos, which means “before a temple.” The temple building also served as a storage place for the treasury of the god being honored and a place for worshipers to leave their votive offerings, offerings made to gain favor with the deity.

Sources: Wapedia “Adyton,” “Cella,” “Greek Temple,” “Peristasis (architecture),” “Portico”; Wikipedia “Architecture of Ancient Greece,” “Temple,” “Temple of Hephaestus,” “Votive offering.”


  1. This one doesn't look as crowded as the others--is it just the time of day, or was it not as heavily touristed?

  2. It was not crowded at all. The crowds were all up on top of the Acropolis. The Agora, where this temple was, had people, but it was spread out enough that it didn't feel crowded.