The grandeur of Greek culture has always been fascinating to many historians, especially the ancient structural designs.
Many excavations over centuries have unveiled ruins that were once only heard of or read about.
While some have been proven, others remain controversial. Here are ten of the most famous Greek temples ever uncovered.
Famous Greek Temples
1. Temple of Olympian Zeus
Formerly a massive temple in the middle of Athens, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is commonly called the Columns of the Olympian Zeus in honor of Zeus who was the deity who oversaw all the others in the Olympian pantheon.
In the sixth century BC, Athenian tyrants started building what they thought would be the finest temple of the old kingdom, but it wasn’t finished until the 2nd century AD, under the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian, 638 years later.
Throughout the Roman era, the temple was known as the largest in Greece and held one of the greatest cult sculptures in antiquity because of its massive 104 columns.
Following the Roman Empire’s fall, it was heavily quarried for use in the city’s reconstruction efforts. Even yet, a sizable portion of the temple survives, including sixteen of the initial enormous columns, and it remains an integral feature of a significant ancient excavation in Greece.
To the north of the Acropolis in Athens stands the Erechtheion (Erechtheum in Latin), also known as the Temple of Athena Polias. This structure was built in the Ionic style and was devoted to Athena.
Scholars today believe that Pausanias’ definition of the Erechtheion (the haven of Erechtheus or Poseidon) applies to the structure that was constructed to enclose the statue of Athena Polias. Hence, this structure is now commonly referred to as the Erechtheion.
In recent decades, however, there has been debate over whether the Erechtheion mentioned by Pausanias is an Ionic temple or some other structure.
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The Erechtheion stands apart from the rest of the Greek temples because its asymmetrical design deviates from the standards of traditional Greek architecture.
This is attributed either to the irregularity of the site, to the evolving and complicated nature of the cults which the structure hosted, or it is conjectured to represent the incomplete part of a greater symmetrical temple.
It is also one of the most problematic sites in ancient archaeology due to its post-classical history of repurposing, vandalism, and spoliation. Religion and architecture within the building are still up for grabs as to their precise nature and placement.
Nevertheless, the temple was a refined representation of the Ionic style from antiquity. It had a significant impact on subsequent Hellenistic, Roman, and Greek Revival styles of building.
3. Temple of Zeus, Olympia
Ancient Greeks built a temple to the deity, Zeus, in the city of Olympia. During its construction in the middle of the fifth century BC, the temple served as a prototype for the polished Greek temple of the Doric order as it eventually came to be known.
The Olympian Temple to Zeus was constructed over an older religious center. In the tenth and ninth centuries BC, during Greece’s “Dark Age,” when adherents of Zeus had united with supporters of Hera, the Altis, a section with the tumulus of Pelops, open-air altars, and a holy grove, was first created.
The Temple of Zeus was originally unearthed in its entirety and positively recognized by a French archaeological group in May 1829.
Having the Governor’s permission, they carted off several metopes pieces to be shown in the Louvre. Beginning in 1875 under the guidance of the German Archaeological Institute, organized excavation has proceeded, occasionally, to the present time.
4. Temple of Aphaia
Inside a temple structure on the Greek island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf stands the Temple of Aphaia, which is ascribed to the goddess Aphaia. The enormous Doric temple, once known as the Temple of Jupiter Panhellenic, is now commonly believed to be devoted to the mother-goddess Aphaia.
Only those who followed Aphaia were allowed into this temple. The current temple dates back to 500 BC, and it was constructed atop the ruins of a temple that was originally constructed in 570 BC but burned down in 510 BC.
Painters from the Neoclassical and Roman eras, like J. M. W. Turner, favored it. It occupies a 160-meter-high mountain on the island’s eastern side, some 13 kilometers (km) east of the island’s main port.
This final temple is notable not just for its unconventional layout but also for the pedimental statues it contains, which are regarded to represent a transition from Antique to Early Classical repertoire.
Several pieces of these statues can be found at Aegina’s galleries and at the dig site itself, while the rest can be seen in Munich’s Glyptothek.
5. Temple of Artemis, Corfu
Corfu, Greece is home to the Temple of Artemis, an Archaic Greek temple originally constructed in the city of Korkyra also called Corcyra, afterward renamed Corfu, approximately 580 BC.
It can be found in the Garitsa suburb on the grounds of the Saint Theodore monastery. In honor of Artemis, this building was constructed. One of the first stone structures to be designed in the Doric style, it was constructed in the 5th century BC.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the troops serving under French general François-Xavier Donzelot stumbled upon the ruined structure while they dug trenches in preparation for battle.
When Europe was prepared for war, Kaiser Wilhelm II was on holiday at his summer house of Achilleion in Corfu, where he participated in excavations of the ancient temple. Archaeologists from Greece and Germany led the expedition.
The Doric style is the first architectural style to be fully realized in this structure. Large pieces of the group from the pediment are the first important survivors of Greek temple reliefs from the Archaic period. Between 1911 and today, archaeologists have been working there.
6. Temple of Isthmia
Created in the Archaic Era for the deity Poseidon, this Temple of Isthmia stands on the Isthmus of Corinth. Isthmia is located roughly 16 km (9.9 miles) east of the former Corinth.
It was originally built sometime in the seventh century B.C., but it was razed in 470 B.C. and then reconstructed as the Temple of Poseidon at Isthmia sometime in the Classical era, around 440 B.C.
The initial excavations in 1952 and a later one in 1989 both uncovered interesting artifacts at the site. Recently conducted excavations helped reveal artifacts from all phases of Isthmia’s history, up to the Roman era, with a special emphasis on the area’s Archaic temple.
This structure is notable for being among the oldest on the property and also being the most fully preserved.
Oscar Broneer uncovered the location in 1952 and digging there lasted until 1967. Another round of digging was done from August 16 to November 29 of 1989, mainly to settle some of the disagreements that had developed about the interpretations Broneer had stated of his findings.
7. Temple of Artemis
In ancient Greece, worshipers of a localized version of the goddess Artemis would visit the Temple of Artemis, commonly called the Temple of Diana. Ephesus (close to the contemporary Turkish town of Selçuk) was its location.
It was completely demolished or wrecked by the year 401 AD. The last temple has been destroyed, leaving just its ruins and supports.
The first temple (a temenos from the Bronze Age) was built long before the arrival of the Ionians. Hymn to Artemis, Callimachus credited it to the Amazons. A storm wiped it out in the seventh century BC.
About 550 B.C., Chersiphron, a Cretan designer, along with his son Metagenes, started reconstructing it in a grander form. Just beyond Selçuk is a lone pillar pieced together from the temple’s dispersed remains.
8. Old Temple of Athena
The xoanon of Athena Polias was situated in the Old Temple of Athena, also known as the Archaios Neos, a Greek limestone Doric temple on the Acropolis of Athens that was likely constructed in the second half of the sixth century BCE.
Before 1886, the presence of an ancient temple to Athena had only been theorized from literary allusions, but the finding of solid architectural remains beneath the elevated platform between the Parthenon and the Erechtheion proved otherwise.
A temple existed on the central terrace of the Acropolis during the late Archaic period and was destroyed during the Persian invasion of 480 B.C.E., although the nature of this temple, its name, and the length of time it remained standing after the invasion are all up to debate. The Temple of the Polias was likely constructed in the latter portion of the 6th century.
It is either the first artistic declaration of the new democracy, or it is among the final structures of the Peisistratid period. The façade sculptures at the Poros Doric temple are crucial in determining when the temple was built.
9. Temple of Apollo Epicurius
More toward the midpoint of the fifth century B.C., a solitary temple to the deity of healing as well as the sun was constructed in the Arcadian highlands. The temple, which contains the earliest known Corinthian capital, is a bold fusion of the calmness of Doric architecture and the elegance of the Archaic form.
Inside the temple of Bassae in the highlands of Arkadia, a columned sanctuary of Apollo Epicurius stands impressively. As a moving and dramatic example of classical Greek architecture, it is among the best-preserved relics from history. There is a lot of historical and aesthetic weight to it.
Pausanias, an ancient explorer who saw the Parthenon in 174 AD, praised the structure’s aesthetics and symmetry, crediting Parthenon designer Iktinos with its design.
One of the oldest Greek buildings constructed after the Parthenon, it is also the first known example of a building to feature elements of the Corinthian, Ionic, and Doric styles of ancient Greek architecture.
10. Temple of Poseidon at Sounion
The ancient Greek temple of Poseidon is located on Greece’s Cape Sounion and is devoted to the god of the sea. Evidence of religious sites on the cape dates back to the eleventh century B.C.
Moreover, it wasn’t until around 700 B.C. that Sounion’s two most famous temples were constructed: both the Poseidon and Athena temples.
Their kouroi (Greek for “standing sculptures of young men”) are around a century later. The size and quality of the Poseidon offerings suggest that only the wealthy and powerful came there.
Each side of the temple, except the corner blocks, was made up of a total of 23 moderate blocks. Away from the colonnade, a rectangular windowless area marked what might have been a worship hall.