Temple of Hephaestus
Overview
 
The Temple of Hephaestus, also known as the Hephaisteion or earlier as the Theseion, is the best-preserved ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 temple; it remains standing largely as built. It is a Doric
Doric order
The Doric order was one of the three orders or organizational systems of ancient Greek or classical architecture; the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian.-History:...

 peripteral temple, and is located at the north-west side of the Agora of Athens, on top of the Agoraios Kolonos hill. From the 7th century until 1834, it served as the Greek Orthodox church of St.
Encyclopedia
The Temple of Hephaestus, also known as the Hephaisteion or earlier as the Theseion, is the best-preserved ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 temple; it remains standing largely as built. It is a Doric
Doric order
The Doric order was one of the three orders or organizational systems of ancient Greek or classical architecture; the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian.-History:...

 peripteral temple, and is located at the north-west side of the Agora of Athens, on top of the Agoraios Kolonos hill. From the 7th century until 1834, it served as the Greek Orthodox church of St. George Akamates.

Name

Hephaestus
Hephaestus
Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes...

 was the patron god of metal working and craftsmanship. There were numerous potters' workshops and metal-working shops in the vicinity of the temple, as befits the temple's honoree. Archaeological evidence suggests that there was no earlier building on the site except for a small sanctuary that was burned when the Persians occupied Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 in 480 BC. The name Theseion or Temple of Theseus was attributed to the monument under the assumption it housed the remains of the Athenian hero Theseus
Theseus
For other uses, see Theseus Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were...

, brought back to the city from the island of Skyros
Skyros
Skyros is an island in Greece, the southernmost of the Sporades, an archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Around the 2nd millennium BC and slightly later, the island was known as The Island of the Magnetes where the Magnetes used to live and later Pelasgia and Dolopia and later Skyros...

 by Kimon
Kimon
Cimon , was an Athenian statesman, strategos, and major political figure in mid-5th century BC Greece, the son of Miltiades, victor of Marathon. Cimon played a key role in creating the powerful Athenian maritime empire following the failure of the Persian invasion of Greece by Xerxes I in 480-479 BC...

 in 475 BC, but refuted after inscriptions from within the temple associated it firmly with Hephaestus.

Construction

After the battle of Plataea
Plataea
Plataea or Plataeae was an ancient city, located in Greece in southeastern Boeotia, south of Thebes. It was the location of the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, in which an alliance of Greek city-states defeated the Persians....

, the Greeks swore never to rebuild their sanctuaries destroyed by the Persians during their invasion of Greece
Greco-Persian Wars
The Greco-Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and city-states of the Hellenic world that started in 499 BC and lasted until 449 BC. The collision between the fractious political world of the Greeks and the enormous empire of the Persians began when Cyrus...

, but to leave them in ruins, as a perpetual reminder of the war. The Athenians directed their funds towards rebuilding their economy and strengthening their influence in the Delian League
Delian League
The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

. When Pericles
Pericles
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

 came to power, he envisioned a grand plan for transforming Athens into the centre of Greek power and culture. Construction started in 449 BC, and some scholars believe the building not to have been completed for some three decades, funds and workers having been redirected towards the Parthenon
Parthenon
The Parthenon is a temple on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their virgin patron. Its construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power. It was completed in 438 BC, although...

. The western frieze
Frieze
thumb|267px|Frieze of the [[Tower of the Winds]], AthensIn architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon...

 was completed between 445-440 BC, while the eastern frieze, the western pediment
Pediment
A pediment is a classical architectural element consisting of the triangular section found above the horizontal structure , typically supported by columns. The gable end of the pediment is surrounded by the cornice moulding...

 and several changes in the building's interior are dated by these scholars to 435-430 BC, largely on stylistic grounds. It was only during the Peace of Nicias
Peace of Nicias
The Peace of Nicias was a peace treaty signed between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta in the March of 421 BC, ending the first half of the Peloponnesian War....

 (421-415 BC) that the roof was completed and the cult images were installed. The temple was officially inaugurated in 416-415 BC.

Description

Many architects have been suggested, but without firm evidence one refers simply to 'The Hephaisteion Master'. The temple is built of marble from the nearby Mt. Penteli
Penteli
Pentéli or Pendeli, , and Vrilissos or Vrilittos , Mendeli in medieval times) is a tall mountain and mountain range situated northeast of Athens and southwest of Marathon. Its elevation is 1,109 m...

, excepting the bottom step of the krepis or platform. The architectural sculpture is in both Pentelic and Parian marble
Parian marble
Parian marble is a fine-grained semitranslucent pure-white and entirely flawless marble quarried during the classical era on the Greek island of Paros in the Aegean Sea.It was highly prized by ancient Greeks for making sculptures...

. The dimensions of the temple are 13.708 m north to south and 31.776 m east to west, with six columns on the short east and west sides and thirteen columns along the longer north and south sides (with the four corner columns being counted twice).

The building has a pronaos
Portico
A portico is a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls...

, a cella
Cella
A cella or naos , is the inner chamber of a temple in classical architecture, or a shop facing the street in domestic Roman architecture...

 housing cult images at the centre of the structure, and an opisthodomos
Opisthodomos
An opisthodomos can refer to either the rear room of an ancient Greek temple or to the inner shrine, also called the adyton ; the confusion arises from the lack of agreement in ancient inscriptions. In modern scholarship, it usually refers to the rear porch of a temple...

. The alignment of the antae of the pronaos with the third flank columns of the peristyle
Peristyle
In Hellenistic Greek and Roman architecture a peristyle is a columned porch or open colonnade in a building surrounding a court that may contain an internal garden. Tetrastoon is another name for this feature...

 is a design element unique middle of the 5th century BCE. There is also an inner Doric colonnade
Colonnade
In classical architecture, a colonnade denotes a long sequence of columns joined by their entablature, often free-standing, or part of a building....

 with five columns on the north and south side and three across the end (with the corner columns counting twice).
The decorative sculptures highlight the extent of mixture of the two styles in the construction of the temple. Both the pronaos and the opisthodomos are decorated with continuous Ionic friezes
Frieze
thumb|267px|Frieze of the [[Tower of the Winds]], AthensIn architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon...

 (instead of the more typical Doric triglyph
Triglyph
Triglyph is an architectural term for the vertically channeled tablets of the Doric frieze, so called because of the angular channels in them, two perfect and one divided, the two chamfered angles or hemiglyphs being reckoned as one. The square recessed spaces between the triglyphs on a Doric...

s, supplementing the sculptures at the pediments and the metopes
Metope (architecture)
In classical architecture, a metope is a rectangular architectural element that fills the space between two triglyphs in a Doric frieze, which is a decorative band of alternating triglyphs and metopes above the architrave of a building of the Doric order...

. The frieze of the pronaos depicts a scene from the battle of Theseus with the Pallantides
Pallantides
In Greek mythology, the Pallantidai were the fifty children of Pallas, nobles of Attica. They fought against their cousin, Theseus because they would not accept him as king. Leos, a herald of Theseus, warned him of their schemes and an ambush they had prepared for him...

 in the presence of gods while the frieze of the opisthodomos shows the battle of Centaurs and Lapiths. Reconstructing the themes of the pediments is difficult due to the fragmentary nature of the surviving remnants. An earlier interpretation identified the birth of Erichthonios in the east pediment and Heracles
Heracles
Heracles ,born Alcaeus or Alcides , was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson of Perseus...

 before Thetis
Thetis
Silver-footed Thetis , disposer or "placer" , is encountered in Greek mythology mostly as a sea nymph or known as the goddess of water, one of the fifty Nereids, daughters of the ancient one of the seas with shape-shifting abilities who survives in the historical vestiges of most later Greek myths...

 in the west. Later theories suggest that the west pediment was dedicated again to the battle between Centaurs and Lapiths while the east pediment depicted the "deification" of Heracles, the entry of the hero onto Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, located on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia, about 100 kilometres away from Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city. Mount Olympus has 52 peaks. The highest peak Mytikas, meaning "nose", rises to 2,917 metres...

.

Only 18 of the 68 metopes of the temple of Hephaestus were sculptured, concentrated especially on the east side of the temple; the rest were perhaps painted. The ten metopes on the east side depict the Labours of Heracles. The four easternmost metopes on the long north and south sides depict the Labours of Theseus.

According to Pausanias
Pausanias (geographer)
Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century AD, who lived in the times of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description of Greece , a lengthy work that describes ancient Greece from firsthand observations, and is a crucial link between classical...

, the temple housed the bronze statues of Athena and Hephaestus. An inscription records payments between 421 BC and 415 BC for two bronze statues but it does not mention the sculptor. Tradition attributes the work to Alkamenes.

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

Christian Church

In the 7th century AD, the temple was turned into a Christian church, dedicated to Saint George
Saint George
Saint George was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic , Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox...

. When exactly was the temple converted to a Christian church remains unknown. There are assumptions however that maybe that happened in the 7th century. For the first time, the temple is mentioned as an official Christian temple of Athens in 1690 and until 1834, it was the church of "St George Akamates".

The characterisation as "Akamates" -adding all kind of adjectives in the names of the churches or the saints is common place in Greek-orthodox tradition- has been given a lot of explanations. The first one states that it probably derives from the name of the son of Theseus
Theseus
For other uses, see Theseus Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were...

 and Feadra
Phaedra (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Phaedra is the daughter of Minos and Pasiphaë, wife of Theseus and the mother of Demophon of Athens and Acamas. Phaedra's name derives from the Greek word φαιδρός , which meant "bright"....

, Akamantas, later transformed to Akamatos and later still to Akamates. Another scenario is based on the very sense of akamates (= flaneur), because during the Ottoman Era, the temple was used only once a year, the day of the feast of St George. A third option is that the name is due to Archbishop of Athens Michael Akominatos who might have been the first to perform a Holy Mass in the church.

Nevertheless, the last Holy Mass that took place in the temple was on February 2, 1833, during the celebrations for the arrival of Otto in Greece. In the presence of the Athenians and of many others the bishop Talantiu Neofitos gave a speech.

19th century

When Athens became the official capital of Greece in 1834, the publication of the relevant royal edict was made in this temple that was the place of the last public turnout of the Athenians. It was used as a burial place for non-Orthodox Europeans in the 19th century, among whom were many philhellenes
Philhellenism
Philhellenism was an intellectual fashion prominent at the turn of the 19th century, that led Europeans like Lord Byron or Charles Nicolas Fabvier to advocate for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire...

 who gave their lives in the cause of Greek War of Independence
Greek War of Independence
The Greek War of Independence, also known as the Greek Revolution was a successful war of independence waged by the Greek revolutionaries between...

 (1821–1830). Among those buried in the site was John Tweddel, a friend of Lord Elgin
Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin
Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine was a Scottish nobleman and diplomat, known for the removal of marble sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens. Elgin was the second son of Charles Bruce, 5th Earl of Elgin and his wife Martha Whyte...

, while excavations also revealed a slab from the grave of George Watson with a Latin epitaph
Epitaph
An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial...

 by Lord Byron
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, FRS , commonly known simply as Lord Byron, was a British poet and a leading figure in the Romantic movement...

. In 1834, the first King of Greece, Otto I
Otto of Greece
Otto, Prince of Bavaria, then Othon, King of Greece was made the first modern King of Greece in 1832 under the Convention of London, whereby Greece became a new independent kingdom under the protection of the Great Powers .The second son of the philhellene King Ludwig I of Bavaria, Otto ascended...

, was officially welcomed there. Otto ordered the building to be used as a museum
Museum
A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Most large museums are located in major cities...

, in which capacity it remained until 1934, when it reverted to its status of an ancient monument and extensive archaeological research was allowed.

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  • New Parliament House, Edinburgh
    New Parliament House, Edinburgh
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    (formerly the Royal High School) (1829)

External links

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