Old Temple of Athena

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Triple-bodied creature from a pediment, possibly from the Old Temple of Athena

The Old Temple of Athena was an Archaic temple located on the Acropolis of Athens. Until its destruction by the Persians in 480 BC, it was the shrine of Athena Polias, the patron deity of the city of Athens. It was located at the centre of the Acropolis plateau, probably on the remains of a Mycenaean palace. Apart from its in-situ foundations, numerous architectural members in the Doric order belonging to its different construction phases have been found. The complex is sometimes described by the name "Dörpfeld foundations", after the archaeologist who first studied it.

The foundations suggest the following basic description: The temple measured 21.3 by 43.15 m, on a west-east orientation. It was surrounded by a peristasis of 6 by 12 columns. The difference between column axes was 4.04 m, narrowed by 0.31 m at the corners. The stylobate was slightly curved, whether this also applied to the superstructure remains unclear. In the pronaos and opisthodomos, two columns each stood between short antae. The cella was very short, in fact nearly square, and subdivided in three aisles by two rows of three columns each. The back of the temple was subdivided into a wide rectangular opisthodomus followed by a pair of side-by-side rooms. The foundations were composed of various materials and constructed in varying techniques. While the load-bearing parts and internal supports were made of blue Acropolis limestone, the foundations of the surrounding peristasis were of poros limestone. The superstructure and decorative pieces also appear to have been made from a variety of materials, including 'porous' and Parian marble.

Because of those variations, the reconstruction of the temple's architectural history remains controversial. Wilhelm Dörpfeld assumed that the original structure was a double temple in antis, dating to about 570 BC, lengthened and broadened by the addition of the peristasis under Peisistratus, between 529 and 520 BC.[1] This idea led to a subdivision of the foundations into an inner smaller structure known as H-Architektur and assumed to be the oldest part of the building, followed by a structure still described as the "Old Temple of Athena", inccorporating the H-Architektur as well as the peristasis.

The foundations of the Old Temple, visible in front of the Erechtheion

The H-Architektur is assumed to be from circa 570 BC. Based on its dimensions, architectural elements have been attributed to it, such as straight and diagonal simas of Parian marble, and capitals as well as a geison depicting flying birds, of poros. Further elements likely to be attributable to the early structure because of their size and style include metopes of Parian marble, monumental poros pediments depicting fighting lions, and ion the corners on the east side Herakles on the left and the "triple-bodied" figure on the right.[2] A group of very squat and broad capitals with wide echinus are also ascribed to the early structure, suggesting that it had a hexastyle peristasis.

The Old Temple of Athena as a separate structure is often dated to circa 510/500 BC.[3] Its dimensions are identified as those of the entirety of the foundations excavated by Dörpfeld. Features ascribed to it include: entablature and sima of Parian marble, poros capitals with a steeper echinus, a marble frieze depicting a procession, and marble waterspouts in each of the four corners, shaped as lions' and rams' heads. The pedimental sculptures, now free-standing for the first time, depicted a gigantomachy in the east and a scene of lions killing a bull in the west. Of the gigantomachy, parts of the figures of Athena, of Zeus, and of a falling enemy are preserved.

The temple, which contained the ancient xoanon or wooden statue of Athena, believed to have fallen from the sky, was destroyed in the Persian sack of 480 BC. It remains controversial whether a partial restoration followed this. Herodotus [4] mentions a west-facing megaron on the Acropolis. This reference, as well as a structure listed in an inscription[5] have been interpreted as evidence that the opisthodomus of the Old Temple remained in place through the fifth century. Xenophon[6] states that the Old Temple of Athena burned down in 406/405 BC, but this might also refer to the Erechtheion, which had taken over the functions of the Old Temple and housed the xoanon. From the 4th century BC onwards, there are no possible references to the Old Temple; Pausanias was not aware of its existence.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Wilhelm Dörpfeld: Der alte Athenatempel auf der Akropolis. In: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Institus, Abteilung Athen. Vol. 11, 1886, p. 337–51.
  • Wilhelm Dörpfeld: Der alte Athenatempel auf der Akropolis II. In: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Institus, Abteilung Athen. Vol. 12 (1887), 25–61. 190–211
  • Wilhelm Dörpfeld: Das Hekatompedon in Athen. In: Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Institus. Vol. 34, 1919, p. 1–40.
  • William B. Dinsmoor: The Hekatompedon on the Athenian Acropolis. In: American Journal of Archeology. Vol. 51, 1947, p. 109–51
  • I. Beyer: Die Datierung der großen Reliefgiebel des Alten Athenatempels der Akropolis. In: Archäologischer Anzeiger. 1977, p. 44–74.
  • William A. P. Childs: The Date of the Old Temple of Athena on the Athenian Acropolis. In: William D. E. Coulson et al. (eds.): The Archaeology of Athens and Attica under the Democracy. Proceedings of an International Conference celebrating 2500 years since the birth of democracy in Greece, held at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, December 4–6, 1992. Oxford 1994, p. 1–6.
  • Manolis Korres: Die Athena-Tempel auf der Akropolis. In: Wolfram Hoepfner (ed.): Kult und Kultbauten auf der Akropolis. Internationales Symposion vom 7. bis 9. Juli 1995 in Berlin. Berlin 1997, p. 218–43.
  • Gloria Ferrari: The Ancient Temple on the Acropolis at Athens. In: American Journal of Archeology. Vol. 106, 2002, p. 11–35.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wilhelm Dörpfeld: Der alte Athenatempel auf der Akropolis. In: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Institus, Abteilung Athen. Vol. 11, 1886, p. 337–51; Wilhelm Dörpfeld: Der alte Athenatempel auf der Akropolis II. In: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Institus, Abteilung Athen. Vol. 12 (1887), 25–61. 190–211; Wilhelm Dörpfeld: Das Hekatompedon in Athen. In: Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Institus. Vol. 34, 1919, p. 1–40.
  2. ^ rejecting this view: Manolis Korres: Die Athena-Tempel auf der Akropolis. In: Wolfram Hoepfner (ed.): Kult und Kultbauten auf der Akropolis. Internationales Symposion vom 7. bis 9. Juli 1995 in Berlin. Berlin 1997, p. 218–43 supporting: William B. Dinsmoor: The Hekatompedon on the Athenian Acropolis. In: American Journal of Archeology. Vol. 51, 1947, p. 109–51.
  3. ^ William A. P. Childs: The Date of the Old Temple of Athena on the Athenian Acropolis. In: William D. E. Coulson u.a. (eds.): The Archaeology of Athens and Attica under the Democracy. Proceedings of an International Conference celebrating 2500 years since the birth of democracy in Greece, held at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, December 4–6, 1992. Oxford 1994, p. 1–6; suggesting a date before 520: Manolis Korres: Die Athena-Tempel auf der Akropolis. In: Wolfram Hoepfner (ed.): Kult und Kultbauten auf der Akropolis. Internationales Symposion vom 7. bis 9. Juli 1995 in Berlin. Berlin 1997, p. 218–43
  4. ^ Herodotus 5, 77.
  5. ^ Inscriptiones Graecae I² 91/92.
  6. ^ Xenophon, Hellenika 1, 6, 1.


This article incorporates information from this version of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

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