By indexer
145 days ago

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Bassae, Greece

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Although it was built during the 5th century BC, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius near Bassae in western Greece was virtually unknown until 1765 when a French architect happened upon it when he was in the area building villas – he had the misfortune to be murdered by bandits when he went back for a second look.

The temple has features in common with those of the much more famous Parthenon at Athens, and they may even have been designed by the same architect. However, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is much smaller, measuring around 38 by 14.5 metres, and it is in a remote location high up a mountain slope, which is why it was virtually lost for many centuries, with only a handful of references being made to it by ancient writers.

The temple’s dedication to Apollo Epicurius – “Apollo the Healer” – was due to the gratitude of local people who escaped the worst ravages of a plague after praying and sacrificing to the god.

The temple is notable for several features, not least the fact that it includes features of all three classical orders of architecture – Ionic, Doric and Corinthian. The outer columns (the peristyle) are Doric, the inner ones are Ionic, and there is a single Corinthian column at the centre. The capital of the Corinthian column (typified by the use of decorative stone acanthus leaves) is the earliest example of the order known to exist.

Another unusual feature is the combined use of limestone and marble in the construction.

The temple was originally decorated with 23 sculptured plates on the frieze of the Ionic interior, but these were removed in 1812 by British antiquaries. These plates soon found their way to the British Museum in London, where they remain to this day, not far from where the much better-known Parthenon frieze is housed (the “Elgin Marbles”). The frieze depicted battles between Greeks and Centaurs and between Greeks and Amazons.

There has been considerable argument about whether the Parthenon frieze should be returned to Greece, but maybe the Bassae frieze has a better claim to be taken back to its original home? For one thing, it might be possible to return the plates to their exact original position, which is out of the question in the case of the Parthenon frieze due in part to the destructive influence of pollution in Greece’s capital city.

On the other hand, the remote location of the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, which is well off the normal tourist trail, means that far fewer people would be able to see the frieze were it to be returned than is now possible in the British Museum.

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.

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frenchqueen It's amazing how this ancient structures were built. I can just imagine the human power needed.
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indexer @frenchqueen Indeed. The man hours involved in just carving all those columns - using basic stone chisels - must have been huge, even before anything got off the ground.
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Shavkat That's a nice shot...
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