Hephaisteion

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Contents

Introduction

The temple of Hephaistos, dedicated to the god of fire and metalwork, and to Athena, stood on the Kolonos Agoraios (Market Hill), a small hill on the west of the Agora. The name of its architect is unknown. There is no evidence of an altar near the temple.

This Doric temple is peripteral and amphidistyle in antis. It was built of Pentelic marble somewhere between 460 BC and 449 BC. Sculptures were made of Parian marble.

The temple was located within a large walled precinct. The entrance of the precinct was at the east end of the south wall.

Crepidoma

The euthynteria and bottom step was made of poros. The stylobate of the temple measured some 14 m wide by 32 m deep.

Peristyle

The peristyle was of the Doric order. It consisted of 6 columns at each end and 13 columns along each side (counting corner columns twice).

Metopes and Triglyphs

All metopes were made of Parian marble.

Only 4 of the metopes of the north side were sculpted, they represented labours of Theseus. From left to right:

NumberIllustrationDescription
North ? Prokustes
North ? Kerkyron
North ? Skiron
North ? Sow of Krommyon

Only 4 of the metopes of the south side were sculpted, they represented labours of Theseus. From left to right:

NumberIllustrationDescription
South ? Periphetes
South ? Sinis
South ? Bull of Marathon
South ? Minotaur

The metopes of the east side were sculpted. They represented the labours of Herakles. From left to right:

NumberIllustrationDescription
East 1 Nemean Lion
East 2 Hydra of Lerna
East 3 Hind of Keryneia
East 4 Boar of Erymanthos
East 5 Mares of Diomedes
East 6 Kerberos
East 7 Queen of the Amazons
East 8 Geryon (1)
East 9 Geryon (2)
East 10 Golden Apples of the Hesperides

The metopes of the west side were left uncarved.

Pronaos

The porch of the pronaos consisted of two Doric columns. Above the porch, a continuous frieze, made of Parian marble, represented a labour of Theseus, namely: the battle between Theseus and the sons of Pallas. Six gods looked at the combat, three on each side. On the left, were Athena, Hera and Zeus while Hephaistos, Hippodameia and Poseidon stood on the right. The fight between Theseus and his stone-throwing enemies occupy the centre of the frieze.

Opisthodomos

The porch of the opisthodomos consisted of two Doric columns. Above the porch, a continuous frieze, made of Parian marble, represented the battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs. Theseus stood in the centre of the frieze, rescueing Kaineus the Lapith who was succumbing under the assault of two centaurs.

Roof

The pediments contained statues sculptured in the round and made of Parian marble. However, not much is known about them. There was a group of one woman supporting another on her back. The east pediment probably represented the apotheosis of Herakles while the west pediment probably depicted the battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs.

Surroundings

Several foundries were clustered on the Kolonos Agoraios around the Hephaisteion. In fact, this hill and the area to the west was the quarter of the blacksmiths and bronze workers.

Sanctuary of Eurysakes

Eurysakes of Salamis, the legendary son of Ajax, had a sanctuary known as the Eurysakeion on the Kolonos Agoraios. This sanctuary was located to the southwest of the Hephaisteion. It was a gathering point for workers looking to be hired.

Benches on the Kolonos Agoraios

At the feet of the Kolonos Agoraios, on the south of the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, there were four rows of gray poros benches erected around 450 BC. These benches were probably part of the synedrion meeting place, one of the governing bodies of Athens.

Later Features

In the cella, the bronze statues of Athena and Hephaistos, made by Alkamenes, as well as the interior colonnade were only added after our period of reference, between 421 and 415 BC.

The state arsenal to the north of the temple was erected around 275 BC.

The garden around the temple dated from the 3rd century BC. It had rows of pits carved into the north, south and west terrace of the precinct to receive potted shrubs or small trees.

A monumental stairway giving access to the temple from the Agora was added during the 1st century AD.

The two small doorways in the north and south walls of the cella were pierced during the Christian period.

References

American School of Classical Studies at Athens; The Athenian Agora: A Guide to the Excavation and Museum, 1990

Brouskari, Maria; The Monuments of the Acropolis, Athens: Archaeological Receipts Fund, 2001

Camp, John M.; The Archaeology of Athens, Yale University Press, 2001, pp. 102-104

Connolly, Peter and Hazel Dodge; The Ancient City - Life in Classical Athens & Rome, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998

Hurwit, Jeffrey M.; The Acropolis in the Age of Pericles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004

Martin, Jacques; Les voyages d'Alix - Athènes, Casterman, 2001

Travlos, John, Pictorial dictionary of Ancient Athens, Books that matter, New York, 1971, pp. 261-262

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