Apollo Epicurius Temple

Apollo Epicurius Temple:

Bassae is an archaeological site in Oichalia, a municipality in the northeastern part of Messenia, Greece. In classical antiquity, it was part of Arcadia. Bassae lies near the village of Skliros, northeast of Figaleia, south of Andritsaina and west of Megalopolis. It is famous for the well-preserved mid- to late-5th century BC Temple of Apollo Epicurius.

Although this temple is geographically remote from major polities of ancient Greece, it is one of the most studied ancient Greek temples because of its multitude of unusual features. Bassae was the first Greek site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List (1986).

The temple was dedicated to Apollo Epikourios (“Apollo the helper”). It sits at an elevation of 1,131 metres above sea level on the slopes of Kotylion Mountain. Its construction is placed between 450 BC and 400 BC. It was supposedly designed by Iktinos, architect of Parthenon in Athens.

Construction and decoration
The temple is aligned north-south, in contrast to the majority of Greek temples which are aligned east-west; its main entrance is from the north. This was necessitated by the limited space available on the steep slopes of the mountain. To overcome this restriction a door was placed in the side of the temple, perhaps to let light in to illuminate the cult statue.

The temple is of a relatively modest size, with the stylobate measuring 38.3 by 14.5 metres containing a Doric peristyle of six by fifteen columns (hexastyle). The roof left a central space open to admit light and air. The temple was constructed entirely out of grey Arcadian limestone except for the Bassae Frieze which was carved from marble (probably in ancient times colored with paint). Like most major temples it has three “rooms” or porches: the pronaos, plus a naos and an opisthodomos. The naos may have housed a cult statue of Apollo, although it is also surmised that the single ‘proto-Corinthian’ capital discovered by Charles Robert Cockerell and subsequently lost at sea, may have topped the single column that stood in the centre of the naos, and have been intended as an aniconic representation of Apollo Borealis. The temple lacks some optical refinements found in the Parthenon, such as a subtly curved floor, though the columns have entasis.

The temple is unusual in that it has examples of all three of the classical orders used in ancient Greek architecture: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Doric columns form the peristyle while Ionic columns support the interior and a single Corinthian column features in the centre of the interior.

The first serious restoration effort for the building started in 1902-1908. From 1982-1997, an anti-seismic scaffold was placed (1985), a lightning protection was installed (1986), and a temporary shelter (tent) was erected (1987) to protect the temple against the region’s extreme weather conditions. 

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