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by Archaeology Newsroom

The temple of Apollo Epikourius

The Ictinian temple at Bassae is located in an area sacred, at least since the geometric age. The archaeological excavations proved that at this same site and already since the eightth centyru BC a martial god was worshipped, because most of the finds are weapons. In the seventh century BC the Phigalians dedicated a temple to Apollo, an ally in war time, who later, in the classical period, becomes a healer. The architectural finds confirm that an archaic temenos, with one or probably two temples, existed before the Ictinian temple. The temple at Bassae, of Doric order, is an especially long building reminding more of an archaic than a classical temple. The columns of the perimetrical colonnade show an entasis and this is the only “visual correction” found in the building. The four pairs of Ionic half-columns along the long walls of the nave, the marble frieze, the Corinthian column and the door leading to the adyton form an admirable composition and make the temple unique in its kind.

The Destruction of the Monument.

The ancient builders of the temple, being aware of the intense seismic character of the region, used a multitude of metallic joints in its construction. However, the iron and lead of this exceptionally large number of joints reinforcing the building ironically later became the main reason for its destruction.

The Temple in Recent Years. Scientific Research. The Looting.

The temple had been forgotten in its wilderness for many centuries and the only people who were aware of its existence were the inhabitants of the vicinity. In 1765, when the French architect J. Bocher was touring Arcadia, he came upon a monument of the classic period, where almost all the columns were still standing, and he immediately identified it as the temple of Apollo Epikourius mentioned by Pausanias. From then on, Bassae will become one more pole of attraction for European travellers. Artists, scientists, antiquities smugglers. Philhellenes and others visit Bassae in abundance. They write, paint, study the architecture, or reconstruct graphically the monument, record its peculiarities in form and order and occasionally they loot the monument. Celebrated personalities of politics, diplomacy, art and science such as Chandler, Fauvel, Leake, Pouqueville, visit the ruins of the superb edifice. The discovery of the monument attracts the interest of the Europeans greatly. As an immediate result an expedition of “antiquity lovers”, manned with Hallervon Hallerstein, Ch. R. Cockerell, John Foster, Gropius Bronstedt, Linckh, Otto Magnus von Stackellberg and others, arrive at Bassae in June 1812. The members of this group having located at Bassae from their visit on the previous year , the marble frieze of the temple “buried” under a huge pile of architectonic members, manage to claim it and to export it to England for permanent exhibition in the British Museum. It must be noted here, that during this looting three valuable works were realized; the morphologic and rhythmologic study of the temple by the painter and architect Haller von Hallerstein, the study and representations of the temple by the archaeologist and artist Otto Magnus von Stackellberg who is credited with the first publication of the monumentand finally, detailed plans of the temple and drawings of its frieze were made by J. Foster.

Twenty years after the looting, in 1833, when Greece had already become an independent country, the “Expedition Scientifique de Moree” worked out a series of plans, measured drawings and graphic representations of the monument that although are imperfect, offer a valuable contribution to the research of the temple (Expedition Scientifique de Moree, Paris 1833). Equally valuable are also the exceptionally accurate measured drawings made by Denis Lebouteux (1853).

The Restoration Made by the Archaeological Society. The Basic Problems of the Building and the Concern About it Today.

From 1902 to 1907 the Archaeological Society of Athens had commissioned P. Kavadias to realize a wide program of works aiming to the full restoration of the original form of the temple. The result of the efforts undertaken at that time is the temple almost as it stands today.

The only documentation of the monument at our disposal, besides the representations and plans made by travellers, are the photographs taken before and during the restoration works of the years 1902-1907.

In our country the archaeologists involved in solving the peculiar problems of the temple, are Kourouniotis, Romaios and since 1959 Yialouris. The latter continues the research so that the study of the temple foundation and the checking of its preservation could become feasible. In 1965 Professor Chr. Bouras supervised certain consolidation works of limited scale and at the same time he made a report emphasizing the urgent measures, which should be taken for the protection and restoration of the monument. The first committee for the protection of the temple was formed ten years later, in 1975. It authorized the architect-archaeologist A. Petronotis to constitute a working group of scientist of various, relevant specialities. This group continued its work up to 1979. New excavations were undertaken inside the temple under the supervision of N. Yialouris and J. Travlos. According to the well-known principle of ancient Greek architecture, the foundations of a building should be laid on solid rock. However, certain parts of the Apollo temple foundations have been laid on a softer subsoil. As a result the temple crepis has dissimilarly subsided and the horizontally of the stylobate has been distorted. In addition, limestone, the building material of the monument, being sensitive to the changes of temperature has crumbled badly. In the fall of 1988, the committee adopted Professor Skoulikidis’ proposal to install a closed shelter for the protection of the monument. The shelter will remain there until all the works, necessary for the permanent and essential protection and conservation ot the temple have been completed.