Introducing: The Temple of Hephaestus

Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus, or Hephaisteion, is an ancient Greek temple built entirely out of marble, dated to the 5th century BCE.

This temple is located on the highest point of Kolonos Agoraios, a hill to the West of the Agora of Athens. Today, It is the most well-preserved temple in Athens due to it’s use as a place of worship, being built about the same time as the Parthenon to honor Hephaestus, the God of Fire and Metalwork who created Achilles’ legendary shield, and Athena, the goddess of pottery and crafts. Later excavation of the remnants of pottery and metal workshops near the temple demonstrates this quite well.

The structure, which was designed by Iktinus, the architect who also worked on the Parthenon during Pericles’s reign over ancient Greece, took a little over thirty years to build and features a number of towering columns, the whole temple measuring 31.78 meters east-west and 13.71 meters north-south. To the north and south, there are six columns, while to the east and west, there are thirteen, with two large bronze sculptures of Hephaestus and Athena standing at the end of the colonnade. 

Contributed by the artist Alkemenis were intricately carved friezes adorning the temple walls, notable ones being the pronaos frieze showing Hercules’ labors and scenes from the battle of Theseus. Additionally, you have the frieze of the opisthodomos which shows the fall of troy and the battle of the centaurs and Lapiths. Long ago, a garden of pomegranate, myrtle, and laurel trees encircled the sanctuary.

Since it’s completion, the temple has found a number of uses apart from it’s original intention. It was used as a Christian church from 7th century AD, until 1834 when the first king of Greece, Otto I, used the temple for his reception, later naming it a museum, from which it was then used as a burial ground for non-Orthodox Europeans.

Nowadays, the temple is preserved as an ancient monument and is currently being visited by thousands of people each year.