Thursday, February 11, 2010
Antique of the Week: The Hephaisteion in Athens
This week's installment of Antique of the Week is the Hephaisteion, or Temple of Hephaistos, that has stood overlooking the Athenian Agora (literally, "open space", the Greek equivalent to a Roman forum) since the 5th Century BCE. It is often cited as one of, if not the, best preserved ancient Greek temple.
The Hephaisteion has also been known as the Theseion due to the belief that it housed the mortal remains of the famous Athenian hero Theseus, best known as the slayer of the minotaur. This was probably due to the fact that the temple formerly was decorated with sculptural representations of Theseus and his adventures, amongst others. A few pieces remain on site,as can be glimpsed in the photo below
In the time when this structure was still used as an actual temple, it held bronze statues of Hephaistos himself, as well as another statue of Athena, in her aspect as the goddess of crafts (both statues are now lost, unfortunately). Appropriately, the Temple was formerly surrounded by many workshops, clayworkers and forges.
On the day we visited, amongst the other pilgrims was this tortoise, which seems to me to be a particularly Hephaisteion type of animal.