TEMPLE OF HEPHAISTUS

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Destination best for: major archaeological site, sightseeing, relaxation, historical site, museum, family vacation
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Temple of Hephaistus
A small Doric temple in the ancient Agora of Athens

Hephaisteion, or Thesion

The temple of Hephaistus (Hephaisteion; also known as Thesion) is one of the best preserved Doric temples of the classical period. It crowns the small hill of Kolonos Agoraios and it is visible from any vantage point around the Agora archaeological site. It was built adjacent to the area where most of the bronze and iron working foundries were found, and since Hephestus was the god of metalsmithing, its location around the industrial center of the agora seems appropriate. It is a small temple of the Doric order and in antiquity it housed two bronze statues of the goddess Athena and Hephestus the god of fire and metalsmithing. The temple is visible from atop the Acropolis, and it is a treat to see from the HSAP train which connects Athens and Piraeus and its track passes very close to the ancient temple. The "Thesion" train station is within walking distance to the south entrance of the Agora of Athens.

The construction of the Hephaisteion began at the same time as the Parthenon construction around 450 BC and was completed probably some time around 415 BC. While the slender Doric columns give the temple a stoic authority, its proportions and overall size allow for a humble and approachable relationship with the visitors. The temple was adorned with the traditional Doric metopes which depict the feats of Theseus (the reason the monument is sometimes referred to as "These um"), while the inside set of culumns over the porch support a continous Ionic Freeze which is decorated with high relief sculptures depicting the fight of the Centaurs and Lapyths. Unlike the Parthenon however, the decorated friezes do not wrap around the building but instead appear in the front and back elevations. The metopes of the front are ornate with relief sculptures, but are empty at the flanks with the exception of the four foremost panes that depict the Theseus legends. The Pediment was also adorned in ancient times with sculptures of which only fragments remain today.

My daughter and I took some time exploring the ancient temple's perimeter as the approach to its interior is forbiden. We found some much needed shelter from the hot noon sun under the low trees that surround the temple. From this vantage point we had a great view of the entire agora archaeological site with the Acropolis towering above it in the south. I took some time to examine the details of the marbles of the temple and the extended history of the place was immedieately evident when I saw the pitting on the wall and the columns surrounding the side door (see picutes below). It did not seem natural, but instead resembled a myriad of bullet holes and scars which looked like granade burn marks. I am no expert on the matter, but the sight did make an impression on me and testified to the fact that the building's history did not stop with the temple's completion. Instead the monument's inception in ancient Greece was just the very beginning of its historical journey.

Hephaisteion Temple of Hephaistous Thesion Hephaisteion photo
Temple of Hephaistos Agora ancient temple doric temple Agora of Athens
Only the four front metopes are decorated with relief sculptures   Three relief sculptures from the eastern metopes  
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