Apollo Bassae

ouzo on the rocks

apartment, excursions and art historical guide

Peloponnese, Greece

The temple of Apollo in Bassae


In the period from 430 intill 390 BC they built a temple for Apollo at Bassae in the western part of the Peloponnese. The architect was probably Iktinos according to Pausanias, one of the architects who also worked at the Parthenon in Athens. This temple has many peculiarities.

The elongated shape indicates that the construction must have started around 430 BC, but the details of the temple and the sculptured frieze is probably a later date, perhaps 390 BC. The interior is also full of innovations, such as non-Doric columns which only have a decorative function.


The temple was built in the north-south direction; probably because the older temple that previously stood there was also built that way. The elongated shape was a design of six by fifteen columns necessary, which at that time was actually pretty old-fashioned. The portals had the usual two columns in antis. The front porch is deeper than the back porch. The further proportions and the plan itself are very original, because behind the naos is a somewhat lower adyton with a side door. The transition from the naos to adyton is marked with a single column with a Corinthian capital. We have not seen this before at the temples described above.

The columns are Doric on the outside, but the columns in the naos consist of brick spurs attached to the side wall, they stand on broad pedestals and have an Ionic volute capital. Very remarkable is that the last of the Ionic columns are at an angle of 45 ° with the side wall (as seen from the entrance). You notice in the design that the architect is taking his creativity to the limit. Limited in size however, probably because the old temple.

The to the wall connected columns, the side door in the adyton are very remarkable. And for the first time three construction orders were combined.

The Corinthian capital has acanthus leaves surrounded with echinus topped by small scrolls (the transition from Ionic to Corinthian). The use of a Corinthian capital is a characteristic of the 4th century BC. Its popularity rose over time increasing. The highlight is the Roman period.

Although the temple on the outside is mainly Doric, the Ionic frieze is decorated with statues. At the Parthenon the frieze was decorated on the outside of the naos, but here there is even a decorated frieze on the inside. The quality of the images on this frieze varies: pictured are the usual scenes of fighting between Greeks, Amazons and centaurs, but here and there with an awkward anatomy and lopsided proportions.

At the same time it is also a matter of transition: the muscles of the Greeks are displayed correctly, limbs and breasts of the Amazons are soft and visible through the transparent drapery. The 'wet' folds end up in blowing curls. This belongs to the last decades of the 5th century BC, but the theatrical gestures of some characters belong to the 4th century BC.

plan of the temple of Apollo in Bassae, 400 BC

temple of Apollo (Epicurius- the Auxiliary)

by Edward Dodwell, 1821

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