Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus in central Athens is one of the best preserved Greek temple and is mostly built of marble Pentelischen.

The temple is also known under the name Hephaisteion, Theseion or Theseum because they believed in the Byzantine period, the remains of the legendary Greek hero Theseus were buried here. The temple could be assigned to the Hephaestus basis of building inscriptions and numerous finds of the metal manufacturing industry in the local area, the god of metalworking.

Architectural History

Construction of the temple was begun about 449 BC, but dragged himself towards the west to east evolving progress. To 430 BC the temple was largely completed, only covering and cult statue group were still missing. Both could not be put BC in attack during the Peace of Nicias 421-415. 415 BC, the temple was consecrated well. It was located at what was then the western city limits of Athens.

This district at that time were many foundries and metalworking crafts. Therefore, he was also dedicated to Hephaestus, the god of that metal artists - the forge - (today ironwork ) and their metal workers. Hephaestus was for the entire artistic spectrum of metalworking "competent", including the manufacture of jewelery, weapons, sacred and profane ritual and utilitarian objects.

The temple stands on a small hill on the western edge of the Agora, the Colonus Agoraios.



The temple stood on a three-tiered base, the Krepis. The lowest level was made ​​of limestone, while the rest of the visible architecture consisted of Pentelic marble and Parian. This is unusual because usually the whole Krepis was uniformly formed of a material and thus, greatly to that of the past, already visible in the upper part of the foundation layer, the euthynteria. On the approximately 1.06 meters high base, the actual temple stood.

There is a ring temple hall, a peripteros Doric order of 13.71 meters wide and 31.78 meters in length, with six columns on the fronts and 13 columns on the long sides. The lower column diameter was 1.02 meters, the column height reached 5.71 meters. The axial spacing of the columns was 2.59 meters, the intercolumnium, the clear distance between the pillars was thus 1.57 meters. The Eckjoche have a simple contraction. Above it stood the with a height of 2.02 meters quite heavy proportioned entablature Doric architrave and triglyphs - metope frieze.

Only on the Eastern Front and the subsequent first two yokes of the long sides of the metopes were provided with sculptures and carved from Parian marble, while the remaining metopes were inserted as simple smooth and unspoilt white marble slabs. The metopes of the east side depicted scenes from the cycle of legends of Hercules represent the metopes of the long sides, however, scenes from the life of local hero Theseus. In particular, the latter led to the interpretation of the building as Theseion, as the temple dedicated to Theseus. The sculptured metopes were deposited with a rich blue color, kept the metopes in contrasting red.

About the Triglyphon the Doric cornices followed with his usual Mutulus plates. It was, as the subsequent Sima, of Parian marble. The Sima had at their eaves sides lion head gargoyles between painted palmette friezes. The following on the fronts pediments were filled with figures of Parian marble. In excavations in the 20th century remains of this gable figures were found that the battle of the Lapiths were more mythical battles in the east gable against the centaur, in the west gable. Acroteria adorned the First: A floating Nike crowned the east side, a fleeing female figure, which is to allocate 420 stylistically the time of the rich style BC, the west gable.

In this colonnade was the cella, which included the cult image sheltering space. Following principles Doric temple building, the Cellaaußenwände here were aligned with the column axes. The resulting whorls, the Ptera, a yoke and two yokes on the west side and a half yokes were on the long sides deeply, on the east side, however deep. Covered the whorls were with a coffered ceiling of Parian marble. The emphasis on the eastern porch by their particular depth can be interpreted as an element of Ionic architecture, which has here been included in a Doric temple.

The eastern porch had other special features. Thus, an ionic frieze was above the architrave, which connected the antenna of the pronaos, attached. However, this did not end as expected, at the Ante corners, but was, as the associated architrave, extended beyond the Seitenptera out and continued to the rafters inside of the porch. Above the architrave extended pronaos - he wears figurative scenes - groups of gods as spectators mythical battles - while he continues on the remaining three sides of the porch as a smooth blue ribbon. These two bays deep porch is thus clearly separated from the rest of the building, from the Seitenptera the ring hall, as autonomous, which is unique in this form. Also on the architrave of the rear opisthodomus a figural frieze was attached with the representation of a Centauromachy, ends there, however, as expected, over the antenna. Both ionic friezes were framed top and bottom of ionic eggs bars, and also the base of the wall of the cella had such an Ionic frieze on. The accumulation of ionic elements in this otherwise austere Doric building is remarkable.


The extended two yokes eastern portico brought a reduction of Cellalänge with it, the resulting total stocky failed. It is thought that it concerned a subsequent plan amendment, which served the purpose of the Cellaproportionen to match those of the Parthenon. Like this namely a column position of 4 × 7 columns in the cella was inserted. This had to be strong on Hephaisteion zoom moved to the walls, the side columns to sufficiently allow the lined up in front of the revolving rear pillars position cult statue group space. The inner row of columns at the Parthenon was like Doric order and two floors to reach the necessary height for the ceiling construction with reduced column diameters. Because the column height was dependent in Greek architecture of the lower diameter of the column and could only increase with this. The inner walls of the cella were roughened for the attachment of wall paintings. Get has none of these paintings. The traditional image of Pausanias cult group with Hephaestus and Athena was created by disclosure of the accounting records between 421 BC and 415 BC, and - almost 30 years after the start of construction - erected in the Temple. She came probably from the hand of Alcamenes, a proof of this, there are not though.

Construction and design

Basis for the development of proportion seems this temple the middle stage of Krepis to have been. She was 32.51 meters with a hundred feet long and 14.45 meters wide. Width to length so behaved as 4:9, which corresponds to the system of proportions of the Parthenon. Also the height of up to and including the Geisons pointed in relation to the width this proportion, which recurs in their reversal in the relationship column height to yoke with 9:4. All this seems the design of the Parthenon borrowed, although not implemented with the same consistency.

An optical refinements of the temple had an inspection by Krepis to geison curvature, a slightly lifted curvature of all structural members, whose sting height was 4.5 inches at the front 3 inches, on the long sides. The columns had a slight Entasis, so a slightly kurvolinearen course of their rejuvenation, and have an inclination, so a slight inward slope as another element of the optical enhancement, up from 4.5 centimeters.


In contrast to the Parthenon Hephaisteion still has all the pillars, and even the roof, which had no correlation between Säulenachsmaß and rafter spacing is largely intact. The friezes and other ornaments, however, were severely damaged by iconoclasts, art lovers and looters over the centuries. The temple remained intact since it was converted into a Christian church in the fifth century, which was dedicated to Saint George. However, this conversion was at the expense of the old interior, which was removed and replaced by Christian additions. In particular, the vault covering the interior dates from this period.

During the centuries of Ottoman rule in Greece, the temple remained the most important Greek Orthodox Church in Athens. As the first king of independent Greece, King Otto I, in 1834, entered the city, where the fair was held for the welcome. Ludwig Ross established at this time the " Theseion " as the first archaeological museum of Athens.

Today, the temple is part of the archaeological site of the Athenian Agora, under the supervision of the third Ephorie of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture.


The Theseus Temple, which is located in the People's Garden in Vienna (1st district ) is a scaled replica of the Athenian Theseion ( Hephaisteion ) and was built in 1819-1823 by Austrian architect Peter von Nobile.