ARCHAIC GREEK ART AFTER THE GRECO-PERSIAN WARS. PANHELLENIC SANCTUARIES.

The Terrace of the Lions at the Sanctuary of Delos (Greece).

In Greece, besides the temples dedicated to local deities located in small cities, there were also several sacred places where a common piety brought Greek peoples together. The most famous of these sacred places were the great sanctuaries of Delphi, Olympia, and Delos. Usually, these sanctuaries were crossed by a main road called Via Sacra, as in Delphi. The sanctuary used to be enclosed within a precinct known as peribolos which was accessed through a monumental gate or Propylaea. In these sanctuaries a myriad of votive monuments, sacred and recreational buildings were built around the central temple, as well as small buildings in the form of in antis temples or treasures which were small chapels designated for each city as a warehouse for votives or to bring together fellow pilgrims during the great feasts and solemnities. In some treasures of the Ionian cities (like the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi) the architrave was supported by two female figures like korai with long braids and wide folded robes. These female figures serving as columns were the ancestors of the famous caryatids of the Erechtheum in Athens where they formed a beautiful portico.

Reconstruction of the Siphnian Treasury, ca. 525 BC. at the Sanctuary of Delphi (Greece). Note the columns like korai figures.
Reconstruction of the Sanctuary of Delphi.

In the Sanctuary of Delphi was the Temple of Apollo, hexastyle and peripteral (i.e. with columns all around), at the farthest area of its cella had a small chamber for the oracle. In the main pediment of this temple was represented the battle between gods and giants. Besides the Temple of Apollo, at the top of the precinct of Delphi, was a theater and outside the city walls was the stadium used for races and athletic games. Greek stadiums were elongated with grandstands on each side, at one end they ran in a semicircle so that the chariots and horses could turn easily, at the other end they were closed. In the center the stadium had a low wall decorated with statues which served to divide the track.

The ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, a peripteral doric temple.
Sculptures (ca. 513-500 BC.) from the East Pediment of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. They represent the arrival of Apollo in Delphi: the chariot of Apollo, with his horses facing front, occupied the center of the pediment. On either side of the quadriga are a trio of figures, korai on the left and kouroi on the right. At the corners are animal groups in the tradition of early archaic pedimental sculpture: on the left are a lion and a bull, on the right a lion and a deer (Delphi Archaeological Museum).
Theater of Delphi, ca. 4th century BC.
Stadium of Delphi, ca. 5th century BC.
Reconstruction of the Sanctuary of Olympia, (Greece).

The Sanctuary of Olympia had the same essential elements of Delphi’s. The Temple of Zeus at Olympia had in its cella the famous giant statue of the Olympian god Zeus executed by Phidias, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Ruins of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia built between 472 and 456 BC.
Reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. This temple was the very model of the fully developed classical Greek temple of the Doric order.

Two beautiful groups of monumental sculpture were executed for pediments of the Temple of Zeus in mid V century BC. The themes represented in these pediments were two. The first included the myth of the hero Pelops, who was portrayed besides Oenomaus with Zeus in the center.   Pelops and Oenomaus appeared ready to ride their respective chariots  for the race in which the fate of Hippodamia will be decided. The second theme located on the other pediment depicted the scene of the fight that followed the wedding of Pirithous, when centaurs (who were invited to the wedding) wanted to kidnap women instigated by the anger of Ares and were consequently defeated by the Lapitas led by Theseus. At the center stood Apollo, invisible, presiding the combat and extending his arm to decide the victory.

East pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (Museum of Olympia), ca. 450 BC, representing the chariot race between King Oenomaus and Pelops.
Reconstruction of the East pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia.
“The Beholder” (Museum of Olympia), statue of the east pediment of the Temple of Zeus.

It is admirable how in Olympia the statues were distributed in the triangular space of the temple’s pediments. While the protagonists nobly stand in the center, the secondary figures lie down or crouch half hidden in the angles of both sides. In regards to style and technique, the Olympia sculptures revealed great progress. In one of the fight scenes the group of a centaur abducting one of the women appears full of movement. The metopes of the Temple of Zeus in Olympia were also decorated with beautiful sculptures alluding to the myth of Hercules, the favorite hero of Zeus father of gods.

West pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (Museum of Olympia), ca. 450 BC, representing the battle between Lapiths and Centaurs.
Reconstruction of the West pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia.
Statue of Apollo from the west pediment of the Temple of Zeus (Museum of Olympia). Apollo raises his arm to decide the victory of the Lapiths over centaurs.
Eurytion the centaur kidnaps Pirithous’ wife, king of the Lapiths, the day of their wedding, a sculpture of the west pediment of the Temple of Zeus. It is considered a masterpiece of Doric statuary (Museum of Olympia).
Reconstruction of the sculptures on the metopes of the Temple of Zeus.
Ruins of the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina.

Apart from the sanctuary of Delos, the fourth Panhellenic sanctuary was the temple built on top of a promontory in the island of Aegina. The Temple of Aphaia at Aegina was dedicated to a local deity, the goddess Aphaia, of Cretan origin. The sculptural decoration of the pediments of Aegina represented the fights between Greeks and Trojans. In the pediments of Aegina, Palas Athena is the central figure serving as fate’s arbiter and demonstrating the political supremacy of Athens after the Greco-Persian Wars.

East pediment of the Temple of Aphaia at Egina (Glyptothek Munich), ca. 500-480 BC, representing scenes of the Trojan war.
Reconstruction of the east pediment of the Temple of Aphaia at Egina.
Fallen warrior with shield, sculpture of the east pediment of the Temple of Aphaia (Glyptothek Munich).
West pediment of the Temple of Aphaia at Egina (Glyptothek Munich), ca. 500-480 BC, representing scenes of the Trojan war.
Reconstruction of the west pediment of the Temple of Aphaia at Egina.
Dying warrior, sculpture of the west pediment of the Temple of Aphaia (Glyptothek Munich).
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