The Temple of Apollo is one of the most important ancient Greek monuments in Syracuse. It is dated to the beginning of the 6th century B.C. and is therefore the most ancient Doric temple in Sicily and more or less, the first which corresponds to the model of the temple surrounded by a peripteros of stone columns that became standard in the whole Greek world.
The temple underwent several transformations: closed during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire, it was a Byzantine church, from which period the front steps and traces of a central door are preserved, and then an Islamic mosque during the Emirate of Sicily. Later it was restored to its previous purpose, becoming the Norman Church of the Saviour, which was then incorporated into a 16th-century Spanish barracks and into private houses, though some architectural elements remained visible.
These successive renovations severely damaged the building, which were rediscovered around 1890 inside the barracks and was brought to light in its entirety thanks to the efficient excavations of Paolo Orsi.
The temple's stylobate measures 55.36 x 21.47 metres, with its very squat columns in a 6 x 17 arrangement. It represents the moment of transition in the Greek west between temples with a wooden structure and those built completely out of stone, with a hexastyle front and a continuous colonnade around the perimeter which surrounds the pronaos and a naos divided into three aisles by two internal colonnades of more slender columns, which supported a wooden roof, which is difficult to reconstruct. At the back of the naos was a closed space, typical of Sicelian temples, called an adyton.
The construction of a building with forty-two monolithic columns, probably transported by sea, must have seemed incredible to its builders, as demonstrated by the unusual inscription on the top step on the eastern face dedicated to Apollo, in which the builder (or the architect) celebrates the construction of the building with an emphasis on the pioneering character of the construction.
The remains permit the reconstruction of the original appearance of the temple, which belongs to the proto-doric period and shows uncertainties in construction and style, such as the extreme closeness of the columns on the sides, the variation of the intercolumniation, the lack of concern for the correspondence of the triglyphs with the columns and archaic aspects the very elongated floor plan. The architrave was unusually high and lightened at the back by an L-shaped cross section.
Some aspects are very experimental, such as the importance given to the eastern face with a double colonnade, wider separation of the central columns and more generally a pursuit of emphasis rather than proportional harmony. The pioneering building was a defining step in the emergence of the peripteral Doric temple in Sicily, representing a sort of local prototype which juxtaposed aspects developed in mainland Greece with an unusual height which was imitated only in Magna Graeca, as well as the presence of the adyton, which was probably the location of the sacred image and formed the centre of the whole building.
Terracotta from the structure is preserved in the Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi in Syracuse, along with fragments of the gutter and of the akroteria, and some roof tiles, probably among the first produced in Sicily.References:
The settlement of Trepucó is one of the largest on Menorca, covering an area of around 49,240 square metres. Today, only a small part of the site can still be seen, the two oldest buildings, the talaiots (1000-700 BCE). Other remains include parts of the wall, two square towers on the west wall, the taula enclosure and traces of dwellings from the post-Talayotic period (650-123 BCE).The taula enclosure is one of the biggest on the island, despite having been subjected to what, by today’s standards, would be considered clumsy restoration work. This is one of the sites excavated around 1930 by Margaret Murray, a British archaeologist who was a pioneer of scientific research on Prehistoric Menorca.
The houses are perfectly visible on the west side of the settlement, due to excavation work carried out several years ago. They are multi-lobed with a central patio area and several rooms arranged around the outside. Looking at the settlement, it is easy to see that there was a clear division between the communal area (between the large talaiot and the taula) and the domestic area.The houses near the smaller talaiot seem to have been abandoned at short notice, meaning that the archaeological dig uncovered exceptionally well-preserved domestic implements, now on display in the Museum of Menorca.The larger talayot and the taula stand at the centre of a star-shaped fortification built during the 18th century.