Temple of Apollo

Syracuse, Italy

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.

Description

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.

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Details

Founded: 6th century BCE
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Italy

More Information

en.wikipedia.org
algila.it

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

steve e (5 months ago)
Disappointing in the amount and accessibility of site. Pictures give illusion of a large area. The immediate are is nice albeit touristy. This is one of the few places in Italy I would suggest not to stray to far from the tourist centers. The surrounding areas are... well kind of trashy.
Antonella Meier Paleari (6 months ago)
It's located on the Ortigia island and the little streets around it that are known as the Greek Ghetto are absolutely amazing. Definetly worth visiting and walking around.
Warwick Hall (6 months ago)
Imagination required to picture the temple in full glory. More about the area around the temple, nice places to sit and cafes nearby to grab an ice cream or coffee. Close to the food market too.
Peter Schutterlin (7 months ago)
Temple in ruins; great if that's what you like but not quite enough left to get the full 5*.
Floris Heijligers (7 months ago)
The Temple is not very interresting. Not worth an trip BUT the squares and Cathedrals nearby the Temple are very beautifull and the little streets are great to walk trough. Alsof very nicd to go dining in the little side streets.
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