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What is the Temple of Apollo at Bassae?

The Temple of Apollo is dedicated to the god of music and poetry.
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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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The Temple of Apollo at Bassae is a religious site in Greece. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been since 1986. The site is considered by most to be one of the most incredible examples of Classical architecture and art, and is an extremely popular tourist attraction.

The Temple of Apollo at Bassae was built in the 5th century BCE by the Greek architect Iktinos. Iktinos is also known for designing the Parthenon, as well as a Eleusinian structure, the Telesterion at Eleusis. The Temple of Apollo at Bassae was built well into the Arcadian mountains, and its remote location is part of what has allowed it to remain so well preserved over the years.

The Temple of Apollo at Bassae was built on a site that once housed an even older temple. It was built by the people of Figalos in gratitude to Apollo, after his intervention spared the people from a deadly plague. Apollo was looked at as a protector god, being the god of healing as well as of the sun. The Temple of Apollo at Bassae is also sometimes referred to as the Temple of Apollo Epicurius or Apollo Epikourious, where Epikoourious is Greek for helper.

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The Temple of Apollo at Bassae was largely forgotten by the world for many centuries, and was spared the ravages of war and looters. It wasn’t until the late-18th century that a French architect stumbled upon it, and it became known to the world. In the early-19th century, King George IV of England seized a number of marble friezes from the temple, moving them to the British Museum, where they are still on display.

The site was excavated by archeologists beginning in the early-20th century, and continuing into the latter part of the century. Recently, researchers have looked at how to restore the temple, and funds for conservation work are being raised to bring the site back to a more historical splendor. While the site is being restored, it is housed under a large tent to protect it from the inclement weather of the region.

The Temple of Apollo at Bassae is loosely modeled after the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and is constructed of limestone quaried from the surrounding mountains. The most interesting architectural feature of the Temple of Apollo at Bassae is the Corinthian column that was housed in the cella of the temple. This column is thought to have been the oldest Corinthian column discovered, although it was destroyed during early excavation.

The site itself is an excellent destination for a half-day’s exploration. The setting is stunningly beautiful, and the large columns and sweeping expanses of limestone give the entire structure a majestic feel. After visiting the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, most travelers continue up the mountain to take in the amazing vista of nearby Mt. Lykaeon, the Nedhas River, and the Ionian Sea.

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