Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Monument Make-Over Volume 53 Number 5, September/October 2000
by Spencer P.M. Harrington and Yannis Stavrakakis

The temple of Apollo Epikourios, near Bassai in southern Greece, long admired for its proportions and stone sculpture, will undergo the first phase of a 20-year restoration program this fall. Said to be designed by the architect Iktinos, builder of the Parthenon, the temple of Apollo has for 14 years been covered by a white tent to protect it from rain. While harsh weather, biological erosion, seismic activity, and human scavenging have all degraded the 2,400-year-old monument, preservationists are most concerned about its settling foundation, which has caused its columns to lean considerably.

A local people called the Phigaleians built the temple in tribute to Apollo for restoring their homeland taken by the invading Spartans, according to the second-century A.D. Greek traveler Pausanias. The temple's frieze was plundered and sold to the British Museum early in the nineteenth century. Its present appearance is the result of restoration early in the twentieth century.

The new restoration will focus initially on the temple's north end. Ten columns will be repositioned temporarily, the foundation will be dismantled to permit water drainage and reinforcement, and architrave blocks will be removed to an on-site workshop for conservation.

"You have to remember that working conditions here are very difficult because of the weather," says Yannis Tzedakis, president of the Committee for the Preservation of the Temple of the Apollo Epikourios. "During the winter months it's cold, rainy, and snowy, and we can't work outside."

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America