The Old Temple of Athena Polias

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Farther along the Sacred Way we notice the foundations of an ancient temple in front of the Erechtheion. On account of its length of 100 Attic feet, this edifice was wrongly believed for centuries to be the Hecatompedon, until identified as the Old Temple of Athena Polias (Athena of the City). This is the most ancient building uncovered on the Acropolis; it was originally a simple sanctuary dating from the remotest times. The modest Doric temple of limestone was restored in the sixth century BC by Peisistratus, who embellished it by adding a colonnade and pediments depicting a Battle of the Giants, while its opisthodomos served as the Athenian Treasury.

In this heap of stones, enclosed by a railing, we can distinguish two bases in poros for the support of wooden pillars belonging to the Mycenaean megaron (palace) of the first King of   Athens . This was the center of the public life of the citadel and extended as far as the north wall of the Erechtheion. A flight of rock-cut steps built in Pelasgic times connected the megaron and the Acropolis with the lower city. Later, in historical times, on these Mycenaean vestiges was raised the above mentioned Temple of Athena Polias, a rectangle of 32.80 m. long, that is 100 feet, whence its name of “Hecatompedon” (temple of a hundred feet). This temple was rebuilt after it was destructed during the persian invasion but it appears that after the completion of the Erechtheion it became useless and an encumbrance, and was finally destroyed in 406 BC.

Opposite the ruins of the Old Temple of Athena Polias and close to the seventh column of the Parthenon, there is an inscription which reads: This spot was consecrated, after being indicated by an oracle, to the Fruitful Earth. Exactly on this spot was a statue of Earth beseeching Zeus to send rain. Nearby is a circular base, which formerly bore the statues of Conon and his son Timotheus and farther along is the base of a statue dedicated to Hermolycos, son of Deitrephes.

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18 thoughts on “The Old Temple of Athena Polias

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