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Greece: Aphaia Temple

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Aphaia Temple | Greece | Europe

[Visited: August 2005]

Arriving in the village of Aegina by boat, I wanted to go right away to the temple of Aphaia. Since the bus would not leave any time soon, and bicycles were ridiculously expensive to rent, I took a taxi. The driver took me over a winding road to the northeastern side of the island, where I saw the temple on top of a hill completely covered by pine trees. I first called at the small museum which offered some clear explanations and has reconstructions of part of the temple. I also learned that this site has had a religious function since around 1300BCE, when a female, fertile deity was worshipped. Then, I headed to the temple itself.

Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Temple of Aphaia on Aegina island

Aphaia was a goddess only known to Aegina, and her origins lie in Crete, where she was known as Britomartis. She escaped her admirer Minos and emerged from the sea on Aegina, according to myth. The temple that still stands today, is actually the third version, and was built around 500BCE. The previous one had been burned, but some remains can still be seen. Most of the temple is built using local limestone, but some parts, notably the sculptures of the pediment, are made of Parian marble. They depict the battle of Troy, and Athena has a central role in them. That is why originally the temple was thought to be in her honour.

Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Aphaia temple: some of the many Doric columns

Unfortunately, as is often the case, the remains of the pedimental sculptures of Aphaia temple were taken away, some to Munich others to Athens. Walking around the temple, looking up at the columns and even seeing some paint in some parts, inevitably makes you wonder how it all looked like some 2500 years ago. For sure, the sun was there, the singing of the cicadas, as was the superb view over the sea and surrouding lands. The view of former arch rival Athens must have been radically different in those times.

Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Aphaia temple: looking up towards the sky
Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Aphaia temple: looking at a corner
Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Temple of Aphaia: the entrance
Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Aphaia temple: close-up of capitals
Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Aphaia temple: close up of Doric columns
Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Aphaia temple: view from a distance
Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Aphaia temple seen through one of the trees
Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Aphaia temple: view over Athens
Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Aphaia temple: Doric columns at one of the corners
Picture of Aphaia Temple (Greece): Temple of Aphaia: looking through the temple

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