Bassae is an archaeological site in Oichalia, a municipality in the northeastern part of Messenia, Greece. In classical antiquity, it was part of Arcadia. Bassae lies near the village of Skliros, northeast of Figaleia. It is famous for the well-preserved mid- to late-5th century BC Temple of Apollo Epikourios. Bassae was the first Greek site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List (1986).
The Temple of Apollo Epikourios (‘Apollo the Helper’) was built in a quiet and isolated site, high on a rocky ridge of Mount Kotylion (1,131 metres) at Bassae in south-west Arcadia. The mountain is scored with ravines (bassai or bessai in ancient Greek), which gave the place the name “Bassae”.
Coordinates: 37° 25′ 47″ N, 21° 54′ 1″ E
Archaeological researches have determined that the site was in continuous use since the archaic period, the existing temple being the last of four on the site. The classical temple is thought to have been built between 430 BC and 400 BC. It is made of local grey limestone, while parts of the roof, the capitals in the cella and the sculptured decoration are made of marble. Like several other temples of Arcadia, the temple is aligned north-south, instead of the usual east-west, probably due to some local tradition or to the limited space available on the steep slopes of the mountain.
The temple is unique as it combines elements of the three architectural orders of antiquity (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian). Doric columns form the peristyle while Ionic columns support the porch and Corinthian columns feature in the interior. The Corinthian capital is the earliest example of the order found to date. The temple has six columns on the short side and fifteen on the long sides, instead of the period’s usual ratio 6 x 13. That feature gives the temple its characteristic elongated shape.
The most eminent decorative feature of the temple is the continuous Ionic frieze that run around the interior of the cella. On the south and south east sides of the frieze are arranged a series of slabs showing the battle fought by Herakles and the Greeks against the Amazons, the mythical race of warrior-women.
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