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The Development of Ancient Greek Temples

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The Development of Ancient Greek Temples

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  • October 2008
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A temple is defined as an edifice or place dedicated to the service or worship of a deity or deities. Temples in Ancient Greece date back to as far as the late 9th century B.C. Each temple serves to worship a god or goddess, but the architectural structure of these temples has changed over time. This is because of changing religious practices in Greece as well as functions of individual temples. “Within a few centuries, the Greeks developed the temple from the small mud-brick structures of the 9th century BC and the 8th century BC into the monumental double porticos of the 6th century, often reaching more than 20 m in height.” Ancient Greek temples have developed and changed over time because of where, when, and why they were created.

The palace-based civilization of the Mycenaean Greeks collapsed around 1200 B.C., which in turn led to about 400 years of poverty. During this time, sometimes call the Dark Age, few traces of art were found. Not until the late 9th or early 8th century did Greece become more prosperous again. With this prosperity brought about the construction of religious temples. These communal temples differed from the Mycenaean palaces, most likely because of influence from the Near East (Spawforth). As Greece grew in prosperity, temples became bigger and more elaborate. The Ancient Greeks considered everything to be full of gods, and wherever they sensed an active deity, they dedicated the site to him and his adoration (Berve). However, they were dedicated mainly to the Olympic gods. Greek temples were essentially simple buildings comprised of a central structure surrounded by a colonnade. The plan of the interior changes, but the typical plan consists of a pronaos, cella, and opisthodomos. The plan at right is a common plan of a Greek temple. They were houses for the gods rather than places for congregational worship. The actual practice of religion was focused on the altar, which was usually separate from the temple. The...