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Bassae, Temple of Apollo Epikourios, frieze

The ancient travel writer Pausanias in the second century CE explains that the temple was dedicated to Apollo Epikourios (‘the helper’) because it had been built during a pause in the Peloponnesian wars, in return for escaping a plague. But Arcadia was famous for supplying mercenaries, known as epikouroi, and dedication to the god of mercenaries might neatly explain the way in which the sculpted frieze which ran around the inside of the temple is dominated by battle scenes, between Greeks, Centaurs and Amazons. The picture shows one slab.

The temple’s architect was Iktinos, who also designed the Parthenon. Unusually, it combines all three architectural orders, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian; the last being its first known use in Greek architecture.

The temple has survived in its bleak and rocky location in good condition through to modern times, and is nowadays protected by a huge covering tent while restorations are underway. It is a UNESCO world heritage site

Location of Original: 

London British Museum 520-

25m long

Ten of the sixteen slabs were obtained by Henry Sidgwick from Brucciani of London and donated by him to the Fitzwilliam Museum on 29 May 1880, and transferred to the Museum in 1884. The other six slabs were purchased from Brucciani in 1884


Lippold: Griechische Plastik, 201, pl. 741
Richter: Sculpture & Sculptors of the Greeks (1950), figs.106, 197-9, 201-4, 298-301
Kenner, H: Der Fries des Tempels von Bassae (1946)
Dinsmoor: Temple of Apollo at Bassae (1933)
Walston: Catalogue of Casts in the Museum of Classical Archaeology (1889), 53, nos.229-245
Smith: Catalogue of British Museum Sculpture I (1892), 280, no.522
Burn: Greek and Roman Art (1991), 68

c.420 BCE

Excavated on site (at Phigaleia in Arcadia) from 1811 onwards. Purchased by the British Government in 1814

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