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Marble block from the frieze of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios


Length: 70.000 inches

GR 1815.10-20.18 (Sculpture 541)

Room 16: Bassai sculptures

    Marble block from the frieze of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios

    Greek, about 420-400 BC
    Bassae, south-west Arcadia, Greece

    Herakles and Greeks fighting the Amazons

    The Temple of Apollo Epikourios ('Apollo the Helper') was built high on a rocky ridge of Mt. Kotylion at Bassae in south-west Arcadia, a region of the Greek Peloponnese. The Greek historian Pausanias, writing in the second century AD, says that the name 'Helper' was given to Apollo by citizens of nearby Phigaleia, as thanks for their deliverance from the plague of 429-427 BC. He also says that the temple was designed by Iktinos, one of the architects of the Parthenon.

    The lay of the land dictated that the temple had to be built on a north-south axis, instead of east-west, which was more usual for Greek temples. Local limestone was used, except for the sculpture and some architectural details such as column capitals, which are in marble.

    The frieze ran high around the interior of the principal room. This block was placed facing the doorway as you entered from the north. The subject matter is divided between two mythological battles: Greeks fighting Centaurs, and, as here, Greeks fighting Amazons. A central scene shows Herakles naked on the right, fighting with Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. Herakles wears his lion-skin and wields a club. The capture of Hippolyta's belt was one of the twelve labours set for the hero by his cousin Eurystheus.

    I. Jenkins and D. Williams, 'The arrangement of the sculptured frieze from the Temple of Apollo at Bassae' in Sculpture from Arcadia and Lac (Oxford, Oxbow, 1993)

    J. Boardman, Greek sculpture: the late Clas (London, Thames and Hudson, 1995)


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