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The temples

This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of Ancient Greece.

Once the Greeks began to make sculptures of their gods in human form, the temple which housed the statue became an essential part of any sanctuary. In the beginning, temples were made of branches, then of wood and raw brick. It was not until the 7th and 6th centuries that temples were built with marble, limestone or tuff. 

Most of the temples were rectangular:

- The centre of the temple was the naos, the room which housed the god’s statue.

- In front of the naos was the entry hall or pronaos, while behind, there was a second room, the opisthodomos, the place where offerings were left for the god. 

This construction was often surrounded by an open portico: in a peripteros temple, the external portico was extended to form a peristyle. In order to create a harmonious building, the number of columns along the length of the building was often twice the number of columns across the width, plus one. 

In general, the temples faced east and were positioned so that on the main feast day the rising sun would fall on the god’s statue, standing in front of the door. 

In the 6th century, two dominant architectural styles were used in temple construction: Doric and Ionic. 

The Doric order focused on gravity, strength, severity and a certain sense of idealistic simplicity.

This style, which is the oldest, is found in Greece and Greece Magna.

The temple of Paestum in Italy and the Parthenon in Athens are amongst the most famous Doric buildings.


The Ionic style was more refined that the Doric, reflecting the luxurious region in which it originated, and was particularly elegant and flexible. It was first used in Ionia and in the Aegean islands at the end of the 6th century. These temples are also found in Attica, such as the Temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis.  


The Corinthian order was a later version of the Ionic, dating from the latter half of the 5th century. Corinthian temples can be distinguished from Ionic temples by the use of acanthus leaves to decorate the capital.