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Hellenic Minstry of Culture – Ephorate of Antiquities of Ilia

Temple of Apollo Epicurious

Bassae, Figaleia


“..ναῶν δὲ ὅσοι Πελοποννησίοις εἰσί, μετά γε τὸν ἐν Τεγέᾳ προτιμῷτο οὗτος ἂν τοῦ λίθου τε ἐς κάλλος καὶ τῆς ἁρμονίας ἕνεκα…”

Of all the temples of the Peloponnese, after the temple of Tegea, this one could take the first place for the beauty of the marble and the harmonious ensemble
Pausanias, Description of Greece, VIII 41, 8

At a glance

Built at an altitude of 1130 m., in the mountainous, lonely Arcadian landscape of Basson Figaleia, in today’s Ilia, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is one of the best preserved temples of the classical era, with conservative and at the same time innovative features and is considered a milestone in history of ancient Greek architecture.


The famous Athenian architect Iktinos built the temple dedicated mainly to Apollo, god of Light and Reason during the years of the Peloponnesian War (420 – 400 BC).


It was a votive offering by the inhabitants of the Arcadian city of Figalia. The remains of the city are located at a distance of approximately 13 kilometres southwest of Bassae.


It was the first of the Greek monuments to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1986.


The name of the site means “wooded gorges”. The area belongs to Mount Kotilio, which in turn is part of the mountainous mass of the mythical Lycaeon Mount of Arcadia with its many ancient cults.

Corinthian Style

In the monument, the three ancient architectural styles—the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian—are masterfully combined. The Corintian Style makes its appearance for the first time in the history of architecture


We owe the unique testimony and description of the great temple of Bassae to Pausanias, the great traveler and writer of the 2nd century AD.

“….And suddenly, at a turn of the mountain, the famous temple of Epicurious Apollo rises unexpectedly in front of him. Directly facing the cliff, shaped as it is with the same stones of the mountain, you feel the deep response of the landscape and the temple. Like a piece of the mountain, stone from its stone, the temple seems inseparably wedged between the rocks, a rock too, but a rock over which the spirit passed. The pillars of the temple, carved and placed in this way, express the essence of all this mountainous austerity and desolation. You are confident that it is the head of the landscape, of the sacred area, where its mind is kept, vigil, and protected. And here the ancient art, continuing and perfectly expressing the landscape, does not surprise you. Agility, calmness, from a human path takes you, without panting, to the top.”

Nikos Kazantzakis


See the monument in 3D on your screen

Temple of Epicurius Apollo



The classical temple has been founded on the natural rock, on a specially shaped plateau. It does not have the usual E-W orientation, but N-S, perhaps for cultic reasons connected with the Arcadian religious tradition, since other temples in the area show the same orientation.

Construction material

The main structural material of the temple is the local layered, gray limestone. Marble was also used in the sculptural decoration.


Its exaggerated longitudinal axis with 15 columns on the long sides and 6 on the narrow ones, characterizes the temples of the Archaic era, instead of the 13×6 rule that had prevailed at the time of its construction.

Temple of Epicurius Apollo

Sculptural decoration

Doric frieze

The temple had an exterior Doric frieze with undecorated metopes and triglyphs, while only the interior metopes of the narrow sides were decorated in relief. The six metopes of the pronaus depicted the return of Apollo to Olympus from the Hyperborean countries, and the abduction of the daughters of the Messinian king Leucippus by the Dioscuri. It is not certain that the gables had sculptural decoration.

Ionic frieze

A prominent decorative element of the temple was the marble Ionic frieze, which was created by the famous sculptor Paionios and surrounded the interior of the nave, above the Ionic semi-columns. The frieze had a total length of 31 meters and consisted of 23 marble slabs. Twelve of them depict an Amazon battle and the remaining eleven a Centaur battle.

The elongated nave is divided into two parts. In the main nave, a unique element is the presence on the two walls of two rows with 5 Ionic semi-columns, which adjoin the wall of the nave. The oldest known example of a Corinthian column capital is placed among the southernmost Ionic, or according to other scholars also Corinthian semi-columns.

Ιωνική ζωφόρος στο εσωτερικό του σηκού.

“…. The Temple of Apollo at Bassai, with its grandeur and its (mysterious) complexity, seems the only surviving witness to ancient southwest Arcadia at its peak. Those who have visited the area, however, know that there is another ‘silent’ but equally powerful witness: its natural beauty.

This land, at the meeting-point of the borders of the modern prefectures of Arcadia, Ilia and Messenia, is one of the few areas of the Peloponnese to remain essentially untouched by modern rural development and to escape being built-up.

Its natural beauty, with its constantly shifting landscape, light and colours usually entrances visitors, making those with a knowledge of archaeology wonder in what dense oak forest the ancient goat-footed god will appear, or in what spring they might glimpse nymphs bathing…”*

Konstantinos Papadopoulos
Civil Engineer, Dr

Ephorate of Antiquities of Ilia
Head of the Department of Archaeological Surveys and Studies
Head of the Restoration project of the Temple of Apollo

* excerpt from the book:
Papadopoulos K. “The Temple of Apollo at Bassai. The Least Known of the famous monuments of ancient Greek Architecture”.
Hellenic Ministry of Culture
Ephorate of Antiquities of Ilia
Pyrgos 2023

Restoration work

The damage that the Bassae monument bears, is the result of many factors, such as the various harmful human interventions, the failure of the foundation and the consequent subsidence and deformations which caused the great deviations of the columns from the vertical axis and the deformations of the stones of the architrave. Furthermore, the adverse weather conditions and earthquakes contributed in the ware .

  • In 1902-1908, the first serious restoration effort was made by the Athens Archaeological Society.
  • After the earthquakes of 1965 and 1966, strengthening works were carried out by the Department of Restoration of the Ministry of Culture.
  • With the establishment of the Commission for the Maintenance of the Temple of Epikourious Apollo (ESNEA) in 1975, an important effort to preserve the monument begins.
  • In 1985, an anti-seismic scaffolding was installed.
  • In 1986, a lightning protection system was installed.
  • In 1987, a temporary shelter (canopy) was built following a dedicated study in order to protect the monument from the frost and the staff working in the temple, until its restoration is completed.
  • The work of conserving the northern wing (2001 – 2015), led to the complete restoration of the northern face of the monument. It was funded successively by the 2000-2006 CSF (€2,834,734.86), with T.D.P.E.A.E. as the implementing body. of the Ministry of Health and from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2007-2013 (€1,117,883.26) with the responsible authority T.D.P.E.A.E. and then the Directorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture.
  • The first phase of the work of the restoration of the long sides of the monument has been included in the current National Strategic Reference Framework of Greece (NSRF 2014 – 2020). Its implementation started in September 2019 and expected to be completed in 2023. The implementing body of the project is the Ephorate of Antiquities of Ilia of the Ministry of Culture.

“Restoration – Enhancement of the Temple of Epicurious Apollo of Bassae – Phase 3”

The ongoing since 2019 sub-project of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Ilia, aims to restore the parts of the long wings (collonade) that are directly adjacent to the north wing, already restored from the first and second phases.

The €1,370,213.76 budget sub-project is financed by

Επιχειρησιακό Πρόγραμμα “Επιχειρηματικότητα, Ανταγωνιστικότητα και Καινοτομία” 2014-2020

In the context of the sub-project, until February 2023, the following works have been carried out:


reinforced welds of large fragments and complements of architectural members


restored headstones have been repositioned in the east wing


architrave stones and one of the four columns have been restored, having previously been removed


of the overall work.

Greece has 18 monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage List, geographically spread over 21 regions. They represent all periods of Greek creation from prehistory to modern times.

Monumental Adventures at the Greek UNESCO Monuments

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