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Temple of Hera, Ancient Olympia
Temple of Hera in Olympia
The temple of Hera is (was) standing at the east of the Philippion. The origin of the cult of Hera in Olympia is not quite clear. It is considered that in earlier times this temple was dedicated to Zeus or to Zeus and Hera and only when the temple of Zeus was completed, it became an exclusive temple of Hera.

It was constructed around 600BC and is the oldest preserved buildin gin Olympia and one of the oldest temple extant in Greece.

It is of the Doric order and 50m long x 18.76m wide. It is a peripteral hexastyle temple and there are 6 columns on the front and back and 16 on both sides (the columns at the corners are counted twice), comprising pronaos, cella and opistodomos. The cella is devided in three isles by two rows of columns. The pronaous and opistodomos had two columns in front (distule in antis).

The columns are 5.21 m high. They were originally made of wood and were gradually replaced by stone columns. For this reason, the columns and capitals are slightly different among each other. Pausanias testifies that some of the columns were still wooden.

Terracotta akroterion of the temple in the museum

The temple was roofed with terracotta tiles and the akroterion is now housed at the archaeological museum.

Inside the cella, there were statues of Zeus and Hera; the statue bases are still in situ. In pronaous there are six bases for the statue of Elean women; in Antiquity, 16 noble women of Elea, who organized Heraia (festival of Hera), wove a peplos and dedicated it to the statue of Hera.

Hermes by Praxiteles
Hermes holding baby Dionysos by Praxiteles

The statue of Hermes holding baby Dionysos by Praxiteles was found during the excavation of this temple. According to Pausanias, the temple's treasure included the Disk of Iphitos (boring the inscritiption of the terms of the Olympic truce, the Chest of Kypselos (richly decorated cedar-wood chest dedicated by the descendents of the Corinthian tylant), the Teble of Kolotes (a table made of gold and ivory used to display the olive wreaths for the Olympic victors), but they are all lost now.


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