Athenian Agora - The Temple of Apollo Patroos

temple of apollo ancestors planThe small temple of Apollo Patroos (the 'Fatherly' or 'Ancestral' Apollo) was built in 350-300 BC, in the area between the Metroon (the shrine of Meter that also served as the city's archive) and the Stoa of Zeus Eleuheros. The temple in the Agora measures ca. 10 x 16.5 m and has four columns on the east façade. Apollo, whose temples are often found in or near the agoras of ancient Greek cities, was here called 'Fatherly' or 'ancestral' because he was believed to have been the father of Ion, the progenitor of all the Ionic Greek people (including the Athenians).

Apollo had secretly slept with Kreusa, the daughter of king Erechtheus of Athens and the wife of Xouthos. When she gave birth to a son nine months later Apollo immediately took the boy to his famous sanctuary at Delphi, so her husband would not find out. The priests there gave him the name 'Ion'. As the marriage between Xouthos and Kreusa had remained childless, Xouthos went to Delphi to ask the oracle for advice. He was told that the first person he was to meet on his way out of the sanctuary would be his son. This was Ion, who was acknowledged by Xouthos because he vaguely remembered an apollo statueaffair with a Maenad during an orgy for Dionysos in his younger years.

Back in Athens, Kreusa at first did not recognize her son and tried to poison him. The priests of Apollo eventually explained the situation to Kreusa and Ion (Xouthos was left in the dark) and Ion later became king of Athens. A 2.5 meter tall statue of a draped Apollo, who probably played the kithara (now in the colonnade of the Agora Museum), was found near the temple and may be the cult statue by the sculptor Eupranor that was seen by Pausanias.

The 4th century BC temple now visible had an Archaic predecessor of apsidal form (i.e. with one rounded end). This early Apollo temple had been burnt by the Persians in 480-479 BC. Associated with this Archaic temple is a 6th century BC bronze-working pit in which was discovered the clay mould for a late Archaic kouros. The fragments of the mold are in the Agora Museum.

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