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en face of templeAthenian Agora - The Hephaistion - Theseion Page Two

The name of the architect of the Hephaisteion is unknown, but he was probably responsible for the construction of three other, very similar temples in Attica: the temple of Nemesis at Rhamnous, the temple of Poseidon at Sounion and the temple of Ares at Pallene (which was transferred to the Agora by the Romans in the late 1st century BC).

The Hephaisteion is a typical example of a Classical 'hexastyle' temple, with six Doric columns on the short sides and thirteen on the long sides. The inner part (not accessible) has the usual tripartite arrangement of pronaos (front porch), cella or naos (main room) and opisthodomos (back room).

The overall dimensions of the temple are 13.7 x 31.8 m. It must have been a costly building, as it was largely made of marble and abundantly decorated with sculpture. Pentelic marble was used for the walls and columns and island marble for part of the ceiling and for the sculpture.

The metopes on the front (east side) of the temple depict nine of the Twelve Labors of Herakles. The easternmost four metopes on each of the long sides represent the exploits of Theseus, the legendary early king of Athens.

The frieze around the pronaos has scenes of Centaurs fighting Lapiths. (The centaurs, half horse half man, had been invited to the wedding of the daughter of the Lapith King, but got drunk and misbehaved terribly, trying to take off with the women. A fight ensued.)

The pedimental sculpture has unfortunately not been preserved. Because eight of the metopes depict the exploits of Theseus, the temple was initially identified as the Theseion (the name is preserved in that of the modern neighborhood and metro station).

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