This is the most significant temple of the ancient Greek goddess Hera. (The texts and photos have been selected from the website of the Ministry of Culture.) The first small-scale excavation of the site was carried out in 1702 by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (a doctor and naturalist). Many travellers during the 18th and 19th century visited the temple and sketched its ruins. In 1879 Paul Girard discovered “Cheramyes `s Hera” in the north-eastern corner of the temple, which today is exhibited in the Louvre museum in Paris. In 1902 and 1903 excavations were carried out by P. Kavadias and Th. Sofoulis on behalf of the Antiquity Society. In 1910 a more extensive search of the temple was carried out by Th. Wiegand and M. Schede for the Koenigliche Museum of Berlin but was discontinued due to the outbreak of World War I. From 1925 onwards systematic excavations were conducted by the German Archeological Institute of Athens which was run by E. Buschor but again were disrupted in 1939 upon the outbreak of World War II. Excavations began once again in 1951 and continue to our day. The most significant monuments and architectural complexes are: The temple of Hera
It is a dipteral (two-winged) temple of Ionic rhythm and is dated back to the age of the Tyrant of Samos, Polycratis (538-522 B.C). There is only one columnstanding in our days at half of its original height. The foundations of the temple are partly preserved up to the level of the floor base as well as the level of the column base. This temple was described by Herodotus as the greatest Greek temple of its time. The temple incorporates the outline of the cella and the pronaos (ante temple) of the older temple attributed to the ancient Greek architect Roikos (570/60BC) but its dimensions are larger, that is 108m x 55.16m. The increase in the dimensions of the temple was due to the fact that the galleries of its peristasis were re-enforced at the front and the rear, with a third colonnade apparently following the fashion of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, which had been built somewhat earlier. The number of columns was 155 and four different sizes and types can be identified. The entablature is considered to have been wooden. No traces of roof tiles were found however and thus it is concluded that the roof was never completed.
A great Altar The position of the altar remained unchanged since it was first built, while it was of considerable size even during its earlier phases (at least seven phases were identified – the oldest of which was a small altar made of gravel and belonged to the late Bronze Age. The altar dating to the 8th or 7th century was not orientated towards the temple but had – for religious reasons unknown to us – a north west to south east orientation. The altar reached monumental size around 560 BC along with the gigantic temple built by Roikos and Theodoros which was positioned along its axis. Judging from the lay out of the foundations that were found, its original size is estimated to be 36.50 x 16.5 m. It must have had the form of an open courtyard facing the temple which enclosed the main sacrificial altar and was surrounded on the three remaining sides by a protective wall with a height of 5-7m. The wall had imposing cymatia at the top while its interior was ordained with beautiful anaglyphic friezes depicting representations of beast fights and sphinxes. The two ends of the wall were lavishly decorated with sculptured anta capitals. The altar was rebuilt entirely from marble during the imperatorial age (1st -2nd century AD). From this phase we have the unique and renowned examples of architectural replicas based on archaic prototypes. The Sacred Road The road which led from the city of Samos (present-day Pythagorion) to the sanctuary, constituted from the beginning of the 6th century BC. (at the latest), a significant topographical feature of the area. Due to the fact that it was the main entrance of the sancturay, votive monuments were densely placed along the road. The gigantic marble “Kouros” statues and the “Geneleos Group” (a replica of which is placed to the north end) that were found along the sacred road offer a glimpse of the grandeur of these monuments from the archaic age. The solid stone paving of the road which has been uncovered in parts up to Pythagorion, was laid around 200 AD. During excavations that were being carried out with the aim to locate the main entrance of the sanctuary, the colossal statue of Kouros was discovered and is now exhibited in the Museum of Samos. Hecatompedon (100 feet) I and II This is considered to be one of the earliest Greek archaic temples. The fragmentary way in which it was preserved however, renders the comprehension of its structural ruins purely hypothetical. It is a rectangular structure with an entrance from the east and a length of about 33m. (100 ft.). The ratio of length to width is: 5 to 1. Its plinth walls were supported on a stone platform while a row of wooden posts resting on stone slabs along its central axis supported the roof. The cult statue (xoano) rested on a simple rectangular base of limestone slabs. The initial temple is dated back to the 8th century BC., while Hecatompedon II is dated to the middle of the 7th century BC.. The newer structure was built on the old foundations with changes to the wall masonry and possibly a peristasis, which was made up of wooden posts resting on a stone base. It is also possible that on the eastern side there were two rows of posts. The roofs of both temples were probably covered by ceramic tiles and were gabble-shaped. The South Building This is the southernmost building of the sanctuary; a pavilion facing the north-east. The cella and the pronaos (ante temple) were divided in two aisles by a colonnade in the middle and had the same geometrical ratio of 1 to 3 (39.30m. x 13.10 m.) as the temple of Roikos had. It is worth mentioning that the gallery of the peristasis does not reach the eastern side of the temple and thus the facade of the structure is formed by the antae of the ante temple, among columns widely spaced from one another. The structure, which must have been built in the middle of the 6th century BC., is considered to have had fluted pillars while no chapiters have been identified. Details:
This is the main sanctuary of Samos where, according to legend, the young goddess Hera was born and raised and where her wedding with Zeus took place. It is 5 kilometers from the town, on the east bank of the river Imbrasos, in marshland and near the sea and the ancients (Herodotus) accredit its establishment to the Leleges and the Nymphs. Here, in the marshes, an ancient icon of the goddess, which Pausanias had seen at the sanctuary, was found. Ruins from a preceding installation, dating back to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC., were found on the site the sanctuary. New life is detected in the area long after the destruction of the first settlement, around 1500 BC.; signs of a primary form of worship, a sacred tree, the osier, in the middle of a small square. Later, the settlement is destroyed. However, the remembrance of worship remains. With the new inhabitants, the Ionians, who arrived shortly before the beginning of the last millennium BC., the place of the last great goddess of nature was taken by Hera. The oldest architectural relics relating to her worship (9th to 8th century BC.) are a stone paved square, a layer of ashes and animal remains. In other words this is the position of the Geometric Age altar and a small temple for the protection of the goddess’ primitive wooden cult statue. The actual temple, the Hecatompedon, (with a length of 100 ft., 32.86m. x 6.50m.) with a single row of columns in its interior, is built in the beginning of the 8th century BC.. In the beginning of the 7th century BC., it is circumvallated by a wooden colonnade and in the middle of the same century, following some kind of destruction, in the place of the old temple, a new Hecatompedon is erected, incorporating a double row of columns at the facade. A little later the south gallery is built, with thin wooden posts resting on a stone base and in the beginning of the 6th century BC., the great temple of Hermes and Aphrodite follows. This is the heyday of the sanctuary: offerings from Syria, Egypt, and Cyprus and from every corner of the Hellenic world, adorn it. To the north of the great altar, a row of stone bases, where a ship that the sea-farer ‘Kolaios’ had dedicated to the goddess along with a large copper boiler were supported, still remain. There is an abundance of findings dating back to this period such as: copper, ivory, and majolica artifacts as well as clay vessels, which are kept in the Museum of Vathi. Among these items is a small ivory depiction of Perseus killing the medusa (beginning of 6th century BC.), the wonderful small ivory kneeling Kouros, the sacred wedding of Hera to the father of the gods Zeus, the marvelous wooden figurines and objects which were found lately and a series of copper “Grypas”(griffin) heads. From Hereon also originate all the statues of Kouros and kores, which constitute all the elements that comprise the characteristics of the so called “school of Samos” in sculpture.
In 570 BC., the erection of the great temple by the Samian architects Roikos and Theodoros, began, in an area which was created by the shifting of the river bed of Imbrasus towards the west. It was a dipteral (two-winged) temple, with two rows of columns totaling 132. So great was the impression that it created that the Greeks called it the labyrinth. Twenty years after its completion however, the temple was burnt down and a new temple was built on the ruins and foundations of the old. These are the only known facts about the monument today:
In 530 BC., the construction of the new temple by Polycratis, thegreatest structure according to Herodotus, that had ever been built to that day, in the whole of Greece, began. With the crucifixion of Polycratis in Mykali, the Persian wars and the Athenian Hegemony however, the temple was never completed. Work on the temple continued even until the Hellenistic Age, which the southern colonnade and the only pillar left standing in its place today belong to. The construction continued until the 1st century BC., but the cella of the temple was never completely incorporated. Simultaneously with the temple, the Grand Altar was being built as well in the place of the original altar, which had been renovated seven times until then and its final form was that of a large rectangle with a height of 3m.. In the 7th century sacred water tanks and the sanctuaries in honor of Hermes and Aphrodite as well as the large Ionic north gallery (70m.) were constructed. From time to time additional offerings, statues and small temples were made. In the 2nd century AD., a large processional stairway was constructed at the face of the temple, but it was most probably to suit the needs of the Roman temple which had been built at the time. During this time the old altar was rebuilt with marble. With the passing of time a settlement is established in the area of the sanctuary (2nd century AD.) and in the 3rd century AD., the Sacred Road is paved. During the same century however, the area is looted and destroyed. Two centuries later, in place of the sanctuary, followers of the new religion erect a temple of their own.