Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples

In ancient Greece, temple was the most important and widespread building. During the early 6th century BC, the first stone temples appeared and in the next century they began to appear in large numbers. Religious statue or cult emblems are usually housed in a Greek temple. Primarily their temples were monuments to the gods. Religion did not require people to gather inside the temple to worship the gods.

Massive columns are the most recognizable feature of the Greek temple. Three types of columns are used by the Greeks: the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian order. Some of the most famous Greek temples found around the Mediterranean are listed below.

10 Most Famous Greek Temples:

10. Temple of Olympian Zeus

Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples, Temple of Olympian Zeus
Temple of Olympian Zeus ; image credit – Flickr/Andrew Baldwin

The Temple of Olympia Zeus was constructed in Athens. Though only a few columns remain of the temple, it does not require much imagination to understand that this was one enormous temple. During the rule of the Athenian tyrants in the 6th century BC, the construction of the temple began. The tyrants envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world, but it was not completed then. Some 638 years after the project has begun, the temple was completed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD.

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9. Temple of Poseidon at Sounion

Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples, Temple of Poseidon at Sounion
Temple of Poseidon at Sounion ; image credit – Wikimedia/Belyshev

The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion is located at the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula in Greece. The temple is surrounded on three sides by the sea. This famous Greek Temple was constructed in approx. 440 BC. It was built over the ruins of another temple dating from the Archaic Period. There are only some columns of the Temple of Poseidon stand today. But intact it bears a resemblance with the Temple of Hephaestus beneath the Acropolis. It is believed that both temples were designed by the same architect.

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8. Temple of Zeus at Cyrene

Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples, Temple of Zeus at Cyrene
Temple of Zeus at Cyrene ; image credit – Wikimedia/David Stanley

The most important of the five Greek colonies in present-day Libya was the Cyrene. The Temple of Zeus sits high up from the rest of the city. It was constructed during the 5th century BC. In 115 AD a Jewish rebellion destroyed the temple. The Romans restored it 5 years later on the order of Emperor Hadrian. Again an earthquake reduced the temple to rubble in 365 AD once more.

But this time it was not rebuilt again until in modern times by British and Italian archaeologists. This temple represented the wealth and importance of Cyrene in the ancient Greek world. This famous Greek temple is larger than the Parthenon.

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7. Erechtheum

Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples, Erechtheum
Erechtheum ; image credit – Flickr/bisonlux

The Erechtheum is situated on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens. It was an ancient Greek temple of Ionic style. Between 421 and 407 BC, the temple as seen today was constructed. The origin of the name is derived from a shrine dedicated to the Greek hero Erichthonius. The temple is one of the most famous Greek temples probably for its idiosyncratic porch supported by six female figures known as the Caryatids.

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6. Temple of Apollo Epicurius

Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples, Temple of Apollo Epicurius
Temple of Apollo Epicurius ; image credit – Wikimedia/Carole Raddato

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius is located on a remote mountainside in the Peloponnese at Bassae. It is a well-preserved and very unusual Greek temple. Between 450 and 400 BC, the temple was constructed is aligned north-south. But most of the Greek temples are aligned east-west.

It is also unusual in that, the temple has examples of all three of the classical orders used in ancient Greek architecture. The peristyle is formed by the Doric columns while Ionic columns support the porch and the interior is featured in Corinthian columns. At present, a tent covers the temple of Apollo Epicurius in order to protect the ruins from the elements.

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5. Doric Temple of Segesta

Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples, Doric Temple of Segesta
Doric Temple of Segesta ; image credit – Wikimedia/Evan Erickson

Segesta is located in the northwestern part of Sicily. It was one of the major cities of the Elymian people, one of the three native peoples of Sicily. Both the Elymian and the Greek lived in Segesta. But the Elymians soon Hellenized and took on external characteristics of Greek life. Just outside the ancient site lies the well preserved Doric temple.

In the late 5th century BC, the temple was built and it comprises 6×14 Doric columns. Quite a few things suggest that the temple was never actually completed. For example, the main chamber does not seem to have any roof and also the Doric columns have not been fluted as they normally would have been.

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4. Paestum

Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples, Paestum
Paestum ; image credit – Wikimedia/Oliver-Bonjoch

Paestum is an ancient Greco-Roman city located in southern Italy close to the beach. There are three well preserved Greek temples in Paestum. The Temple of Hera is the oldest temple in Paestum that was built around 550 BC by Greek colonists. A century later another temple was built nearby and it was also dedicated to Hera, the goddess of marriage and childbirth. Built in about 500 BC, the Temple of Athena stands further away.

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3. Temple of Hephaestus

Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples, Temple of Hephaestus
Temple of Hephaestus ; image credit – Wikimedia/Storeye

The Temple of Hephaestus is the best-preserved and one of the most famous Greek temples in the world. It is located about 500 meters north-west of the famous Acropolis. In the 5th century BC, the temple was built in a district that contained many foundries and metalwork shops. Therefore, the temple was dedicated to the god of metal working Hephaestos. Ictinus designed the Temple of Hephaestus. He was an architect who also worked on the Parthenon.

2. Valley of the Temples

Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples, Valley of the Temples
Valley of the Temples ; image credit – Wikimedia/Berthold Werner

The Valley of the Temples is located on a ridge outside the city of Agrigento in Sicily. In the valley lie the remains of seven Greek temples. Constructed in the 5th century BC, the Temple of Concordia is the best preserved in the Valley. This famous Greek Temple is one of the largest and best preserved Doric style temples still standing.

Including the capitals, the Doric columns are 7 meters (22 feet) high and the diameter at the base is 1.3 meters (4.5 feet). Other temples include the Temple of Juno which was used for the celebration of weddings. The Temple of Heracles is the oldest Temple at the site which has only eight columns today.

1. Parthenon, Acropolis

Top 10 Most Famous Greek Temples, Parthenon, Acropolis
Parthenon, Acropolis ; image credit – Wikimedia/Steve Swayne

Located on top of the Acropolis, the Parthenon is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Greece. A trip to Athens is not complete without visiting this famous Greek temple. In 447 BC, the construction of the Parthenon was started and completed in 432 BC. The temple was built to replace an older temple that was destroyed by the Persians.

A massive statue of Athena Parthenos made from ivory, silver and gold was housed in the Parthenon. Sometime in the 5th century, one of the Roman Emperors looted the statue. The statue was taken to Constantinople where it was later destroyed. The Parthenon also served as a fort, a cathedral, a mosque and as a powder magazine during its long life.

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