Bassae -The Temple of Apollo Epikourios (the Helper/Saviour) : c 450-420 BC
Pollitt 118,126-131; 52,56,57 Robertson 136-138,146n,328; 58,59,593 Coulton 126-8,146; 49,50,55a/b,63e Blue Guide 362-3 (5th ed) Richter 35; 27 Burn 201-2
1. The temple is sited at 3710ft, on a narrow terrace of Mt Kotilion [scored with ravines (bassai) in the small state of Phigaleia (Arcadia,Peloponnese). Isolated in the bleak and lonely Arcadian hills, most of the columns and the architrave are still in place because of the inaccessibility of the temple (lost until 1765 AD).
2. Phigaleia was a very small state, and this Doric temple required a tremendous effort to be embarked upon; cost was a major factor in the design and execution. Pausanias, who saw and admired it, tells us that the temple was built as a thanksgiving to Apollo for deliverance from a plague in 430 BC, but some parts of the temple contain features (eg exterior design) pointing to a date c450 BC. The Ionic interior however is late 5thC in design and the style of the continuous Ionic frieze on the inside of the cella is later than the Parthenon.
3. According to Pausanias, Ictinus, the designer of the Parthenon and the best-known architect in the Greek world, was commissioned from Athens to design the building, which shows the extraordinary efforts made by Phigaleia. Ictinus must have worked on this tenple before the Parthenon.
4. The poorness of Phigaleia meant that costs had to be cut and,though the temple is remarkably advanced and refined, it does not have the grace of the Parthenon nor the finer details:
a) the temple is much smaller than the Parthenon
(though enormous for a community of this size)
b) the temple mostly made from the local silver-grey limestone; little marble
c) the temple contains only a few optical corrections and subtleties because of the extraordinary labour
and accuracy required:
i) the stylobate and entablature do not curve on the horizontal:
ii) there is entasis on the columns
iii) the columns do not incline inwards but stand bolt-upright,
so that they seem to lean inwards
iv) the spacing of the columns is not altered at the corners,
so there was no attempt to solve the triglyph problem.
The temple, although provincial in position and workmanship, nevertheless incorporated dramatic new features:
i) a side door to the cella with the cult statue facing it
ii) Ionic capitals unique pattern; half-columns attached by cross-walls
iii) a single new type of column -Corinthian -free-standing
iv) a continuous frieze running at top of interior wall of cella.
Style It is Doric peripteral hexastyle (6x15) 48' x 126'
Its principal facade faces N, perhaps because it was built over an earlier temple constructed like this because of the lie of the land. The E door satisfied the religious need ie face E and the god.
Its external appearance has no striking peculiarities, though the cella at each end was set so far back as to give the appearance of a pseudodipteral structure. Both pronaos and opisthodomos are deep and are both distyle 'in antis'.
The cella was separated into two unequal parts, though not separate rooms.
The inner and smaller part or adyton had a side door on the E wall.
The larger part had a series of engaged Ionic columns down both side walls. Half-columns were attached to short cross-walls jutting out from the side walls, all at right angles but the two at the S end at an angle of 45 degrees facing N. Between the S pair of columns was one free-standing column -thus a row of dividing columns provided the partition for the two chambers.
The Ionic columns were of a peculiar stylistic type of drawing: the solitary free-standing column was also uncommon as it was Corinthian, certainly one of the world's first such columns and the predecessor of a successful architectural feature used numerous times over the centuries - look around now!
The inner columns supported on architrave a carved Ionic frieze which unusually faced inwards and so can hardly have been visible if the roof were roofed as some scholars suggest. Others claim it was open air or roofed with transparent tiles.
The Ionic columns
Bases: very unorthodox, ie a wide apophyge and a spreading roundel, under which was a tall concave member with a wide outwards sweep and a smaller version below.
Shaft: tall and slender; no entasis; no inclination
Capitals: (lost but for fragments and drawings) rare type.
echinus i) 'eyes' of volutes were unusually close
ii) upper channel joining spirals were hunched up in a strong curve
iii) volutes as usual in front, but single volute at side -thus these
columns anticipated the 4 sides Ionic capital of Hellenistic and
Roman times [which lead to the Composite order of 1stC AD]
Architect wanted to avoid the common free-standing type and develop
the end of cross-walls.
abacus generally believed to be of two types
The Corinthian column -evidence from drawings made during the dig by HaIler von Hallerstein. How does it compare with later columns of the same order?
Bassae later typical examples 1. ring of carved leaves at bottom is , so much of bell exposed, and high, though adorned with painted leaves 1. leaves creep up the bell, alternately low very low so as to form in effect two rows 2. the inner spirals are large 2. inner spirals smaller, though stems longer 3. stems of spirals are plain 3. usual for stems of inner and outer spirals of each side of each face to emerge from a fluted member called cauliculus 4. large palmette between inner spirals lies wholly on the bell 4. palmette climbs onto the abacus, assumes other forms, often dropping a thin stem down to leaves 5. leaves: acanthus? water lily type 5. leaves: acanthus 6. abacus, though with usual concave sides, was almost plain (except for painted ornament) and heavy. 6. abacus is lighter and has more elaborate mouldings.
The frieze depicts
i) Heracles' fight with Amazons -Dorian saga [cf Theseus v Amazons -Attic saga]
ii) battle of Lapiths v Centaurs with new motif of Apollo and Artemis appearing;
they are driving a team of stags and bringing help (like deus ex machina) while the bride has fled to the old-fashioned statue of the god.
Burn on Bassae Living Past of Greece (pub 1980)
Temple remote and far above its city of Phigaleia, but recent excavations show not originally so solitary: traces of contemporary houses have been found +
foundations of two earlier temples on same site
Several unique features (so shows planning of classical temples was not rigid):
-not orientated, but roughly N-S, like some other temples in western Arcadia
-all three orders: a) surrounding colonnade (6x15 columns) and porch columns Doric,
giving a strong masculine character to the exterior
b) ten inner columns Ionic, with abnormal spreading bases and shapes of capital;
engaged by short walls to cella wall; two southernmost set diagonally, with
c) earliest example of Corinthian capital free-standing between them, marking off
d) special enclosure inside, a sacred spot with very rare feature of small door
in E side wall (cult-statue illuminated by beams of rising sun?)
-unusual in Doric temples (but found in Parthenon and Hephaistion) continuous frieze
in Ionic decoration exceptionally running round inner walls of cella.
[bought by Dilettanti Society and removed to BM]
Temple built of local limestone and frieze of local marble; discovered earlier in 1765 AD, accidentally, by a French architect, who was later murdered there for the sake of his brass buttons, supposedly gold.