The temple of Epicurean Apollo at Vasses of Figaleia

In the region of Arcadia there are places of great beauty, equally charged with history, both classical and more recent. The most extraordinary monument of the area is the very well preserved temple of Epicurean Apollo, at Vasses of Figaleia.

Figaleia, the ancient town of Arcadia, it was built, according to the tradition, by Figalos, the son of Lykaonas, near the banks of Neda river. The town flourished but it was also conquered by Spartans in 659 B.C., Aetolians in 220-217 B.C. and Philip V of Macedonia.

Erected around 420 BC by Ictinus the monument is now covered with a huge tent made from synthetic material, to protect the fragile grayish columns. It is odd that a temple of such importance was built high on the mountains of Arkadia, at an altitude of nearly 1,200 meters, in one of the most desolate parts of the Peloponnese.

With fifteen Doric columns on each side, instead of the usual twelve, the long temple faces north, towards Delphi, the God Apollo?s most important shrine. It is the first nearly complete temple still surving, with for the first time, all three architectural styles: Doric, Ionian and Corinthian. The temple was erected on a raised area, 1,131m, called the ‘Bassai’, meaning little vale in the rocks.

It is a Doric peripteral temple made from local limestone, and consists of a prodome and a cella. It is orientated north to south. In the cella there was a column with a corinthian capital, which is the oldest known example of its kind. Iktinos was dedicated to Apollo the Epicurean in order to thank him for saving them from the plaque of 420 B.C.

In 1811-12 it was examined by the Diletadi company who took away twenty-three plates of the frieze and the metopes that are nowadays in the British Museum. The sculptures were taken away by the British and Germans, but the frieze of the cella was actually sold to the British Government.

The themes of these sculptures are battles between Greeks and Amazons, as well as battles between Lapithes and Centaurs. The well-proportioned temple is divided in to a vestibule and a nave with six columns in the front and fifteen in the long sides. The nave, in particular, is divided into two rooms with five Ionian columns in each side.

The southern side has got a Corinthian column, the most ancient of that kind in Greece. The statue of Apollo was considered to be inside the nave. According to Pafsanias it was big, made of copper. It was later replaced by a marble one. The upper part of the nave has got a part of the frieze. The excavations have recently revealed Hellenistic and Roman findings.

There are renovations currently being performed on the Temple of Epicurean Apollo, and a huge hi-tech canopy has been erected over it in order to protect it from the elements.