1.11.16

Pythagoreion and The Heraion of Samos

This is the most important of the sanctuaries dedicated to Hera. 

The first, small-scale excavation of the site was conducted by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (doctor and botanist) in 1702. In the 18th and 19th centuries, travellers visited the sanctuary and made drawings of the remains of the temple. 

In 1879, at the NE corner, Paul Girard discovered the statue of "Hera" of Cheramyes, now exhibited in the Louvre. 



In 1902 and 1903 the sanctuary was again excavated by the Archaeological Society of Athens, under the direction of P. Kavvadias and Th. Sophoulis. In 1910 it was further investigated by Th. Wiegand and M. Schede on behalf of the Koenigliche Museen of Berlin but work was interrupted in 1914 by World War I. 

Systematic excavations were begun in 1925 by the German Archaeological Institute at Athens, under the direction of E. Buschor, were again interrupted in 1939 by World War II, resumed in 1951 and have been continued since then.


The Heraion
The temple of Hera

Ionic dipteral temple built during the tyranny of Polycrates (538-522 B.C.).

Only one column is still standing today, preserved up to half of its original height, while the foundations are preserved up to the base of the walls and the stylobate.

Herodotus considered this temple as the largest in Greece. It follows almost exactly the contour lines of the cella and the pronaos of the older temple "of Rhoikos" (570/60 B.C.), but it is much larger (108.63 x 55.16 m.). This difference in size is due to the addition of a third colonnade to the front and back of the peristasis, apparently following the example of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which had been built slightly earlier. The temple had a total of 155 columns, belonging to four different sizes and types. The entablature must have been made of wood. Since no tiles were found, it is suggested that the roof was never completed.
Stacked architectural elements give the tourist a photographic subject


The Heraion of Samos was a large sanctuary to the goddess Hera, in the southern region of Samos, Greece, 6 km southwest of the ancient city, in a low, marshy river basin near the sea. The Late Archaic Heraion of Samos was the first of the gigantic free-standing Ionic temples, but its predecessors at this site reached back to the Geometric Period of the 8th century BC, or earlier.The site of temple's ruins, with its sole standing column, was designated a joint UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Pythagoreion in 1992.

The core myth at the heart of the cult of Hera at Samos is that of her birth. According to the local tradition, the goddess was born under a lygos tree (Vitex agnus-castus, the "chaste-tree"). At the annual Samian festival called the Toneia, the "binding", the cult image of Hera was ceremonially bound with lygos branches. The tree still featured on the coinage of Samos in Roman times.

Many construction phases are known, identified in part through fragments of roof tiles, the first phase dating to the 8th century BC. The first temple, the Hekatompedos, was roughly 100 feet (30 m) long and narrow; it consisted of three walls and an interior central line of columns to support a roof structure. A much larger temple was built by the architects Rhoikos and Theodoros ca. 570-550 BC. The temple stood opposite the cult altar of Hera in her walled and gated temenos. It was a dipteral temple, that is with a portico of columns two deep, which surrounded it entirely (peripteral). It had a deep square-roofed pronaos in front of a closed cella. Cella and pronaos were divided into three equal aisles by two rows of columns that marched down the pronaos and through the temple. The result was that Hera was worshipped in a temple fitted within a stylized grove of columns, eight across and twenty-one deep. The columns stood on unusual torus bases that were horizontally fluted. The Rhoikos temple "must have had central significance for the development of monumental Ionic architecture", Helmut Kyrieleis observes.

Unfortunately it stood for only about a decade before it was destroyed, probably by an earthquake. After the destruction of the "Rhoikos temple", an even larger one was built approximately 40 m to the west. This temple had the largest known floor plan of any Greek temple and is known as the "Polycrates Temple", named after a tyrant of Samos. One of the giant statues from the Heraion survives in the Samos Archaeological Museum. Construction continued into the Roman period, but this Heraion was never wholly finished. Instead, the cult image was housed in Roman imperial times in a smaller structure to the east, which remained in use until the Theodosian edicts of 391 forbade pagan observance. A Christian church occupied the Roman site, employing stone taken from the Roman Heraeum.

The Heraion served as a quarry through Byzantine times, so that it was eventually dismantled to the very foundations. Little information has survived in literary sources. Pausanias missed Samos in his Periegesis of Greece. Scattered mentions by Herodotus do not provide a satisfactory substitute.With the exception of the open-air altar and the great temple no other feature of the temenos is mentioned in a classical source.

The first Westerner to visit the site was Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, commissioned by Louis XIV to travel in the East and report his findings. Tournefort visited Samos in 1704, and published his drawings of the ruins as engravings. Massive siltation deposits obscured, yet protected the site from amateur tinkering in the 18th and 19th centuries. Reedbeds and thorny brakes of blackberry canes provided daunting cover, and the water table, risen since Antiquity, discouraged trench-digging at the same time that it preserved wooden materials in anoxic strata. Thus the first preliminary archaeological excavations were delayed until 1890-92, under the direction of P. Kavvadias and Th. Sophoulis, from Athens, and the full extent of the third temple's foundations were not revealed until Theodor Wiegand's campaign of 1910-14. Rubble demonstrated that there had been a previous temple.


In 1925 German archaeologists from the German Archaeological Institute at Athens began again at the site; work that was interrupted by the Second World War commenced again in 1951. The site has been minutely described in a series of volumes in German under the general title Samos, which were edited to a high standard, establishing a chronology against which the wide range of votive objects deposited at the Heraion from the 8th century onward can be compared. Helmut Kyrieleis and Hermann J. Kienast took charge of the excavations in 1976.








The Great Altar

Very large even in its earlier phases, occupied always the same position. Seven successive phases have been distinguished, of which the earliest, a small structure built of rubble, dates from the Late Bronze Age.

The altar of the 8th/7th century B.C., for unknown reasons (possibly connected with the cult) was not placed on axis to the temple, but was orientated NW / SE.

It acquired its monumental form in ca. 560 B.C., and was almost contemporary with the monumental temple of Rhoikos and Theodoros, placed on its axis. On the basis of the preserved foundations, its size is estimated to 36.50 X 16.50m. The temple opened to the main sacrifical area which was surrounded on three sides by a wall, 5-7m. high.

This was decorated with impressive cymatia, and, on the interior, with a frieze showing fighting animals and sphinxes.The free edges of the two walls bear richly decorated anta capitals.In imperial Roman times (1st-2nd centuries A.D.) the altar was rebuilt of marble, and decorated with copies of the Archaic architectural decoration. 

The Sacred Road

The road leading from the city of Samos (present-day Pythagoreion) to the sanctuary, was an important feature of the landscape already in the beginning of the 6th century B.C., at the latest.Being the main access to the sanctuary, it was adorned with votive monuments closely spaced along its whole length. The colossal marble kouroi, found on the road, and the Geneleos Group (a replica of which has been placed on the north end) give an idea of the magnificence of the site as early as the Archaic period.

The massive stone lining of the road surface, parts of which have been uncovered up to the Pythagoreion, was constructed in about A.D. 200. In 1980, excavations carried out in search of the main entrance to the sanctuary, brought to light the colossal kouros, now exhibited in the Samos Museum.

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