SOURCE A   Frontal view of the Hephaestion Temple as it stands today. It was built to honour their God Hephaestus. It now overlooks the remains of the ancient Athenian market place, the Athenian Agora.
Most religious buildings today are intended for congregational worship, where groups of people get together on a regular basis to celebrate their god, reaffirm their faith and receive spiritual comfort. Ancient Greek temples were rarely used this way. They were meant to serve as homes for the individual god or goddess who protected and sustained the community. The temple buildings also had a political purpose as they were often built to celebrate their City-State's civic power and pride. But it was the needs of the gods that were most important.
 At the following site
find the Hephaistion Temple on the right.

What is the name of the larger temple on the hill (Acropolis) in the top of the drawing at the above website?

A cut-away drawing of the Parthenon, show here as it once looked. The remains of the Parthenon still stand today on the Acropolis hill in Athens.


Their gods controlled the forces of nature— the sun and rain, which nourished their crops, and the winds that drove their ships. Although generally benevolent, the gods could be quite capricious and were liable to turn against the community— so it was in everyone's interest to make sure that they should feel relaxed and at home.

Their 'houses' [temples] were the finest, equipped with a staff of servants to look after their every need. They received daily offerings of food and drink along with a proper share of the harvest as well as a share in the profits of any trading or military activity.

The god or goddess was represented by a cult image— usually a seated or standing statue— which occupied the central place in the temple. In the early days they would have been made of wood but, over the years, more permanent and costly materials were preferred— stone or cast bronze.

The finest, such as the great statues of Zeus at Olympia or Athena from the Parthenon in Athens (both by the Athenian sculptor Phidias) were of crystelephantine, a combination of gold and ivory. The statue of Zeus was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

2. Why did the ancient Greeks build temples?
3. What objects could be found in one of their temples?
4. What activities took place daily inside the temple?
5. Why did the ancient Greeks consider their Gods so important?


Left: A reconstruction of the statue of Athena that was once located in the Parthenon in Athens.

The most important architectural innovation of the Greeks was the external colonnade (pteron) which emerged sometime in the seventh century BC. (See SOURCE D) It formed a sort of curtain around (peri-) the temple— solid but transparent— screening the sanctuary and the cult image from the outside world.
              SOURCE D

SOURCE E  Painted scene (plaster on wood) showing a sacrifice (Pitsa 6th century BC)

To honour their gods, the Greeks also performed sacrifices and held elaborate religious festivals.
Sacrifices of prime livestock [and their best wine and produce took place] at the god's altar which stood ... outside the temple proper.

The religious festivals were occasions of great public celebration highlighted by feasts, athletic competitions and dramatic productions. The god or goddess was presented with gifts of jewellery and fine garments along with tableware and cutlery of silver and gold. ..... Finally, the citizenry gathered in front of the temple to offer their collective prayers for abundant crops and increased flocks. They prayed for success in any venture that their city might have been undertaking— a war, a trading expedition or the foundation of a new colony.


SOURCE F is an artists impression of the Great Panathenaic Festival which was held in Athens every four years. At this festival a large robe (peplos) was taken to the Parthenon as a gift to the Goddess Athena, the patron and protector of Athens. The frieze (series of small carved stone pictures) that runs around the inner chamber of the Parthenon is generally believed to represent this Panathenaic festival procession.

               SOURCE F

Find and print off a photograph of one of the scenes or pictures that make up the Panathenaic Frieze that ran around the inner chamber of the Parthenon. Then paste the picture in your book or folder.

7. Using SOUCE E and the above information, describe some of the religious rituals that took place in front of the temples. (Write about five lines for this answer.)

8. On the left you can see an artist's impression of the the Acropolis hill in ancient Athens during the Classical Period - The time of Pericles and the 'Golden Age' of Athens. Find out and list in your book the the names of the buildings marked A to E.

9. a) At this site: explore the 360 computer generated view of the Parthenon as it looks today. (You may need to open these links in a new window.)
     b) This short video shows you a 3D recreation of what the Acropolis looked like in the time of Pericles:
     c) At this site explore the 360 photograph and see if you can find the remains of the Agora and the temple of Hephaestus. Also find the open waters to see how far the Acropolis hill was from the sea:



10. Briefly explain who the Lapiths and Centaurs were in Greek mythology. Draw or paste a small picture of a Centaur in your book.
Optional additional Question: The woman on the far right in Source E above, is performing a libation over the altar at this sacrifice. Explain how and why the Ancient Greeks performed libations? (Wikipedia has a good explanation.)