Abstract: Building a Greek Temple


The Greeks often set up inscriptions that detailed the building of a temple and how much money was being spent — we set up billboards giving the same kind of information: the people want to know!  Understanding the process of building a temple from such texts can be matched against the surviving unfinished Greek buildings and from these we can see that temples were stopped at distinct stages. We know that most moderate-sized temples took five years to complete the building (with more time spent on minor touches like paint, grilles, polishing of the marble). The first year was spent preparing the site and digging foundations for the colonnade; the second year saw the building of the colonnade up to the level of the roof; in the third year the cella was installed; the fourth year saw the building of the ceiling and roof; and the firth year was spent finishing the building: fluting the columns, polishing the walls and floor, installing waterspouts, hanging doors, and the like. Since the people usually allocated money annually (rather than for the entire project), the architects then planned on discreet annual stages in case funding was cut off for a while. Work could then resume with the next stage (e.g., the Great Temple of Apollo in Delos, the Erechtheion) – or not (e.g., the Temple of Nemesis at Rhamnous).


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

J.J. Coulton, Ancient Greek Architects at Work, London, 1977.

John G. Younger and Paul Rehak, "Technical Observations on the Sculptures from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia," Hesperia 78 (2009) 41-105

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