Temple of Hera

The temple of Hera is the oldest temple within the sacred precinct of Olympia. The long and narrow Doric temple (50 x 19 m), surrounded by 5 m high columns, was built in the late seventh century BC, originally as a temple for both Zeus and Hera. Later, Zeus received his own temple.

The lower part of the temple is of local shell-lime, while the upper part of the walls was made of unbaked bricks. The original columns were made of wood. When the wood rotted, these were gradually replaced by stone columns. The replacement took several centuries, so that the development of the Doric columns between the Archaic and the Roman period can be followed. As a result every columns is different now.

In Pausanias' time the temple was a real museum of precious works of art, among which eighteen divine statues. The famous marble Hermes of Praxiteles was found here. In the tempel stood a magnificent table, inlaid with gold and ivory, made by Kolothes, a pupil of Pheidias, on which were spread out the crowns for the winners in the games. The girls who won the Heraia were depicted on the wall paintings of the colonnade. In the temple was kept the bronze discus of Iphitos and Lykourgos, which was considered a kind of foundation charter of the Olympic games.

© KU Leuven, 2012