You are here: Home ￫ click here to EXPLORE Rhodes ￫ Lindos ￫ the Upper town ￫ Acropolis ￫ the temple & its approach
The grand ascent up to the temple at the summit is very much an expression of the Hellenistic mind—sym metrical, cadenced, theatrical, and with a grandiose and rather impersonal sense of ceremony about it. Note how, although this approach is symmetrical within itself, the reason for its existence—the Temple of Athena—stead fastly refuses to be included in its axis and remains to one side, clinging to its historic site. There are three phases of building in the whole complex, which all followed on from the restoration of the temple itself after its destruction by fire in 392 bc: 1. the propylaia enclosing the temple’s sanctuary at the top, which date from shortly after the fire, i.e. the early 4th century; 2. the wide stoa on the next level down which dates from 300–290 bc; and 3. the terrace and vaulted storage areas below the stoa, which were the last elements to be added, around 100 bc. As well as mentally preparing and physically corralling pilgrims for the approach to the temple, the wide stoa served as a shaded space where votive gifts—especially paintings—could be exhibited. It has been minimally re constructed at the beginning of the last century to give at least some idea of its form. Originally, the Doric colonnade would have run the entire width of the building (87m); but its roof was omitted in the centre to allow a clear view of the next flight of steps up to the main propylaia. These—only visible in foundations now—were in effect two contiguous propylaia: one symmetrical Doric colonnade at the top of the flight of stairs with two slightly projecting wings at either end; and an internal colonnade which was L-shaped, and which gave on to the temple. They marked the boundary of the sanctuary; access beyond this point was limited and the area could be entered only after ritual purification. The Temple of Athena itself seems small after such a grand approach: it measures only 22m x 8m and is amphi-prostyle, tetrastyle in design, i.e. possessing a projecting four-column portico at either end. It hugs the very edge of the southern precipice: its placing, its size and its form, all faithful to the older Archaic temple that stood here until the fire of 392 bc, traces of whose crepidoma can be seen in the bed-rock of dark limestone inside the present building. There has been considerable restoration, but much of the west wall is original; the east wall rises straight from—and seems to grow out of—the rock of the precipice. The stone would originally have been covered with a layer of light-coloured plaster. The temple has a long history: according to Herodotus (Histories II.182) it was the Danaids in their flight from the sons of Aegyptus who established the cult; according to Diodorus (5.58.1) it was Danaus himself. One of the temple’s early donors, the pharaoh Amasis, dedicated here a remarkable linen corselet. In 392 bc fire destroyed the temple and a great many of its dedications. When it was rebuilt, the worship of Zeus Polieus was added and, at the same time, Athena be came identified as Athena ‘Polias’. The original archaic cult statue inside the temple was probably a wooden image of the goddess, seated and wearing a golden diadem. It would have been protected by a railing. Such was the fame and influence of the statue of Athena Parthenos by Pheidias in Athens, however, that this original seated Athena was replaced in the 5th or 4th century by an image of the goddess, standing and armed—as in the Parthenon. It must have been this statue that was transported to Byzantium by Theodosius in the 5th century ad when the temple cult was officially suppressed and which apparently perished in a fire there later that century. The entrance to the temple was at the north: on either side of it were two inscribed plaques in grey Lardos marble with the chronological lists of the priests of Athena Lindia (see box below), running from 406 bc through to 47 ad. These precious records were removed in the Middle Ages and used as floor slabs in the church of Aghios Stephanos, only to come to the world’s attention again when the church was removed and the area excavated in early 1900s: they are rare historical documents of great value. In the narrow area in front of the south entrance are signs of extensive Archaic cutting in the bedrock. The view from the edge down to the perfectly formed natural harbour below, where tradition holds that St Paul took refuge from a storm, is unforgettable. The pathway back to the exit, which descends by steps to the west, passes by a deep water-storage pool—part natural, part cut into the bed-rock—and continues to wards the massive supporting wall for the terrace of the western end of the stoa—its regular, rectangular stone blocks, elaborately rusticated in customary Hellenistic fashion. Above it and to the north are the tall ruins of the three apses of the east end of the 13th century, Byzantine church of Aghios Ioannis. Its rounded windows and arches are a marked contrast to so much ancient rectilinearity.
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.