The altar

The altar—always the focal point of the sanctuary—has similarly gone through a number of transformations in its even longer history; but after it was enlarged and redesigned by Rhoecus in 550 bc, it was changed little there after. Up until that time, the original altar—reconstructed no less than seven times since the Late Bronze Age—stood at an inexplicably oblique angle to everything else on the same spot: its outline is visible just to the south of the main stack of the 6th century bc altar, which stands today, 60m due east of the temple platform. Today, Rhoecus’s altar is a confusing assemblage of decorated flotsam and jetsam: originally it was a monumental structure (38.4 x 18.7m) in the usual form of a wide, Greek pi, Ξ , whose open side directly faced the front of the temple and whose arms surrounded the altar-table proper on its raised platform. Something of the structure’s -decorative programme, clearly designed and sensuously carved, can be intimated from the fragments of the running friezes with wave-pat terns, scrolls, and dart-and-palmette designs. Although these are mostly faithful Roman restorations of the age of Augustus, they are still able to give a sense of the construction’s magnificence. A further frieze with exquisite -carved sphinxes (fragments of which are visible beside the modern storehouse to the south)—their wings open and heads facing out, in a manner reminiscent of later seraphim or cherubim designs—crowned the ensemble.

Samos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.

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