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Heraion

The place on which the sanctuary of Hera was built was organized on two successive terraces on different levels. The uphill climb to them is from the south via a monumental stairway, which together with the strong terrace wall on its east acted as a huge retaining wall for the first earthwork. On the west, a Doric stoa with a double colonnade was constructed (as a waiting place) halfway up the great stairway. From this place and from the monumental stairway the votaries followed the procession that arrived from Argos on the day of the celebration of the “Hekatombaia”. The terrace, stoa and stairway go back to the 5th century BC.

The new temple of the goddess, a Doric peristyle building of limestone, with 6 x 12 columns, and possessing a pronaos, cella and opisthodomos was constructed in 420 BC to plans by the Argive architect Eupolemos in the centre of the first terrace. In the cella stood the gold and ivory statue of Hera, by the Argive sculptor Polykleitos. Next to it was the gold and ivory statue of her daughet, Hebe, by the Argive sculptor Naukides, and a xoanon (wooden statue) of the goddess, that the Argives had taken from Tiryns in 468 BC, when they destroyed it. East of the temple in Hellenistic times was built on oblong altar, and still further east in the middle of the 5th century BC a hypostyle hall divided into four aisles, reminiscent of the Telesterion at Eleusis. West of the first terrace, founded on a lower level of the place, outside the retaining wall of the place, is an earlier building. Quadrilateral in shape, with a central courtyard and three rooms with couches and tables, it was evidently a room for symposia. North of it was another stoa, 5th century BC in date, with a large flat terrace in front. Along the north side of the first terrace is a complex which together with the symposium building belonged to the earlier temple.

The upper terrace, measuring 56x34 m, partly cut into the rock and supported by a massive Cyclopean retaining wall, formed the terrace of the older temple. Two stoas dating to the beginning of the 6th century BC were constructed on the end of the retaining wall. The old temple, one of the first peripteral temples belonging to the beginning of the 7th century BC, was burnt down in 423 BC through the carelessness of the priestess, Chryseida.

The acme of the Heraion lasted until Roman times. There are two buildings of this period on the west of the sanctuary. The one to the south, with the shape of a Γ, was a Gymnasium, and the one to the north Thermal Baths. The place was preserved by the Argives as a venerated ruin until Pausanias’ day.

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