Overview of Temple of Athena, looking NE, Poseidonia, "Temple of Cere...

Altar of early temple S of Temple of Athena, looking S, Poseidonia, Paestum

Overview of Temple of Athena from S, looking N, Poseidonia, Paestum

Overview of Temple from S, looking N-NE, Poseidonia, Paestum

Upper part of W front of temple, looking E, Poseidonia, Temple of Athena, ...

West side of altar of Temple of Athena, looking S, Poseidonia, Paestum

Context: Poseidonia
Type: Temple
Summary: Late Archaic peripteral temple dedicated to Athena, located on high ground in the northern sector of the city. Also known as the "Temple of Ceres."
Date: ca. 500 BC

The overall dimensions of the stylobate are 14.54 m. x 32.88 m. Dimensions of cella building 7.64 m. x 24.15 m. Axial intercolumniation of external colonnade 2.62 m. Lower diameter of external columns 1.26 m. Height of external columns 6.12 m. Height of entablature: Dinsmoor 1975 ca. 2.653 m.; Krauss 1959 2.20 m.

Studies of the proportional system used throughout the temple indicate that a Doric foot of 32.8 cm. (or 32.75 cm., according to de Waele 1980, 399) was employed. Using this measurement, the proportions of the temple can be expressed as follows: intercolumniation = 8 F.; stylobate = 44 x 100 F.; stereobate = 49 x 105 F.; cella = 24 x 74 F.; lower column diameter = 4 F.; column height = 18.5 F.; entablature height = 6.75 F.; height of temple = ?40 F.

Region: Campania
Period: Archaic

Architectural Order:

Doric and Ionic. The columns of the exterior colonnade are Doric, while the columns of the pronaos are Ionic.


The plan consists of an external colonnade of 6 x 13 columns on a three-stepped krepis, anticipating the canonical Doric temple plan. Inside the colonnade, however, the temple departs from this regularity: the naos is approached at the east end by a deep pronaos with eight Ionic columns (four at the facade, two at the flanks, and a further two engaged to the antae walls). There is neither opisthodomos nor adyton. The cella building appears to be aligned with the second and fifth columns of the exterior colonnade at the facade. The pteron or ambulatory at the east facade of the temple is two intercolumniations deep, whereas it is only one intercolumniation deep around the other three sides. The temple employs equal interaxial spacing at the fac\ades and flanks, and this measurement is used as a unit of measurement for the rest of the groundplan. The stylobate has been identified as a hekatompedon, measuring 100 Doric feet. There is evidence that staircases led to an upper balcony inside the cella, behind the pronaos.

Date Description:

The primary evidence for the date of the temple comes from the style of the carving of the preserved architectural members, in particular the profile of the echinus of the column capitals.


The temple dates to the late sixth century B.C. Work appears to have been completed in one building phase. Undisturbed votive deposits found at the south of the temple contain figurines of Athena in two aspects - as a nurturing goddess with child (kourotrophos), and as an armed warrior (Promachos). The deposits continue into the Roman period, indicating continuity of cult at the temple. In the 6th and 7th centuries A.D., the temple was transformed into a church, probably devoted to the worship of the Virgin Mary. Tombs of this period were built in the southern ambulatory.

Other Notes:

The temple contains a number of unusual and innovative features in its design. The combination of materials in the frieze of the temple is an unusual feature. The absence of a horizontal cornice, and the presence of carved coffers under the eaves created by the extension of the raking cornice are also eccentric. For the first time in Italy, Ionic columns are incorporated in a Doric temple. The Ionic columns stood on bases with a circular disc surmounted by a torus molding. Their capitals are of archaic design, with a convex cushion, and a large convex eye in the center of the volute. An egg-and-dart molding appears below the cushion of the capital. Additional Ionic features in the temple are the presence of Ionic moldings, including an egg-and-dart, on the exterior of the building above the frieze, and the emphasis on the east facade of the temple through the use of a wider ambulatory than on the flanks. The east facade is further emphasized through the elaboration of the pronaos with its Ionic columns. The capitals of the exterior colonnade were decorated with carved anthemion designs, possibly reflecting the influence of the Temple of Hera I nearby. The Doric columns also employ entasis, although not as pronounced as the entasis of the columns of the Temple of Hera I.

The identification of the temple as belonging to Athena, not Ceres/Demeter as proposed in the eighteenth century, is now secure based on the discovery of over one hundred terracotta votive figurines depicting Athena, and a later pottery sherd with the archaic Latin inscription [M]ENERV[AE].

Sources Used:

Koldewey and Puchstein 1899, 18-24, pl. 3; Krauss 1931, 1-8; Sestieri 1953, 23-25; Krauss 1959; Napoli 1970, 28-31; Berve & Gruben 1962, 410-413; Dinsmoor 1975, 94-96, 338; Coulton 1977, 77, 110, 151; de Waele 1980, 383-388; Lawrence 1983, 158-159; Pedley 1990, 54-59.