Ancient Greek Temples are some of the most iconic historic sites in the world. Indeed, any ancient Greek temple list would include some of the best known historical places on the planet. There is probably no better example of ancient Greek architecture and civilisation than those Greek temples of the world which have survived through the ages.
Built not as places of mass worship, but rather as homes for the deities, Greek temples were symbols of a Greek city’s status, culture and achievement. Though the earliest ancient Greek temples would have been made of wood or mud brick, by around the 6th century BC the stone and marble structures which have come to epitomise these temples began to appear, with the best examples – such as the Parthenon – being built in the 5th century BC.
In terms of architecture, ancient Greek temples were square buildings with an external colonnade running around the outside. Over time the style of these columns changed, giving three distinctive architectural periods: the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Inside each temple would have been a statue of the deity, often vastly ornate, with the most famous becoming world renowned – such as the statue of Zeus at Olympia.
Today the list of surviving Greek temples is longer than you may imagine, with Greek temples appearing not just in Greece itself, but throughout the Mediterranean. You can explore our ancient Greek temples map above or check out the list of these ancient temples below. Click on each entry for more details and visitor information.
Definitely deserving a place on any ancient Greek temples list, the Valley of the Temples contains the very well-preserved remains of several temples including the fifth century BC Temple of Concorde.
The Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi) is a famous archaeological site in Sicily housing some of the best preserved Ancient Greek ruins in the world, especially outside Greece.
Agrigento, in which they are located, had been a Greek colony since the 6th century BC. Really more of a ridge than a valley, the Valley of the Temples is mainly comprised of the beautiful ruins of nine sacred temples.
The majority of the sites at the Valley of the Temples were initially constructed in the fifth century BC. However, having been destroyed first by the Carthaginians (circa 406 BC) and then the Christians (in the 6th century AD) they are now partly made up of reconstructions. Nevertheless, of the ten original temples, the remains of nine can now be seen.
The oldest of the temples, the Temple of Herakles, was constructed in the sixth century BC and is made up of several Doric columns. The best preserved of the ruins is the fifth century BC Temple of Concorde, saved from destruction when it was incorporated into a Christian church. The other temples are dedicated to Juno, Olympian Zeus, Hephaistos, Hera Lacinia and Castor and Pollux.
Beyond the temples, the Valley of the Temples has numerous other archaeological sites, including the 1st century AD Tomb of Theron and several sanctuaries, the oldest of which was built sometime around the sixth century BC. This UNESCO World Heritage site also has an on-site museum.
By far and away the most famous of all Greek temples, the Parthenon in the centre of Athens is a monument to Classical Greek civilisation.
The Parthenon is probably the most famous surviving site from Ancient Greece. Standing at the heart of The Acropolis in the centre of Athens, the Parthenon is a monument to Classical Greek civilisation.
Built during the golden age of Pericles - the famous Athenian statesman - the Parthenon was originally constructed to be a temple to the Ancient Greek goddess Athena.
The Parthenon was built in the mid-fifth Century BC and replaced an earlier construction on the site which had been destroyed during the Persian Wars. Through the centuries, the Parthenon has also been used as a Christian Church and a Muslim Mosque.
The Parthenon was heavily damaged in 1687 during a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Venetians. Many of the surviving sculptures from the Parthenon were removed from the site in the early 19th Century by the Earl of Elgin and are now on display in the British Museum.
Today the Parthenon remains on the ‘must-see’ list of most history enthusiasts and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Ranked among the best preserved ancient Greek temples in the world, Paestum in Italy contains the spectacular remains of the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Ceres.
Paestum is a Greco-Roman site located south of Naples which contains the stunning remains of three ancient Greek temples which still stand tall today.
Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC, Paestum was originally known as Poseidonia, named for the Greek god Poseidon. The city was captured by the Romans in 273BC after the Pyrrhic Wars and became the thriving Roman settlement of Paestum.
However, the changing climate and political upheavals of the later Roman Empire saw Paestum begin to decline in the early medieval period and by the turn of the millennium the site had been abandoned – it was not rediscovered until the 18th century.
Today, visitors to Paestum can still see the spectacular temples – the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Ceres (thought by some to be a temple of Athena).
The site also contains impressive defensive walls, a Roman forum, the basic remains of a Roman amphitheatre and a number of ancient tombs. Paestum also boasts an early Christian church and Paestum Museum, which has a wealth of information about the local sites. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.
Said to be the birthplace of medicine, Asklepieion was an ancient Greek city the ruins of which include Greek temples dedicated to Apollo Maleatas and Asklepios.
Asklepieion, also known as Asclepeion, in Kos was an ancient Greek and Roman sacred centre of healing based on the teachings of Hippocrates.
It seems that there has been a healing sanctuary at the site of Asklepieion since prehistory, but the main ruins today are those of later sanctuaries. The most significant was dedicated to Asklepios, who was a deity of health.
Over time, Asklepieion became increasingly popular and visitors would travels from far and wide to experience its healing properties. Thus, the sanctuary was expanded.
Today, the pretty and relatively well-preserved ruins of Asklepieion are set over three levels and include several temples, some Roman baths, gateways and a banqueting hall.
It is worth noting that this is not the most easily accessible site for people with mobility issues. The terrain is quite steep and there are many stairs to climb.
A major Greek city, the ruins of Corinth include the remains of the 6th century BC Temple of Apollo and the remaining columns of the Temple of Octavia.
Ancient Corinth, the ruins of which can be found in the modern town of Korinthos, was a city of major importance in Ancient Greece and in Ancient Rome. Located in between mainland Greece and the Peloponnese, Corinth was a vital port and a thriving city-state as well as being of religious significance.
Inhabited since the Neolithic period, Corinth grew from the eight century BC under the Ancient Greeks, developing into a centre of trade and a city of great riches. Much of this wealth was accumulated from the seventh century BC under the rule of Periander, who exploited Corinth’s location in the Isthmus of Corinth. By travelling through Corinth, ships could cross quickly between the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf, avoiding the need to sail around the coast. Corinth had the diolkos, a ship hauling device which allowed them to do just that. Ship owners were charged for using this device, providing Corinth with an ongoing flow of income.
Corinth became such a powerful city-state that it even established various colonies such as Syracuse and Epidamnus. In 338 BC, following the Peloponnesian War and the subsequent Corinthian War, Corinth was conquered by Philip II of Macedon. Throughout the classical era, Corinth had held regular sporting tournaments known as the Isthmian Games. These were continued under the Macedonians and, in fact, it was at the 336 BC Isthmus Games that Alexander the Great was selected to lead the Macedonians in the war against Persia.
In 146 BC, Corinth suffered partial destruction from the invasion of Roman general Mummius, although it was later rebuilt under Julius Caesar, eventually growing into an even more prosperous Roman city. Corinth’s decline began in 267 AD following the invasion of the Herulians. Over the subsequent years, it would fall into the hands of the Turks, the Knights of Malta, the Venetians and finally the Greeks, each of these conflicts, together with numerous natural disasters, depleting but never entirely destroying the city’s once magnificent sites.
Another interesting aspect of Corinth is its diverse religious history. Dedicated to the Greek deities of Apollo, Octavia and Aphrodite, during Roman times it was also the home of a large Jewish community as well as being visited by the Apostle Paul.
Today, visitors to Corinth can see its many ancient sites, including the fairly well-preserved ruins of the Temple of Apollo, which was built in 550 BC and the remaining columns of the Temple of Octavia. By contrast, only few remnants remain of the former Temple of Aphrodite, once a home of Corinth’s sacred prostitutes. Perhaps what makes Corinth such a fascinating site is that, due to its extensive wealth over the years, this ancient city’s Doric architecture was exceptionally ornate.
Beyond these sacred sites, much of Corinth’s original infrastructure is visible along with many remains from the Roman-era city, including the Theatre and the Peirene Fountain.
Those wanting to learn more about Corinth and see many of the artefacts from its excavation can also visit the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth.
Cyrene in Lybia contains some fascinating ancient Greek temples, including the Temple of Zeus, the great sanctuary of Apollo and the Temple of Artemis.
Cyrene in Libya is considered to be one of the most impressive Greco-Roman sites in the world and one of the best Classical Greek sites beyond Greece itself.
Traditionally said to have been founded by the Greeks of Thera in 631BC, Cyrene was a trading hub first inhabited by the Battiadae dynasty and which became one of the most important centres of the Greek world.
Over time, Cyrene was conquered several times yielding to, amongst others, Alexander the Great, before being Romanised in 74BC. Cyrene’s status and importance further flourished under Roman rule and was rebuilt under Hadrian. In fact, it was only after the great earthquake of 365AD and the region’s changing climate which eventually caused its decline.
Amongst its fantastic remains, Cyrene is home to the ruins of the great sanctuary of Apollo which has sites ranging from the Temples of Artemis and Apollo which date back as early as the 7th century BC to the 2nd century Trajan Baths. Also found at Cyrene is the impressive Temple of Zeus.
One of its most impressive sites is Cyrene Amphitheatre, which the Greeks built in the 6th century BC, was used as a Roman amphitheatre and is now the largest Greek site in Africa.
There’s lots more to see at Cyrene including its acropolis, agora, forum and necropolis. Part of what makes Cyrene so incredible is not just its monuments but its overall planning - a mix of Greek and Roman, which is evident throughout.
Listed by UNESCO and protected by the Global Heritage Fund, sadly Cyrene is considered to be badly neglected.
Check the official advice of your country’s foreign office before considering travelling to Libya.
A UNESCO listed ancient Greek site, Delos contains the remains of the partially preserved Temple of Apollo.
Delos is an island and archaeological site which was held sacred by the ancient Greeks as the birthplace of the deity Apollo. It is unclear as to whether his twin sister Artemis was also believed to have been born there. There were temples built in honour of Artemis at Delos, but the legend seems focused on Apollo.
Evidence shows that Delos was inhabited as early as the third millennium BC and, from around the tenth century BC, when it was taken by the Ionian Greeks, it developed into a religious centre as well as a thriving port. A site of pilgrimage for many civilisations, Delos was later ruled by the Athenians, under which the native Delians suffered greatly, being exiled on several occasions.
Delos was considered such a sacred site that it was forbidden to die or to give birth there. Athenian leader Peisistratus is said to have even rid the island of all of its existing graves in the sixth century BC. Later, severely ill people and pregnant women would be removed from the island and taken to nearby Rheneia.
Over the centuries, activity at Delos centred around shrines and temples to Apollo in an area known as the Sanctuary of Apollo. Few of the once many temples in the Sanctuary of Apollo remain intact today, but what there is has been beautifully preserved and reconstructed. Mosaics and statues are dotted around Delos as are the facades of former temples, such as that of Isis.
Some of its most famous statues are those of the Terrace of the Lions. The originals of these are now held at the Delos Archaeological Museum, but the on-site replicas do give an idea of how it once looked. There is also an ancient theatre.
Unfortunately there are few if any English explanatory panels, so it’s a good idea to get a guide to go with you unless you speak French or Greek. Delos has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.
One of the more famous ancient Greek temples is the 4th century BC Temple of Apollo at Delphi, though little remains of this once-sacred place.
Delphi is an archaeological site in mainland Greece comprised of the well-preserved ruins of one of the most important cities in Ancient Greece. Archaeologists have found evidence that Delphi was inhabited as early as the Neolithic period and sites dating back to the Mycenaean Civilisation, but it was the Ancient Greek city which developed in Delphi which has left the biggest mark on the area.
Many of the sites at Delphi date back to the fifth century BC, although many have been reconstructed and some altered by the Romans. Many of the buildings also suffered from damage and destruction caused by fires and earthquakes. Nevertheless, walking through Delphi offers a fascinating insight into the lives of its former inhabitants.
Part of what made Delphi such an important city was its mythological and religious status. Ancient Greek mythology states that when the deity Zeus released two eagles to find the centre of the world, they met in Delphi. The name “Delphi” derives from the word “dolphin” as it was believed that this was where Apollo arrived on the back of a dolphin.
Today, Delphi reveals much of its past through incredible ruins, demonstrating a balance between religion, politics and leisure activities, particularly sports. Amongst these are the Temple of Apollo, believed to date back to the fourth century BC and once a central ceremonial site. This temple is believed to have been one of several that were built on the site, the previous ones having been destroyed by fires and earthquakes. This stood next to the Archive of the winners of the Pythian Games which were held at Delphi, burnt down in 373 BC, also known as the Chresmographeion. Other sporting sites, such as the Delphi gymnasium and the stadium are also visible and are very well preserved.
Possibly the best preserved site in Delphi is the fifth century Doric building of the Treasury of the Athenians, which is located along The Sacred Way, a central road of the religious area of the city. The Treasury of the Athenians held the trophies of sporting victories, although its exact purpose is still the subject of debate.
Perhaps Delphi’s most iconic site is the Tholos. Constructed in around 380 BC, this once circular building had six Doric columns, three of which stand today. The Tholos is actually located away from the rest of the main Delphi sites and, again, its exact purpose is unknown. The nearby Delphi Museum explores the history of the archeological site and houses many finds from its excavation. This famous site also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.
Once one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and vital to any Greek temples list, the remains of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, Turkey, are sadly rather poorly preserved.
Ephesus or "Efes" was a vibrant classical city, now bordering modern day Selçuk in Turkey and representing some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins in the Mediterranean.
Thought to have been founded in the 10th century BC by an Athenian prince named Androklos, Ephesus grew into a thriving city until 650BC when it was attacked and damaged by the Cimmerians. However, the settlement was reconstituted and soon the city began to thrive once more, eventually being conquered by the vast Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great.
The city was involved in the Greco-Persian wars but then fell back under Persian rule until its liberation by Alexander the Great. Fought over continuously by Alexander’s successors and their descendents, Ephesus, like so much of the region, was eventually absorbed into the Roman Republic, in the late second century BC.
Sights at Ephesus
Today, Ephesus is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of Ancient Roman and Greek history, allowing them to walk through its streets and view its magnificent houses, community buildings, temples and stadiums.
Ephesus was once famous for its Temple of Artemis, built in around 650 BC. Sadly, this was destroyed and is now represented by just a solitary column.
Some of the most impressive sites at Ephesus include the Library of Celsus, the ruins of which stand two storeys high, the Temple of Hadrian which was built in 118 AD, the classical theatre where it is believed Saint Paul preached to the Pagans and the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, so called because legend has it that the Romans locked seven Christian boys there in 250 AD, who only awoke in the 5th century.
The cross shaped Basilica of Saint John is also nearby, as is the fourteenth century Isabey Mosque, which is an impressive structure built from the remains of Ephesus.
A trip to Ephesus usually takes at least half a day - some tours include other local sites such as Priene and Miletus - but history enthusiasts will probably want to enjoy this site for a whole day. There is also a great Ephesus Museum displaying artifacts found in the old city. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
The ruins of Epidaurus are a UNESCO World Heritage site and include the Temple of Asklepios (also spelt Asclepius) as well as the hill-top sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas.
Epidaurus was a major city in Ancient Greece famed as a centre for healing. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Epidaurus thrived as a sanctuary devoted to the healing deities including Apollo, Asklepios and Hygeia and contained hundreds of spas, the remains of many of which can be seen today.
The main sanctuary area, called the Asklepieion, contains two such spas where a variety of healing rituals took place, including hypnosis. This was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. There is also a shrine to Asklepios and the remains of rooms for patients.
Probably the most impressive of the sites at Epidaurus is the fourth century BC theatre, which was built to accommodate approximately 15,000 people and still extremely well preserved.
Whilst most of the sites at Epidaurus were constructed in the fourth and fifth centuries BC, when the city was at its peak, some of them date back as far as the Mycenaean period and others were also adapted later by the Romans. The theatre is one example of such refurbishments.
Overall, Epidaurus is an absolutely vast, fascinating site set over three levels and offering an insight into Ancient Greek life. There is also a nearby Epidaurus Museum, exhibiting artefacts from its excavation. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.
Histria is thought to be the oldest settlement in Romania and was once a Greek colony. Today you can still find the remains of temples to Aphrodite and Zeus among the ruins.
Histria, close to the city of Constanta in Romania is an archaeological park housing ruins which date throughout Romania’s history. Histra was once a harbour, first occupied by the Ancient Greeks in 675 BC. Under the Greeks, it flourished into a centre of trade, specialising in ceramics, glass and metals. The earliest Romanian currency, the 8g silver Drachma, was first issued in Histria in circa 480 BC.
Over the centuries, Histria was invaded numerous times, including twice by the Romans and it served as both a Roman and Byzantine settlement. Only in the seventh century was Histria destroyed by enemy forces.
This rich yet turbulent history has endowed Histria with a wealth of sites and monuments such as temples to Aphrodite and Zeus as well as Roman baths. Visitors can walk around the site with relative freedom, looking at its fascinating collection of remaining walls, columns and structures.
Histria has an archaeological museum, housing a display of finds from the site ranging from jewellery and coins to tools and weapons.
Laodikeia was an Ancient Greek then Roman city, which contains, among other ruins, the remains od a Greek temple dedicated to Zeus.
Laodikeia, also known as Laodicea, was an Ancient Greek then Roman city, which is now represented by a set of interesting ancient ruins.
Said by some to have been founded by Antiochus II Theos of the Seleucid Kingdom in the third century BC, many of the buildings and monuments at the Laodikeia site date from the first century BC onwards. Laodikeia later became an important Roman city, continuing to be inhabited even after it was damaged by an earthquake in 60AD.
Among the ruins of Laodikeia are the remains of the ancient theatre, which would originally have held up to 20,000 spectators. A few of the other ruins which can still be seen include the stadium and gymnasium (both 79AD), a baths complex and a Temple of Zeus.
Not ranking among the better preserved Greek temples, the foundations of the Temple of Apollo Didymaeus at Miletus can nevertheless still be seen today.
Miletus was an important ancient Greek then Roman city, which still boasts an impressive ancient theatre among its ruins.
With a history thought to date back as far as the 16th, perhaps even the 17th, century BC, Miletus eventually became a thriving hub from the 8th to 7th centuries BC until suffering significant destruction during its capture by the Persians in the 5th century BC. It was rebuilt on a new site after this and once again became an important centre.
During Alexander the Great’s campaign against the Persian Empire, in 334 BC, the Macedonian conqueror undertook a short siege of the city before its capture. Another great leader, Julius Caesar, also visited this city when, upon his release after being kidnapped by pirates in 75 BC, he headed to Miletus to raise a fleet to pursue his former captors, whom he swiftly defeated and executed.
In its heyday, Miletus was a magnificent city, renowned for its great philosophers. The city’s success was due in large part to its port, which eventually silted up, contributing greatly to its decline. Sadly, today’s ruins of Miletus are barely a shadow of its former glory.
The 15,000-seater Roman theatre is definitely the star attraction. One fascinating aspect of this theatre, other than its excellent state of preservation are the inscriptions which are said to reserve seating for certain groups, including one for "Jews and G-d fearers". This is said by some to show Miletus to be a tolerant, multicultural society. Make sure you explore the covered walkways within the theatre, which are great fun to wander through.
Though the site has suffered greatly through the centuries, there are a handful of other highlights to be found at Miletus. These include the small remains of a colonnaded covered walkway, the Baths of Faustina and a reasonably well preserved temple to Apollo.
Mycenae is a well-preserved pre-classical Ancient Greek site in the Peloponnese which contains among its ruins the remains of an archaic ancient temple.
Mycenae is an important archaeological site in Greece which was once the city at the centre of the Mycenaean civilisation of between 1600BC and 1100BC.
Believed to have been inhabited since Neolithic times, Mycenae flourished into a fortified city and was ruled at one time by the famous King Agamemnon.
At its peak, Mycenae was one of the most important Ancient Greek cities and is linked to several works of cultural significance, including the Odyssey and the Iliad. Today, Mycenae contains several well-preserved sites, including the Lion’s Gate and the North Gate, which form parts of its fortified walls and which once stood 18 metres high and 6 to 8 metres thick.
A few other dwellings can also be seen at Mycenae, together with a granary and some guard rooms. Other important structures include Mycenae’s Terraced Palace, which was abandoned in the twelfth century, the religious structures which comprise several shrines and temples and the grave sites, which date back throughout Mycenae’s history.
The most impressive of the burial sites and arguably the most remarkable of Mycenae’s sites is the Tomb of Agamemnon, also known as the Treasury of Atreus. This once elaborate thirteenth century tomb is carved into Mycenae’s hills. This fascinating site also features as one of our top ten tourist attractions of Greece.
The ruins of the famous Greek city of Olympia contain two ancient Greek temples, the Temple of Hera and the Temple of Zeus.
Olympia was a vibrant Ancient Greek city. It is believed that the site of Olympia was inhabited from 3000 BC, however it was after the fall of the Mycenaean civilisation that the city began to flourish and, by 900 BC it was already considered an important religious site.
The Olympic Games
In 776 BC the first Olympic Games were held in the city in honour of the Greek deity, Zeus. The games at Olympia were a national event and attracted participants and spectators from around the country, raising Olympia’s status. They would continue until 394 AD when Roman Emperor Theodosius I, seeing them as a "pagan cult", put them to an end.
Over time, the city began to develop and grow. Today the result of this gradual growth can be seen at Olympia through sites such as the Treasuries, the Temple of Hera, both of religious importance and contained in the sacred precinct known as the Altis and the Pelopion, the supposed tomb of the mythical Pelops. These were built in around 600BC.
Even the stadium in which the Olympic Games were played was upgraded, a purpose built area being built in around 560 BC and able to seat approximately 50,000 people. The remains of this impressive stadium are still visible today.
Olympia reached its peak during the classical period and it was at this time that many of the other sites which can be seen there now were built, most notably the Temple of Zeus. This was a vast religious structure the ruins of which were located in the Altis area.
The Temple of Zeus was later entirely destroyed, first by fire and then in an earthquake. Archaeologists were however able to excavate several sculptures and artefacts believed to have originated from the building, which are now on show at the nearby Olympia Archaeological Museum.
Other impressive sites at Olympia were built later during the Hellenistic Period. These include the remains of the fourth century BC Philippeion memorial to the family of Alexander the Great and the Leonidaion. There are also several other impressive sites, many of them built during the Roman period.
Olympia is well signposted, making it easy to tour the site and understand how it might have looked in its heyday. If you want to know more about Olympia, you can visit the Olympia Archaeological Museum.
Once a thriving ancient Greek then Roman city, Pergamum’s ruins include famous sites such as its Asclepion temple, theatre and library.
Pergamum, which is also spelt Pergamon, is a famous archaeological site in Turkey which developed under the Attalid dynasty following the death of Alexander the Great.
When Alexander died, one of his generals, Lysimachus, took control of the region. When Lysimachus died in 281BC, Pergamum and the surrounding area fell into the hands of the man he had charged with protecting it, Philetarus.
Through a series of successions, Pergamum fell under the rule of Attalus I and then his son Eumenes II. Both of these kings were part of the Hellenistic Attalid dynasty and it was during this time that the majority of Pergamum’s most celebrated buildings and monuments were constructed, especially under Eumenes II (197-159 BC). Pergamum thrived, becoming the centre of the Pergamese kingdom.
In 129 BC, Pergamum became part of the Roman Empire, accounting for the presence of Roman artwork and temples, and later became part of the Byzantine Empire. It remained an important city (later a metropolis) throughout both of these periods. Indeed, Julius Caesar himself once visited the city and it was here that Caesar imprisoned and executed the very pirates who had kidnapped him in 75 BC, after he had hunted them down following his release.
The historic ruins of Pergamum are split into three main areas. In the Acropolis, one can find sites such as its library, gymnasium, very steep theatre and arsenal as well as the Roman Temple of Trajan. This was also once the site of the incredible Altar of Pergamum, now controversially located in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Now only its base remains at Pergamum.
The other two areas of Pergamum are its lower city and its stunning health centre or Asclepion, where a variety of treatments were offered, such as mud baths.
Pergamum has a small archaeological museum, with some of the finds excavated from the site.
Priene contains the remains of the Greek Temple of Athena which was funded by Alexander the Great, as well as a number of other fascinating historical remains.
Priene is an ancient Greek city which lies between the popular holiday resorts of Kusadasi and Bodrum.
It is one of many important ancient sites in the area and is close to both Miletus and Ephesus. However, though smaller than other nearby historical attractions, the real charm of Priene lies in its quiet appeal and off-the-beaten-track atmosphere.
The original origins of Priene are unknown, though legend dates the city’s founding to Athenian settlers in the 11th or 10th centuries BC.
Although Priene itself may have never been a major power, it’s location in the heart of a region that constantly witnessed the clashes of empires ensured it saw an almost continual flow of conquerors, occupiers and ‘liberators’.
Originally an ally of Athens, Priene was conquered by the Lydians and then by the Persians in the 6th century BC. The city fought in the ill-feted Ionian Revolt against Darius (which would eventually lead to the Persian invasion of Greece and their defeat at Marathon) and, to punish the rebels, Priene was devastated. This destruction prompted one of many re-locations of the city that took place over the centuries, and the new Priene was founded in around 350 BC.
Built on a steep hillside to an innovative grid-pattern design, Priene was a more ordered construct than many contemporary ancient settlements. However, this new incarnation of Priene did not have to wait long for the next regime change, with Alexander the Great conquering the region in around 334 BC. In fact, Alexander himself dedicated a temple to Athena, the remains of which can still be seen at Priene today. A stone inscription recording this event can be found in the British Museum.
Further rule by the Seleucids and Pergamon followed, before Priene was incorporated into the Roman Republic and Empire. The city suffered during the invasions of King Mithridates of Pontus in the first century BC but recovered to prosper in the early Imperial period under the Emperor Augustus.
In the Byzantine era Priene became the seat of the local Bishop and an important local Christian centre. However, after the Muslim conquest, Priene began a gradual decline which, combined with the slow silting of the coast and harbour led to the eventual abandonment of the city.
Today the ruins of Priene are located next to the modern village of Güllübahçe near the town of Söke. The site remains relatively free of tourists, though several tour companies offer trips from local resorts.
Visitors to Priene can view the Temple of Athena, the ancient theatre and the well preserved council chamber (Bouleuterion). Also found at the site are the remains of Roman baths and gymnasiums, the ruins of an ancient Synagogue and the ‘House of Alexander the Great’ - where it is reported that the young conqueror stayed during his siege of Miletus in 334 BC.
As well as these historic sites, visitors to Priene can simply wander the side streets and houses of this Hellenistic city to explore the ruins in peace and quiet.
One of the most impressive Greek temples to visit, the ruins of the city of Segesta contains the famous 5th century BC incomplete, but very well-preserved, Temple of Segesta.
Segesta is an archaeological site in north western Sicily most famous for the Temple of Segesta.
This fifth century BC temple was started by the Elymian people (circa 426 BC-416BC) but never completed. Nevertheless, with its over thirty intact Doric columns and clear structure, the unfinished Temple of Segesta is so well-preserved that it is considered to be one of Sicily’s most important historic sites. Only the roof and interior are missing.
As for its builders, the Elymians were thought by some to have been former Trojans who fled and settled in Sicily. The reason that the Temple of Segesta is incomplete is often attributed to a possible war between the Elymians and a neighbouring city.
Most of Segesta remains unexcavated. There is also a nearby third century BC ancient Greek amphitheatre, which can be reached by bus from Segesta.
Containing the remains of a number of stunning ancient Greek temples Selinunte includes the particularly well preserved The Temple of Hera.
Selinunte is an Ancient Greek archaeological site in southern Sicily containing the ruins of an acropolis surrounded by five historic temples, mostly dating to the sixth to fifth centuries BC.
The sites at Selinunte are relatively meagre when one considers that this would once have been one of the great cities of Magna Graecia founded in the mid-seventh century BC. However, much of Selinunte was destroyed by the Carthaginians in the fifth century BC.
Of the temples at Selinunte, only one has been substantially partially reconstructed, its standing Doric columns forming an impressive sight.
The Syracuse Archaeological Site contains the remains of two ancient Greek temples, the Temple of Athena and the Temple of Apollo.
The Syracuse Archaeological Site (Siracusa) in Sicily contains the impressive remains of the ancient city of Syracuse dating as far back as the eighth century BC. The city of Syracuse was founded by Greek colonists - heralding from Corinth - in 734 BC.
At its height, Syracuse was the most powerful city in Sicily and, according to Cicero, was the “most beautiful” of all Greek cities. By the fifth to fourth century BC, Syracuse controlled Sicily, especially during the reign of Dionysus the Elder (405BC-367BC).
In the third century BC, the Romans laid siege to Syracuse and, after three bitter years, it came under Roman rule in 212 BC as a province. One of the most famous residents of Syracuse, the mathematician Archimedes, died during this attack.
Remaining a part of the Roman Empire, the city remained stable for hundreds of years until the fall of the Western Empire. Over the following centuries, Syracuse was invaded, conquered and occupied several times, leading to it being inhabited by several peoples including the Vandals and Byzantines (5th-6th centuries) as well as the Muslims (9th-10th centuries). It also came under Norman rule for thirty years from 1061.
From 1197 to 1250, Syracuse experienced resurgence under the rule of Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty.
Today, visitors to the Syracuse Archaeological Site can enjoy the spectacular remnants of its past, the most famous of which is its Ancient Greek theatre. There is also a Roman amphitheatre (pictured on the map), a sanctuary to Apollo, an altar to Sicilian King Hieron II (265-215BC), a set of ancient quarries and a fort known as the Castle of Euryalus (although the latter is located around 8km north of the main site).
Together with the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Syracuse Archaeological Site is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The ancient Temple of Aphaea on the island of Aegina is one of the most important and picturesque temples in Greece.
The ancient Temple of Aphaea on the island of Aegina is one of the most important and picturesque temples in Greece.
The site itself was the location of an important ancient sanctuary which dates back far into antiquity. The sanctuary was dedicated to the cult of Aphaia, a local deity later assimilated by Athena. Historical records and archaeological excavation have shown that a significant temple structure stood on the site in the 6th century BC and it is believed this earlier incarnation was destroyed by fire in 510 BC.
The Temple of Aphaea ruins we see today date back to the second temple built on the site, which was constructed between 500 BC and 490 BC. Built in the Doric style, it was comprised of twelve columns on each site while the internal temple (cella) had two rows of five columns each.
The importance of the Aphaia sanctuary declined after the Athenians began to dominate Aegina from the middle of the fifth century BC. Some repairs were made to the temple in the fourth century, but by the end of the second century BC the area was largely abandoned.
Today the Temple of Aphaea remains in a picturesque semi-ruinous state and is one of the most important ancient sites on the island.
Among the most interesting features of this ancient Greek temple were the pedimental sculptures, which show elements from history and legend. The east pediment showed elements from the first Trojan War, which was an early expedition by Herakles against the Trojan king Laomedon, and which included Telamon, son of Aiakos - the first king of the island of Aphaea. This expedition is not to be confused with the second Trojan War – the one described by Homer - which is depicted on the west pediment, and in which in which three descendants of Aiakos participated: Ajax, Teukros and Achilles.
As with other famous Greek sculptures, these pediments were removed in the 19th century and are now on display in the Glyptothek museum in Munich, Germany.
The Temple of Aphaea at Aegina is now a popular tourist site and offers a beautiful backdrop for those seeking to take some inspirational photography at a truly idyllic site.
Arguably better preserved than its more famous Athenian neighbour, the Parthenon, the Temple of Hephaestus is an extremely impressive ancient Greek temple and one of the best Greek temples of the world.
The Temple of Hephaestus is an imposing ancient Greek temple in the Athenian Agora and site of worship of the Greek deity of fire, blacksmiths and sculpture.
Built in the fifth century BC, the Temple of Hephaestus was later incorporated into the Church of Agios Georgios, this accounting for its excellent state of preservation. This site also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.
Once the largest temple in Greece, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is now but a shadow of its former self with only a few standing columns surviving.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as the Olympeion is one of the biggest - if not actually the biggest - ancient temples in Greece.
Vast and impressive, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was begun by Peisistratus the Young in the sixth century BC but various events and circumstances meant it took hundreds of years to construct. It was the Roman emperor Hadrian who finally completed it in around 132AD.
The archaeological site of the Temple of Olympian Zeus contains not just the ancient temple but also other ruins. Amongst these are some other ancient temples, the remains of a defensive wall, some Roman baths and even homes.
A picturesque ruin of a fifth century BC Greek temple, the Temple of Poseidon of Sounio was dedicated to the deity of the sea.
The Temple of Poseidon of Sounio is a picturesque ruin of a fifth century BC Greek temple dedicated to the deity of the sea.
Dramatically perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, the Temple of Poseidon of Sounio is now made up of a rectangle of restored large Doric columns.
For truly spectacular views this partially-ruined Greek temple is hard to beat. If you can catch it at sunset, then the scene will be complete. It’s roughly an hour out from Athens and there are several tour operators offering half-day trips.
One of several Greek temples on the Acropolis in Athens, the Erechtheion has survived in reasonably good condition.
The Erechtheion is a well preserved ancient temple within the Acropolis complex where its believed namesake, the legendary Greek king Erechtheus, is thought to have come to worship.
Immersed in myth and legend, the Erechtheion was home to several cults, including those of Poseidon, Athena and, of course, Erechtheus himself.
Completed in around 406BC, the Erechtheion is a distinctive building whose large columns are statues depicting women. These statues are known as Karyatides, derived from the fact that they were inspired by the women of Karyes in Lakonia.
Four of the original six statues are now on display in the adjoining Acropolis Museum having been replaced by copies in the Erechtheion itself. Of the remaining two statues, one is in the British Museum as part of the Elgin Marbles. Only a few fragments of the final statue survive, also displayed in the Acropolis Museum.
One of the lesser known Greek temples, the Serapeum was a magnificent ancient temple and library complex in Alexandria of which little remains today.
The Serapeum in Alexandria was an ancient temple dedicated to the worship of the Greco-Egyptian deity Serapis.
Built by Ptolemy III in the third century BC, the Serapeum also housed an important library which may have served as an annex of the Great Library of Alexandria.
In late 69AD or early 70AD Vespasian visited the Serapeum to help confirm his place as the rightful Roman Emperor during the civil war he fought with Vitellius.
Ancient writers describe the Serapeum as one of the most magnificent temples of the ancient world and it was said to be made of marble with great adornments throughout.
The Serapeum was destroyed in 391AD - either by a Christian mob or by Roman soldiers on instructions from the Christian authorities of the Roman Empire.
Today there is little to see at the Serapeum site, though access to the underground library remains and is worth a visit. Other artefacts from the Serapeum can be found in the Greco-Roman Museum of Alexandria.