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date: 03 December 2020


  • Richard Allan Tomlinson


The Greek temple was the house of the god, whose image it contained, usually placed so that at the annual festival it could watch through the open door the burning of the sacrifice at the altar which stood outside (see statues, cult of). It was not a congregational building, the worshippers instead gathering round the altar in the open air, where they would be given the meat of the victims to consume (see sacrifice, greek). *Orientation was generally towards the east, and often towards that point on the skyline where (allowing for the vagaries of ancient Greek calendars) the sun rose on the day of the festival. The temple also served as a repository for the property of the god, especially the more valuable possessions of gold and silver *plate (see votive offerings).The core of the temple is the cella, a rectangular room whose side walls are prolonged beyond one end to form a porch, either with columns between them (in antis) or in a row across the front (prostyle). More prestigious temples surround this with an external colonnade (and are described as peripteral). They generally duplicate the porch with a corresponding prolongation of the walls at the rear of the cella, without, however, making another doorway into the cella (the opisthodomus, or false porch).

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