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, from Agrigento and the world famous Parthenon to Paestum, Sounio, Pergamum and Corinth.
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.
Today the number of surviving Greek temples is longer than you may imagine, with Greek temples appearing not just in Greece itself, but throughout the Mediterranean. We’ve put together an experts guide to surviving temples from Ancient Greece, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of ancient Greek temples, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the top Greek Temples in the World?
The Valley of the Temples contains the stunningly well-preserved remains of several astonishing temples, representing some of the best preserved Ancient Greek ruins in the world, especially outside Greece. The majority were constructed in the fifth century BC. Of the ten original temples, the remains of nine can now be seen. The best preserved of the ruins is the 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.
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. 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. Heavily damaged in 1687 during a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Venetians, many of the surviving sculptures 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.
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. Today, visitors can still see the spectacular Temple of Hera, the Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Ceres. The site also contains impressive defensive walls, a Roman forum, the basic remains of a Roman amphitheatre and a number of ancient tombs.
A picturesque ruin of a fifth century BC Greek temple, the Temple of Poseidon of Sounio was dedicated to the deity of the sea. Dramatically perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, the temple is 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.
Once a thriving ancient Greek then Roman city, Pergamum’s ruins include famous sites such as its Asclepion temple, theatre and library. The historic ruins 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. The other two areas are its lower city and its stunning health centre or Asclepion, where a variety of treatments were offered, such as mud baths.
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. Inhabited since the Neolithic period, Corinth grew from the eight century BC, developing into a centre of trade and a city of great riches. Today, visitors can see its many ancient sites, including the few remnants of the former Temple of Aphrodite, once a home of Corinth’s sacred prostitutes. 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.
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. Located in the Athenian Agora, it was the 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.
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. 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. Part of what made Delphi such an important city was its mythological and religious status. 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.
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. 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. 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.
Once one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the remains of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus are sadly rather poorly preserved. Despite this Ephesus itself is a wonder to explore and contains some of the best Greek and Roman ruins in the Mediterranean. The site is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of history, allowing them to walk through its streets and view its magnificent houses, community buildings, temples and stadiums. Some of the most impressive sites at Ephesus include the Library of Celsus and the Temple of Hadrian. A trip to Ephesus usually takes at least half a day – some tours include other local sites such as Priene and Miletus – but 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.