Location: In a central spot of the Agora. It is surrounded by the Altar of the Twelve Gods to the north, the Temple of Apollo Patroos to the west, the Panathenaic Way to the east and Agrippa’s Odeion to the south. No 25 in the Agora plan in the Guide: Mc CAMP II, J., The Athenian Agora: A Short Guide to the Excavations, Excavations of the Athenian Agora, Picture Book no 16, American School of Classical Studies (Princeton 2003), p. 2 and pp. 24-25.
Date of construction: 436-432 BC. Relocated to the Agora during Augustus’ reign (2 AD?)
Periods of Use: Roman.
The temple of Ares, excavated in 1937, is one of the four important monuments transplanted to the Agora during the reign of Augustus. This is a typical temple structure of the heyday of 5th cent. BC Athenian architecture. It was probably relocated from the Mesogeia area and not from the deme of Acharnai, as it was previously thought. It survives in a very poor condition.
The central triangular space created between the Middle Stoa, the Panathenaic Way and the street traversing the east side of the Agora, with its administrative and religious buildings, acquired a new use with the creation of the Roman Agora, in the Augustan period. Thus this space is occupied mostly by temple structures relocated from other places (Temple of Ares, Altar of Zeus Agoraios, SE Temple, SW Temple), and also by the massive Odeion of Agrippa.
The Temple of Ares is mentioned by Pausanias (1.8.4), who is, however, unaware that it was transplanted there from some other location. This fact became evident when the site was excavated in 1937. Some of the temple’s architectural members were already unearthed in 1931, at the start of the excavations in the Agora.
Description of the ruins
Of the temple remains only a part of its foundations, in the east end of the stereobate. It is made up of poros blocks in secondary use, set over a layer of crushed stone. The plan of the building, as revealed in the excavation, is indicated by the cut hewn into the bedrock during its placement.
The temple was dismantled and carried in whole to the Athenian Agora during the Augustan period. Formerly it was thought that it was moved from the deme of Acharnai, where the sources report an important temple and the popular worship of Ares. Recent studies, however, have proven that this cannot be true. Nowadays, the view of Manolis Korres appears more convincing; according to him the temple was relocated to the Agora from the Mesogeia area, and more specifically from Pallene (where it was dedicated to Athena). Some other views have also been put forward – that the temple stood in some other part of the city, or even in some other part of the Agora, but these lack any supporting evidence whatsoever. Apparently, the relocation of the temple and its re-dedication to Ares is connected to the worship of the imperial family: Gaius, grandson of Augustus, who was extremely popular in the East, was honoured in Greece as the “New Ares”, as testified by an inscription of 2 AD, possibly related with the re-dedication of the temple (IG II² 3250). This identification of the emperor with the god of War gave new stimulus to the worship of Ares in the Eastern Roman Empire. Beyond this, one of the divinities favoured by Augustus in Rome itself was Mars Ultor.
The view that it was relocated rests on the fact that on many of the 200 surviving superstructure architectural members (recognisable by the characteristic grey-greenish chlorite veins of the Pentelic marble), unearthed over a large radius within the Agora area, bear mason's marks, which were used to guide the Roman period builders as to the place of each member during the temple’s reassembly process (e.g. ΑΡ = left, Ο = opisthodomos, Β = second step of the stereobate, Ε = euthenteria etc.).
Of the four surviving column drums, one was found close to the temple, a second one in the southeast end of the Agora (today is incorporated in the restored south column in the pronaos of the Hephaisteion), while two more were later used as millstones. Since architectural members from all the parts of the temple have been discovered (triglyphs, capitals, epistyle, marble roof tiles etc.), we can safely deduce its design as well as its style.
The sime from the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion has been discovered in the same area. It appears it was carried here to be placed in the Temple of Ares.
Temple’s design
The temple is a characteristic example of late 5th cent. BC Athenian architecture. According to Dinsmoor it is one of the four surviving works of the so-called ‘Hephaisteion architect’, and his third work in chronological order, as it is dated to 436-432 BC, that is in the middle of the Pericleian Building Programme. The other three temples, are (in the chronological order proposed by Dinsmoor), the Hephaisteion (449-444 BC), the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion and, last, the Temple of Nemesis in Ramnous (432 BC). In terms of its design and the construction method, the Temple of Ares bears more similarities to the Hephaisteion.
It is a double hexastyle in antis Doric temple, comprising pronaos, cella and opisthodomos. Its dimensions are: 17 × 0.36m in the stereobate, 15.88 × 34.71m in the stylobate, and 14.51 × 34.04m at the level of the Doric frieze. It featured 13 columns on its long side, in the manner of the contemporary Doric buildings. The height of the columns has been calculated to 6.02-6.20m.The intercolumniation is thought to have been 2.68-2.69m, except in the corner intercolumnal distance, which has been calculated to 2.48-2.49m. Although the lower part of the pediments had been reinforced so as to allow the placing of sculptures, no traces of sculptural decoration exist on the surviving fragments. A fragmentary marble sculpture could originate -as an akroterion- from the temple; parts of this came to light during the opening of a ditch for the metropolitan railway in 1891, but also during the 1951 excavations. This is a female figure without wings portrayed moving towards the spectator.
The Temple of Ares was destroyed in 267 AD, during the raid of the Heruli in Athens. Substantial parts of the Pentelic marble superstructure were incorporated in the Late Roman defensive wall. Apparently, the structure was not completely ruined, as it became partly incorporated into the Late Roman villa (or gymnasium) of the 5th cent. AD.
The Altar of Ares
The foundation of the Altar of Ares, situated at a distance of approximately 10m from the façade of the temple, is all that survives today of the monument. The dimensions of its foundation are 6.30 × 8.90m. It is made up of poros blocks in secondary use. The altar rested on the east part of the foundation, while the western part was stepped. The surviving architectural members indicate that the altar, which was also transplanted together with the temple, should be dated to the second half of the 4th cent. BC.
Monuments in and around the Temple
Pausanias names some of the most important monuments located in the area of the Temple of Ares. He firstly mentions the devotional statue of the deity, a work of Alcamenes (5th cent. BC), the Athena statue of the Parian sculptor Locros, the statue of Enyo, a work of Praxiteles’ sons (Cephisodotus and Praxiteles the Younger), and the two sculptures of the goddess Aphrodite. A marble statue depicting a female figure, discovered built into the Late Roman defensive wall (S 1882), probably portrays the goddess. It is dated to the late 5th cent. BC, and could originate from the Temple of Ares. A second statue of the goddess could also belong to this temple (S 378). Finally, the Athena statue referred to by Pausanias has tentatively been identified with the exquisite torso of the late 5th cent. BC discovered in a Byzantine building.
Pausanias also mentions a series of statues and complexes he probably saw in the area between the Temple of Ares and the Odeion of Agrippa. These are statues portraying Hercules, Theseus, Apollo, Kalades (an obscure figure) and Pindar. Close to that place stood the statues of the Tyrannicides, Harmodios and Aristogeiton. Other statues are also mentioned: of Hellenistic kings (Ptolemy Lagos or Soter and Ptolemy Philadelphos and his sister Arsinoe are mentioned by name), of Phillip and Alexander, of Lysimachos and Pyrrhus (although it is unclear whether these last two were actually in the same part of the Agora or in another part of the city). Needless to say, none of these artworks has survived nor has any one been safely identified with any of the numerous Roman copies of Classical and Hellenistic sculptures. The famous complex portraying Harmodios and Aristogeiton (a.k.a. the Tyrannicides), the slayers of the tyrant Hipparchos and first heroes of the Athenian Democracy is a notable exception.
The original artwork was commissioned from the sculptor Antenor, sometime after 510 BC and the expulsion of the tyrant Hippias. In 480/479 BC, however, the complex was removed by Xerxes and carried to Persepolis. It was immediately replaced by a similar complex, commissioned from the sculptors Kritios and Nesiotes (477/476 BC). Following the capture of the Persian capital by Alexander the Great, the original complex was returned to Athens and was set up next to the later artwork. A part of the pedestal’s base (Ι 3872) was discovered in an area SE of the Temple of Ares. This, however, was incorporated in a building dating to the Ottoman or Modern period. The lexicographer Timaeus intimates that the complex was placed in the orchestra, which was situated in the north part of the Agora.
The complex of the Tyrannicides survives in copies. Of particular value are the clay casts of the complex originating from Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli. Apparently the philhellene emperor arranged for casts of the complex to be made so as to reproduce the famous sculpture in marble.
We should finally mention a memorable clue preserved by the Byzantine author Georgios Kodinos, in a text describing the monuments of Constantinople: he mentions a series of reliefs decorated with elephants originating from the Temple of Ares in Athens and set on the Golden Gate; these were installed there by Theodosius II (408-450 AD) where they remain until today. It is almost certain that these originate from the Agora temple.
A platform of 6-8m in width was created in the northern part of the temple, around the southeast corner of the building; several parts of sculptural works were placed upon it, but they are not identified with the aforementioned works. These are dozens of figures rendered in low-relief, generally dated to the last quarter of the 5th cent. BC (S 676, S679, S680, S1072).
Αρχαία Αγορά της Αθήνας – Άρειος Πάγος. Σύντομο Ιστορικό και Περιήγηση, Έκδοση της Ένωσης Φίλων Ακροπόλεως (Αθήνα 2004), pp.
BALDASSARI, P., ΣΕΒΑΣΤΩΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΩΙ. Edilizia Monumentale a Atene durante il Saeculum Augustum (Archaeologica 124, Roma 1998), pp.
BOERSMA, J.S., Athenian Building Policy from 561/560 to 405/404 B.C. (Scripta Archaeologica Groningana 4, Groningen 1970), p. 77 and pp. 172-173.
BRUNNSÅKER, S., The Tyrant-Slayers of Kritios and Nesiotes (Lund 1955).
DELIVORRIAS, A., Attische Giebelskulpturen udn Akrotere (Tübingen 1974), pp. 94-161.
DINSMOOR, W.B., ‘The Temple of Ares at Athens’, Hesperia 9 (1940), pp. 1-52.
Mc ALLISTER, M.H., ‘The Temple of Ares at Athens: A Review of the Evidence’, Hesperia 28 (1959), pp. 1-64.
Mc CAMP II, J., The Athenian Agora: A Guide to the Excavation and Museum4 (Αθήνα 1990), pp. 89-90, 114-115, 196, 198, 205-206, 238.
Μc CAMP II, J., The Athenian Agora, A Short Guide to the Excavations, Excavations of the Athenian Agora, Picture Book no 16, American School of Classical Studies (Princeton 2003), pp. 37.
Mc CAMP II, J., Η Αρχαία Αγορά της Αθήνας. Οι ανασκαφές στην καρδιά της κλασικής πόλης2 (Αθήνα 2004), pp. 222-223.
THOMPSON, H.A. – WYCHERLEY, R., The Agora of Athens. The American Excavations in the Athenian Agora, vol. XIV, American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Princeton 1972), pp. 155-160 (complex portraying the Tyrannicides) and 162-165 (temple and altar).
TRAVLOS, J., Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens (Princeton 1971), p. 104.
WYCHERLEY, R., The Agora of Athens. Literary and Epigraphic Testimonia, The American Excavations in the Athenian Agora, vol. III, American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Princeton 1957), pp. 54-55.
WYCHERLEY, R., The Stones of Athens (Princeton 1978), pp. 84-85.

Temple of Ares,  Representation in VR environment 

The project "Virtual Reality Digital Collection 'The Ancient Agora of Athens'" has been co-funded in a percentage of 80% by the European Regional Development Fund and in a percentage of 20% by state funds in the framework of the Operational Programme "Information Society" of the 3rd Community Support Framework.

HellasEuropean UnionInfosoc newInfosoc