The Afterlife of the Hephaisteion: The Interpretatio Christiana of an Ancient Athenian Monument

by Jaqueline P. Sturm

Hesperia, Volume 85, Issue 4
Page(s): 795-825
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2972/hesperia.85.4.0795
Year: 2016


This article examines the afterlife of the Hephaisteion in Athens and explores the reasons for its comparatively “gentle” transformation from pagan temple to Christian basilica during the 5th century A.D. The author proposes an Interpretatio Christiana for the ancient iconography of the sculpted metopes and friezes. This Christian reading is supported by historical factors such as the Athenian civic pride that was felt at the time and economic developments that are related to the increase in building construction in the Agora. It appears that these factors were responsible for the moderate adaptation of the Hephaisteion at a time when temples in the eastern Roman Empire were more often destroyed and replaced rather than reused and preserved.