Salvatore La Rosa

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Santuario di MarasÓ

The archaeological area of MarasÓ (from the name of the modern district) is located right behind the National Archaeological Museum of Locri Epizephyrii and is characterized by the presence of a large sanctuary whose main components can be appreciated still nowadays: the temenos (the area consecrated to the deity where all the structures used for the worship were located); the altars and the temple.

The first systematic study of the area dates back to the XIX century and was made by archaeologist Paolo Orsi. Later on the place was further investigated and the excavation area continuously expanded; despite this the original boundaries of the temenos have not been identified yet.

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By studies made, the scholars have been able to learn that the sanctuary was probably established towards the middle of the VII century b.C. (therefore not long after the foundation of the polis). Of the beautiful temple in ionic order that characterized the sanctuary unfortunately very few ruins have reached our age (particularly a small part of the western side of the crepidoma) mostly because of the systematic removal, carried out in the XIX century, of the limestone blocks (reused in the construction of modern structures) that formed the crepidoma of the temple. However such removal allowed Paolo Orsi to study the remains of the archaic temple, which otherwise would have remained covered by the structures of the ionic temple.

  The Temple
THE TEMPLE - Click on the image to view the Photo Section of MarasÓ

The early-archaic temple, made of sandstone blocks, dates back to the VII century b.C. and consisted in an elongated cella (naos) with pronaos that altogether measured 22 metres in length and approximately 8 metres in width. Contemporary to it are other structures found within the temenos; particularly must be pointed out two stone platforms on which, probably, stood the archaic altars.

Towards the middle of the VI century b.C. the temple was modified. This time the perimetral walls were made of limestone blocks and the cella took the typical archaic structure with the so-called "pieno in asse", namely the presence of a single row of wooden columns found along the central axis of the cella, thus dividing the chamber in two aisles. A row of four columns was placed both in front of the pronaos and behind the cella, and the whole structure was enclosed in a peristasis, so shaping the temple as hexastyle-peripteral, with a length of 35,5 metres (and, probably, 14 columns on both sides lengthwise) and a width of 17 metres.

In the first half of the V century b.C. the temple underwent a new transformation, this time more radical. The original structure was, in fact, demolished and thus was started the construction of a totally different type of temple, also with a change in the axial orientation compared to the previous building. The new temple, whose dimensions were greater than those of the archaic structure (with a length of 45,5 metres - and 17 columns on both side lengthwise - and a width of 19 metres), was built in ionic order through the use of limestone blocks of excellent quality, probably imported from Syracuse. This new temple was as well hexastyle-peripteral and the peristasis enclosed a cella with pronaos and opisthodomos.

In what used to be the central point of the cella of the ionic temple it's still possible, nowadays, to observe the remains of a bothros (a votive pit or enclosure) whose outer walls it's believed were decorated by the so-called "Ludovisi Throne"

  The Bothros
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To the western front of the ionic temple belonged the marble sculptures known as the Dioscuri that, together with a headless statue of a Nereid (brought to light few years before the Dioscuri), were probably placed within the pedimental triangle (tympanon) or as an acroterial decoration.

Contemporary to the Ionic temple, and about 15 metres away from its eastern front, was built a great altar (of the size of 12,80 x 2,60 metres), made of the same material used for the construction of the ionic temple.


Despite the extensive studies that have been dedicated to the sacred area and, particularly, to the temple, it's still difficult to determine to which deity it was dedicated. The main hypothesis indicates Aphrodite on the basis of the importance that her worship had amongst the ancient Locrians and because of the discovery of some votive terracottas dedicated to her. Other theories, however, indicate Zeus (due to the discovery of terracottas depicting him) or the Dioscuri (due to the discovery in the area of the marble group of which it was said previously).

All the photos of this page are copyright Salvatore La Rosa and can be used only with the written authorization of the copyright owner.
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