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One of the most important sanctuary of the ancient Greek, related to the foundation and the life in the town of Tinos since the 4th century BC.


Excavations of the temple of Poseidon were carried out by the Belgian archeologists H.Demoulin in 1902 and P.Graindor in 1905 who brought to light the destroyed temple, its propylaea, altar, bases of statues, aqueducts, baths, a white marble sun dial by Andronicus of Macedonia and so on and so forth.
The precise date the temple was founded is unknown and the finds up to the present do not go further back than the 5th century B.C. Due to the worship of Poseidon, Tinos became an important religious center, like the one at Delos and many pilgrims, after bathing and purifying themselves on Tinos continued on to Apollo’s island. The Poseidonia or Posideia were religious ceremonies conducted in honor of Poseidon in January and February.
During the 3rd century B.C the temple was rebuilt and extended. The worship of Amphitrite, wife of Poseidon, was inaugurated, while its fame spread throughout Greece to Lower Italy and the coasts of Asia Minor and Africa. Indeed, certain cities recognized the right of inviolable asylum for those that were persecuted.
The temple also flourished during the period 200-146 B.C. and continued to function until the 4th century A.D. when, with the establishment of Christianity on the island, it was destroyed.
Important buildings

1. Building D

A small rectangular structure was built towards the end of the 2nd century BC around an older rectangular eschara.
Within Building D was found an impressive number of statues which was apparently set up there at the beginning of the 1st century AD. A bust of Agriphina, the Elder and a statue, thought to be a portrait of the emperor Claudius. That suggests that the building served as a shrine for worship of the imperial family.

2. The temple of Poseidon and Amphitrite

Two successive temples stood on this site. The earlier ( late 4th century BC) was a simple rectangular building with a porch ( pronaos) and main room ( ceila) on a high base ( crepis). At the beginning of the 2nd century BC a slightly larger temple was built in the same place, in the Doric order and probably with a row of four columns at the east and the west ends ( tetrastyle, amphiprostyle).
The temple housed the cult statues of Poseidon and Amphitrite, works of the Athenian sculptor Telesinos. They were about 4 m high and were made either of marble or of another material, such as wood or clay, but with the extremities ( head, hands feet) in marble ( acrolithic). The marble sea- monsters and some of the dolphins displayed in the Museum of Tinos, come from the decoration of this temple.

3. The baths C

These belong to the last building phase of the sanctuary ( 150- 200 AD). Although not completely excavated, part of the changing room ( apodyterion) can be made out as well as a cistern with the hydraulic plaster typical of the Roman period, painted in a rich red with a yellow border.

4. Building B

A large rectangular building which is interpreted as an abaton or treatment centre, as the sanctuaries of Asklepios, was connected with the worship of Poseidon as a doctor. It went though two building phases of which the first is contemporary with the older temple, The Fountain and the Hestiatorion, while the second is dated to the Roman period- beginning of the 1st century. AD.

5. The Fountain

Architecturally this building is an original creation of the Tenians c. 300 BC. Thanks to the exemplary study and publication by A. Orlandos, it is the best known structure in the sanctuary. Essentially it consists of a rectangular unit, built of white and grey- blue marble and divided into three sections. The central part is a semicircular exedra with a bench for pilgrims to rest on. This is framed by two cisterns for drawing water. The facade had a continuous colonnade in the Doric order with slender columns and an epistyle with triglyphs and metopes. On the north walls of the cisterns would have been waterspouts, perhaps in the form of lions’ heads. The roof of the exedra is consisted of flat slabs of white marble, while the cisterns were roofed in grey- blue marble with rectangular coffers decorated with eight- pointed stars in relief. This motif is known from the Propylaia on the Acropolis at Athens, but was particularly popular in Macedonia in the time of Philip II and afterwards.
Joined to the north side of the Fountain is a rectangular building which seems to have been a reservoir for the supplying of the Fountain with water.

6. The monumental Altar

This impressive structure, 100m2 in area, belongs to c. 100 BC. Ð-shaped, stood on a high podium, with foundations in gneiss and superstructure of white and blue- grey marble. It was decorated with representations of bulls’ heads ( bucrania), rosettes and garlands in relief. In its facade stood two groups of sculpture, portraying the struggle of Eros ( Love) with his brother Anteros, and Nikai ( Victories), works of Agasias of Ephesos.

7. The exedra of Nausion

The best preserved of the notive monuments in the sanctuary, is a semicircular pedestal ( exedra) of blue- grey marble. It lies beyond the northwest corner of the monumental alter and is roughly contemporary. According to surviving inscriptions, statues of five members of one of the leading families of Tinos were set up on the exedra.

8. The great Stoa

This was too part of the grandiose building programme of around 100 BC, when it was formed the monumental facade and southern boundary of the sanctuary. It had two faces, north and south, each with a Doric colonnade. The terracotta antefixes of the roof were decorated with dolphins and palmettes, and there may have been marble dolphins in the gable ends ( pediments).The two small parts of the stoa, that are visible today, ( at its east and west extremities) give only a rough idea of its length- 170 m. It has probably being the largest stoa in Cyclades at that time.

9. Baths N

These are dated around the end of the 1st century AD. They are not well preserved, the plan is puzzling, and it has been suggested that they were not completed.

10. Building Q

A large rectangular building of c. 300 BC whose west side was destroyed by the construction of Baths N. It is interpreted as a Hestiatorion, a place for ritual dining. North of the Hestiatorion are the kitchens, where numerous cooking vessels were found.

The Gods

From all the Cyclades, Tinos was the only island that dedicated an entire sanctuary to Poseidon, the god of the sea. Beside him stood, on equal terms, Amphitrite, an exclusively marine deity who, in other sanctuaries is a shadowy presence. Marine symbols- dolphins, sea monsters, and tridents- dominated the decoration of the sanctuary. However, according to one ancient source, in Tinos, Poseidon was honoured as a doctor. This aspect of the god reflects the spirit of the Hellenistic period, when the sanctuaries of hero- doctors were particularly popular. It is worth noticing that the sanctuary of the healing god Asklepios on Delos was built at the end of the 4th cent. BC extended in the 3rd.


The architecture of the sanctuary in the finest stage is marked by the Doric order in an austere form, without decorative elaboration but with some purely Tenian innovations of which the best example is located by the Fountain- Exedra.
The buildings are constructed of local materials- green and brown gneiss and white and grey- blue marble. Gneiss is usually employed in the foundations. Both materials are found together in the walls, in varying combinations, depending on the type of building and the period of construction.

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