The Temple of Afea (or Aphaea or Aphaia) is dedicated to the Greek goddess Afea. It is one of the most important Archaeological Sites in Greece. Located approximately 13 km east by road from the main port of Aegina Island. It stands on the top of a hill covered by pine trees, offering excellent views of Aegina Island and the Saronic Gulf. The Temple of Afea has an unusual plan and it used to have important sculptures, which are thought to illustrate the change from Archaic to Early Classical technique. These sculptures are now housed in Munich’s Sculpture Gallery. There are also a number of fragments exhibited in Aegina’s Archaeological Museum and on the site’s Museum.
Furthermore the setting is extremely beautiful, as is usually the case with places chosen by the Ancient Greeks for their temples. Another key point is that together with the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion and the Parthenon in Athens, it forms an equilateral triangle. It used to be thought that the sanctuary was dedicated to Hellenio Zeus. As a result of the Pedi Mental Sculptures that were discovered it became apparent that it was dedicated to Athena. Ever since further angler’s excavations in 1901 the established opinion has been that the sanctuary, as indicated by an inscription found in the temple’s foundation, belonged to the Crete-Mycenaean deity Afea (invisible).
Afea is connected with the Minoan deity Britomartis, a friend of Artemis. She unwittingly provoked a burning passion in King Mitios, and while fleeing him, fell into the sea. Then some fishermen caught her and brought her to Aegina. As soon as she was on the island one of the fishermen pressed his advances upon her. She fled toward the woods of Artemis and then suddenly disappeared from the face of earth.
For this reason the islanders dedicated a temple to her. Although it is likely that the pre Hellenic cult of Afea, which came to Aegina Island from Crete, eventually merged with the cult of Athena. It appears that the first temple, to which belongs the inscription found in the foundations and now in the Aegina Museum, dates from the 7th century B.C. It was a simple square building, of which there remain only a few foundations of the altar. In the early 6th century B.C. a temple in antis with a three aisled cella was on the same site. Several architectural fragments from the temple still survive, used as building material in later construction.
The temple we see today, one of the finest examples of Archaic Architecture, was built ca. 490 B.C. Notably it is constructed of local poros in the peripteral Doric style. With six columns on the short and twelve columns on the long sides. The columns incline slightly inwards and have a cushion beneath the capitals. Furthermore a large door with marble pilasters led from the front porch to the cella, in which stood the gilded ivory and wood statue of the goddess. The space was divided by a double row of five columns into three aisles, which formed a two storied stoa on the north, east, and south sides of the cella.
The coffered ceiling was decorated with golden stars, while the floor was covered with a thin red plaster, traces of which can still be seen. A smaller door, probably built later since it is not in the axis of the temple, leads to the rear porch. In addition to the right and left of it, are two square marble blocks between two vertical slabs, which may have been offering tables. The entire surface of the temple was covered with a yellowish plaster, and some architectural parts like the cornice and the pediment tympana were coloured.
As soon as the temple was completed a new altar was built outside to the east and the sanctuary space enlarged with isodomic retaining walls. The temple and the altar were surrounded by an enclosure with an entrance on the south side.
A new propylon was built, keeping roughly to the earlier plan and dimensions, with two stoas. The interior room was larger and led down four steps to the courtyard. Also, the five large rooms and the two stoas east of the propylon must have been the priests’ quarters. All these buildings were surrounded by an enclosure with an entrance in the south. Further south, below the sanctuary entrance, are the foundations of a three-roomed house which probably served as a guest house.
The temple was struck by lightning in 1969, toppling the southeast corner column. Since this time there has been a lightning conductor on the site.
It is famous about