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Ireon, Samos

Situated at the North of the island, some 3 km. west of Pythagorio, close to the sea, it is the most famous archaeological site of Samos and one of the most important of Greece. Dedicated to the goddess Hera, the wife of Zeus, the king of gods, it has been a sacred place from the late Geometric period (800 b.C.) up to the Roman era.

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The first surveys at the site have been undertaken by the French doctor and botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort who visited the place at 1702. Tournefort was succeeded by other visitors in 18th and 19th centuries, some of whom made drawings of the ruins and introduced the place to the intellectual audience of Europe. In 1879 French, Paul Girard discovered the statue of a «kore», actually known as «Hera of Cheramyes», now exhibited in the Louvre Museum.

More systematically, excavations of the Greek Archaeological Society were undertaken at 1902 directed by P. Cavvadias and Th. Sofoulis, while since 1910 excavations have been conducted by German archaeological institutions. Today, excavations are still being continued, under the supervision of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens.

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The sanctuary has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site.
The most important monuments in the sanctuary are:

a) The Temple of Hera

It has been built and restored several times, but it had never been totally completed. Archaeologists define some 4 phases of the temple starting from 800/750 b.C. with «Hekatompedon » I (i.e. 100 Samian feet-33 m.-long) and later the «Hekatompedon» II quite simple temples, both made of mud brick on a stone basis ("krepis") and wooden posts to support the roof.

The first monumental temple was built by the famous Samian architect Rhoikos in 570/560 B.C. It is said that Rhoikos invented a lathe, in order to work the huge columns of the monument.

This temple had been collapsed, possibly by fire, and was reconstructed by Rhoikos’ son, Theodoros, during the government of the tyrant Polycrates, some decades later.

This last temple was one of the biggest in Greece, dipteral, with 155 Ionian style columns. Only one can be seen at the site nowadays, half its original height, along with its foundations, giving dimensions of 108,63X55,16 m!

This temple is considered by the historian Herodotus as the greatest and most imposing temple in Greece.
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b) The Great Altar

It occupied the same place since the early phases of its use and it dates back to the Late Bronze Age. In earliest times it was a small structure made of rubble, but from 560 B.C. it acquired a monumental form with decoration of cymatia on the walls and a frieze with sphinxes and animals.

The altar was rebuilt in Roman times (1st-2nd centuries A.D.) of marble.

c) The Sacred Road

It was the main access from the city of Samos (the actual town of Pythagorio) to the sanctuary. The road existed in the beginning of the 6th century and maybe earlier.

Important votive items were found along the length of the road, such as the Geneleos group (now in the Archaeological Museum of Samos) and colossal «kouroi», as the one exhibited in the Museum of Samos.
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