The Decorated Frieze of the Temple of Apollo

View of an entablature section in place

What is an entablature? The photo at left shows several entablature blocks in position atop some portico columns. The photo at right is a close-up view.

As shown in the illustration below from A. Mau (based on the Mazois drawings), the decorated frieze was attached to this surface. Note the underlying triglyph pattern (three vertical bars) in the photo and the drawing.

Entablature close-up

Griffin wing

The white fragment shows a griffin's wing.

Reconstruction after Mazoi

Griffin foot

The fragments above clearly match the griffin's foot in the drawing.

Decorated fragments

Triglyph fragment

More decorated fragments

The photos left and right above show the many different designs on the frieze fragments. The center photo, a triglyph fragment, adds very strong physical evidence that the fragments are from the entablature.

The photo at right was taken after candidate root cavities were dug out without providing any convincing evidence of plantings. The one at the very bottom actually contained a large painted frieze fragment. All the decorated fragments were found more or less in a line across the trench (from top to bottom as indicated by the green arrow in the photo) and within a layer a foot or less in depth.

Trench bottom

Possible trajectory

The photo at left, taken before all the turf was removed from the second trench area and before any significant digging began, shows roughly how the falling entablature could have landed where we found the decorated frieze pieces.


This find prompts some speculation about the temple refurbishment chronology. Let me again quote Maureen:

"Opinion is divided whether this refurbishment of the sanctuary dates to Nero (pre-earthquake) or to the period after the earthquake. In the most recent treatment of the paintings of the temple (V. Sampaolo, in: Pompei. Pitture et Mosaici, Vol. VII, Rome 1997, pp. 286f.) a pre-earthquake, Neronian date is accepted. Our pottery finds etc. are not accurate enough to determine this beyond doubt."

If in fact the portico collapsed during the earthquake, the find is evidence for the Neronian date. It provides no evidence either way if the collapse was during the 79 CE eruption or later. 

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Updated 3 Oct 98. 
This page and its contents © Copyright 1998 Michael & Karen Crisafulli. 
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