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The Sanctuary of Athena was a temple built at the gateway to Ancient Delphi honouring the goddess of Athena. The full name for the site is the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia (pronaia meaning “the one before the temple”) and it served to welcome visitors who came to Delphi from the east.
The sanctuary consisted of several buildings built on a terrace overlooking a valley of olive trees. There were temples and treasuries but the most unique structure was the circular tholos.
Built between 380 and 360 BC, the Tholos of Delphi may have sheltered an important statue, although the exact purpose of the structure is unknown. The tholos temple originally consisted of 20 Doric columns around the perimeter of the podium and 10 Corinthian half-columns in the interior. The three columns that stand have been re-erected.
Other architectural features that gave the tholos at the Sanctuary of Athena its classic appearance were two large friezes and forty metopes. One of the friezes depicted a battle between centaurs and Amazons, a mythical scene that’s popular in Greek sculpture and can be seen at other ancient sites in Greece.
Although it requires some imagination to visualize the Tholos of Delphi’s past glory, it remains Delphi’s most stunning monument.