Temple of Zeus Areios, Rodotopi

Sites & Monuments Temple of Zeus Areios, Rodotopi

The ruins of the temple of Zeus Areios are located at Vortopos, 2km north of the village Rodotopi, at the foot of the Bistouni-Lapsista hill range. The sanctuary was first identified and excavated by D. Evaggelidis in 1935, after the discovery of the headless statue of a Roman emperor, which is included in the AMI collections. The excavations continued after the World War II, and revealed the entire temple, its stone-paved courtyard, a late burial enclosure, and two structures that were interpreted as pedestals.

The Monument

The church is one of the few surviving public buildings in the Prefecture of Ioannina, and the only/sole identified church outside the Sanctuary of Dodoni. It is an Ionic temple pavilion/peristyle temple built according to the Ionic rhythm, of dimensions 19.30 x 11.00m. Remains of the anteroom (prodomos) and the cella (sekos) (9.00 x 6.00m) up to the height of the euthynteria are preserved. From the superstructure and the roof, only fragments of tile-covers and part of two Ionic capitals of limestone are preserved. To the east of the anteroom there is a paved courtyard, with traces of a shrine and an altar, and also the remains of a pedestal. In the North-West corner of the temple, a burial enclosure was identified and excavated, in which two looted graves were found. These remains are no longer visible.

Identification and Importance

From the written sources, and the excavation data so far, the identification of the temple cannot be attested. Professor Sotiris Dakaris identified the monument with the great sanctuary of Passarona, known from ancient sources as a religious and political center of the Molossians. The father of the gods, Zeus, was worshiped in the sanctuary as the god of war, Areios. According to the professor, it constituted “the molossian oὖdas”, the counterweight of the sanctuary of Dodoni, the center of the Thesprotic power.

The discovery of votive inscriptions and resolutions suggests that it has been not only a religious center, but also played an important political role.

The temple’s masonry places it chronologically at the end of the 4th century BC, while the resolution of the Aterargos demonstrate that the temple was in use during the 3rd century BC as well. According to the excavator D. Evangelidis, the temple had been set on fire during Roman times, probably by Emilius Paulus in 167 BC.

The restoration of the temple and the dedication of a stature of a Roman emperor to the site, stress the significance of the sanctuary in Roman times as well. During the late Roman period the temple was abandoned, probably due to the frequent barbarian raids and the general reorganizations that shook the Roman empire at that time.

 Angeliki Panatsi

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