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The Temple of Athena at Assos, by Bonna Daix Wescoat

Reviewed by Tuna Şare

Since its archaeological discovery during the first expedition by the Archaeological Institute of America in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1881, the Temple of Athena at Assos has been perceived as the ‘ugly duckling’ of Greek architecture. The only extant Doric temple in Archaic Asia Minor, the structure does not fit any norms; it presents a fusion of Doric, Ionic, and Aeolic orders and various iconographic traditions. Wescoat undertakes the difficult task of reconstructing this enigmatic building, for which several dates and reconstructions have been proposed by previous scholars. Indeed, she explains the process as follows: “In attempting to come to terms with the Temple of Athena at Assos, I have found myself more frequently in the position of dismantling rather than reconstructing the building.” The basic contribution of the book to current scholarship lies in Wescoat’s approach, which refuses to see the temple as a provincial variation of Greek-mainland norms, but rather views it as a conscious hybrid experiment reflecting both Western Anatolian and Greek traditions. Wescoat tries to reconcile problems of chronology and reconstruction by positing two major construction phases in the Archaic period, and a later one in the Hellenistic period. Thus, she documents and analyzes the material from each period in separate chapters.

In the introduction, Wescoat criticizes early scholarship that considered the temple as the result of an unsuccessful experimentation in Greek architecture. She stresses that the “messy vitality” of the structure does not make it an outsider; rather, it should be perceived within the larger narrative of Archaic Greek architecture. The two main objectives of the book are to reconstruct a precise plan of the temple and to provide an iconographical interpretation of its sculptural decoration based on the extensive remains. These objectives face the challenge of the temple having had different construction phases, thus making it hard to assign each surviving piece to a specific period.

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