Ireon or Hereon is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece and is protected by UNESCO as a WORLD HERITAGE MONUMENT. It is located in the homonymous coastal settlement of Ireon, not far away from Pythagorion.
The most remarkable monument of the Ireon sight, is the famous temple of goddess Hera, which according to the ancient historian Herodotus, was the greatest temple of that time. Ireon is built near the river of Imvrassia, at a point where according to the legend goddess Hera had been born.
Ireon used to be a place of worship from the Geometric period, until the Late Roman times. During the Archaic period, the temple flourished and had great influence in Greece, Egypt and Asia Minor. It should be noted that in the same area, remnants of four ancient temples, built successively from the 8th to the 5th century BC, have been found.
The first to began the excavations in the area, were two travelers named Joseph Pitton de Tournefort and Paul Girard, in 1702. Their work was continued by two other important Greek archaeologists, named Kavvadias and Sofoulis.
Nowadays, the German Archaeoogical School of Athens has undertaken to continue the important work of excavations at Ireon archaeological site.
Here are the most important monuments that the visitor has the opportunity to admire:
The Temple of Hera
The Temple of Hera, in Ireon, has passed through four phases. Initially, at its location had been built the smaller temples of Ekatompedos I and II (8th and 7th century BC), which were made of bricks, stone and wood. Then, an architect name Rhoecus rebuilt the temple (570 BC), turning it into a remarkable monument which was eventually destroyed by an unknown cause. Its current appearance is owed to Rhoecus‘s son, Theodore, who built once again the temple in 530 BC, during the tyranny of Polycrates.
It is a dipterous Ionic temple, one of the largest in Greece, measuring 108.63x 55.16 meters. Of the 155 colossal columns that supported the temple, only one has survived until our days and it is half the size of the original.
The Great Altar
The Great altar of Ireon, which has remained in the same location since its creation until nowadays, was built in 560 BC. During the 8th and 7th century BC, had a simpler form and was mainly made of remnants of other buildings. Later on, it acquired its present size and elaborate decoration. During the Roman Era, the altar was rebuilt in marble.
The Sacred Road
The Sacred road of 4.880 meters that used to connect the temple to the ancient capital of Samos (present-day Pythagorion), was constructed during the 2nd century BC and some of its parts are still well preserved.
The road was filled with interesting sights and magnificent sculptures to “accompany” the ancient inhabitants of the island during their journey from the ancient town of Samos to the sanctuary and their way back. Nowadays, only one of the six giant marble kouros who were in the northern part of the Sacred Way of Ireon have been saved, as well as the group of statues made by the sculptor Geneleos, which are the gems of the Archaeological Museum of Samos.
There is a part of the base of the magnificent bronze statues of Zeus, Athena and Hercules, great artifacts of the Athenian artist Myron.