This little temple celebrates a story told by the Roman poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses. The gods Zeus and Hermes, travelling disguised as mortals through Phrygia, were overtaken by nightfall and sought shelter in the poor cottage of an old peasant couple, Baucis and her husband Philemon. They were welcomed in and given all the food there was. When the gods revealed their identity they rewarded the two old people by transforming their cottage into a magnificent temple and making Baucis and Philemon its priests. On their death they were changed into trees before the door.
The Temple at Little Sparta catches the moment of transformation, as the gilding of the roof and the smoothing of the porch's undressed stone architrave and tree-column bases begins. The tree trunks also hint at the final blessing of the old couple.