Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred Space in Ancient Greece

Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred Space in Ancient Greece

Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred Space in Ancient Greece

Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred Space in Ancient Greece

Synopsis

Cult activity played an extremely important role in ancient Greece--to the point, historians believe, that the placing of cult centers played a major part in establishing the whole concept of the city-state in archaic Greece. The essays in this collection critically examine the social and political importance of sanctuary placement, extending the analysis back to Mycenean Greece and on to Greece under Roman occupation. Revealing the complexity of relations between religion and politics in ancient Greece, these essays show how important tradition, gender relations, and cult identity were in creating and maintaining the religious mapping of the ancient Greek countryside.

Excerpt

The publication ofFrançois de Polignac La Naissance de la cité grecque:
Cultes, espace et société VIIIE-VIIe siècles
a decade ago which is now available, revised, in an English translation as Cults, Territory, and the Origins of the Greek City-State (Chicago, 1995), offered historians and archaeologists a radically new insight into the significance of where the gods were worshipped. De Polignac's insistence on the way in which the construction of a sacred landscape was central to the construction of the Greek polis not only gave a whole new way of understanding the formation of the Greek state, but also suggested that the relationship between religion and politics was in general more intimate and more involved than had often been assumed. For all that the placing of sanctuaries in the Greek landscape had attracted considerable attention from earlier scholars (one thinks, for instance, of Vincent Scully The Earth, the Temple, and the Gods), de Polignac's work changed the focus of that attention and acted as a catalyst to further work.

The essays in this collection, which opens with de Polignac's own restatement of his position as he sees it ten years on, take up the challenge which La Naissance de la cité grecque made. They examine critically the relationship between sanctuaries and political units in the Greek world over the best part of two millennia, both extending de Polignac's sort of analysis back and forward in time, and also assessing the limits of that analysis. De Polignac stressed, and other scholars in different fields of archaeology have recently made similar points, that the sacred landscape was dynamic and not static. The contributors to this volume offer close analysis of how that dynamism worked within particular societies; they also look at factors influencing that dynamism which received less emphasis in de Polignac's work, as they bring out the different roles of different deities, the power of the weight of tradition, and the importance of the sacred landscape for mapping women's life, as well as the life of the male citizen. In stressing the complexity of the sacred landscape, the regional variations in the ways in which that landscape was constructed, and the ways in which the construction was always part of an ongoing history, we hope not only to show what can be achieved by paying detailed attention to the configuration of the sacred landscape but also to show what remains to be done.

The papers by Peatfield, Antonaccio, Osborne, Cole, and Alcock were first aired at the meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in December 1991. We are grateful to all who participated in the discussion then and to John Cherry and Anthony Snodgrass for their help and encouragement with this volume.

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